The moon is 91 percent illuminated, on her way to fullness on Friday night. There are 60 days left of this year, this day marking the one day when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. I’ve already lit a bank of candles in the crooked corner of the dining room in honor of that thinning, here in this deeper ink of the darkness that sinks into itself just before dawn.
Over the candles, I said out loud: “Start again today, Dora. Write today. Whatever comes to you, write it.” My mantra said aloud every morning as a promise. Write about yellow aspens sweeping the mountains here or how the light cuts sideways in visible slanted rays or how the church bells are muted now by the windows of the house all closed against the chill and about how you miss those bells, the sharpness of them through the summer months punctuating the passing of your days with the windows as wide as possible to their pealing. Write about loving ghosts because even God knows that you still do that. Write about the spirits you can sometimes see and hear, who make themselves known to you when you can get the hell out of your way and their way long enough to allow yourself to listen. Write about how you can meld yourself into the slipstream and balance your presence in both worlds and how hard it is sometimes to come back here, to even want to come back here, and how the ‘away’ pulls and pulls at your spirit, even though you know you are not yet done here, even if sometimes you wish you were.
Write about loving and about knowing that loving is sometimes exhausting and knowing also that loving itself is not meant to exhaust you endlessly but to allow you to be and to unfold and that courting your own exhaustion is yet another way of deferring your dreams, even still.
Write prayers to the Elders and to the angels who hover and to the one on the ground with you even right now, and about his how his name is old Aramaic for The Helper and how he smiled at you when he finally told you. Write about the black horse loose on the BIA road as you drove alone from Rosebud through Pine Ridge to Wounded Knee, or about the drum at Sundance and the blasted terrain of The Badlands and how Crazy Horse was named for his pale eyes and for his silence. Write about running through the grasslands, how the wind made them look like an ocean and about how, once, that land was an ocean of fire and you were running through it in a fury with the flesh of your thighs burning.
Write about how you were born into lightning, about how sometimes even now thunder sounds like your name on the voice of an unknowable god whom you have simultaneously cursed and committed yourself to while standing on the mesa calling her a bastard in defiance of how ‘alone’ has been bred to into your breath and bones and blood in this living. Write about the smolder of sage and sweetgrass and incense in the rafters making you swoon and the look on his face when he comforted you and how it was the same look as he was leaving you that last time. And then write about the soul-caving that came afterward, and how people have often referred to you as a ‘creature’ and how that word ‘creature’ is only yet another word for ‘alone’. Write about the eagle feather fan whose leather binding is stained with the salt from your own grip, about how your hair will not hold any braid for long and about how the stamp of the sun is fading from your cheekbones even right now.
Write about how the sky is both cobalt and indigo right now, too, as the night loosens its hold and sun is slowly staking claim on this day that is the in-between itself when the spirits whisper themselves in the air all around us. Write about them, those spirits, about their haunting and their helping and about how much of this living so often balances on the ability to know the difference. Write about knowing the difference. Write about the knowing itself. Write about how you have come to know. Write about how the sky is blue infused and the trees are stark against its backdrop and how the path beneath their arms is a beckoning, as if your ancestors are there waiting for you, welcoming you, full of stories to tell you that remind you that you are the continuation of them, that their longing beats on within you and that you are the bridge of all that has passed and all that is yet to come, and that you alone carry the braided entrance to both in the thread of your tenuous being. Write about them, your ancestors, waiting for you now beneath the yellowed aspens beyond the courtyard, about how they are calling to you, reminding you yet again that you know, warning you that the knowing you bear within your being will not be denied.
© 10 31 2017 Dora E. McQuaid
I’m a bit haunted by all of this unfolding these last few days, the ME, TOO unfurling and the three issues I have with this campaign while recognizing its unprecedented power in unifying women in their survivorship and raising awareness of the issues of sexual assault and harassment. It’s profoundly powerful in its equal impact of both empowering all of us while potentially breaking our hearts. I have tremendous respect for all of the women who have shared their experiences and equal respect for those women who have chosen to honor themselves by not joining this campaign. Beyond feeling galvanized and somewhat shattered simultaneously, what haunts me beyond the sheer commonality of these experiences is the threading of embarrassment and even shame some of us feel in having publicly shared these experiences. I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating shame, digging into it and its silent, debilitating grasp after years of living in it, after too many experiences of it being used to lessen me to even bother you with the specifics of those experiences here.
What I come back to again and again is that if any one of us is feeling ashamed for what we have endured or survived at the hands of another, I feel the need to state that that shame does not belong to us.
There is no shame in surviving what we did not choose for ourselves.
The shame belongs to the abusers, harassers, predators and their enablers.
I refuse to be ashamed for what happened to me, to carry the burden of shame that belongs to those who dismissed me and my humanity and in one instance nearly killed me. The shame belongs to the predator, not the survivor, so if any part of you is circling the feeling of being ashamed for what was done to you, please remember that your survival, and you within it, are all of great strength, courage and beauty.
All peace to each one of you.
ME TOO in the newsfeed is shattering my heart. And healing it stronger.
In every speech I’ve ever given about violence against women, I’ve stated the known statistic that 1 in 4 women will experience some form of violence in their lifetime. 1 in 4 women. And the latest FBI statistics tell us that 1 in 3 girls will experience some form of sexual violence by the age of 18.
In every speech I’ve given about this violence over the last 25 years, I’ve asked survivors in the audience to raise their hands if they are comfortable identifying themselves as survivors. When their hands go up, I ask the entire audience to look around the room and take note of the sheer number of survivors among us. Look around you, I say. We are surrounded by survivors.
Always. 1 in 4 women. 1 in 3 girls.
I am one of them, one of those women and one of those girls, and I have been both motivated and uplifted again and again by every woman over the last 25 years who has said ME, TOO to me after I’ve shared my own experiences in person or in a public setting.
Watching the newsfeed flood with ME, TOO has left me feeling as if all of those speeches and all of those audiences have collapsed into one experience for all of us. My heart is shattering with how many of us truly exist, how many survivors we can count among us, at the same time that I am beyond heartened by the sheer courage of so many women standing as survivors at the same time. This is how the world changes, each one of us standing alone and then standing together in the face of experiences of this violence. We are not alone. And when we are not alone, we are united. And when we are united, we are stronger together.
Thank you to each one of you who is standing before us all to own your incredible strength and courage and resiliency. Your individual examples are inspiring. All of you, together, is galvanizing. And, somehow, my heart is both breaking and healing stronger, simultaneously, as we stand together.
All peace, all peace, all peace to each one of you brave and glorious women.