They are Us and We are Them!

On Tuesday Joyce Echaquan’s an indigenous woman died in a place where she should have been safe, taken care of, instead she died with racist hate in her ears. Joyce in her last minutes of life recorded what was happening knowing the violent systems she dwelled within. This is it, this is systematic racism reflected deep in the belly of us, white folk’s, our minds, bodies, and hearts.Those nurses are us and we are them.

Dear white-bodied friends and family If we are not actively doing the work of making the unconscious conscious, unlearning the violent culture of white body supremacy that we were born into then how can we possibly know ourselves and what kinda implicit explicit violence will come spilling out of us. Please this is not good vs evil, lets change that narrative… this is all of us born into collective traumatic systems, bored into our bodies/minds/hearts. We have to be actively engaged in seeing, naming and changing ourselves and the systems we are intricately a part of.

We were also born good, inherently good, brave; with dignity and love. We can do this painful work with open hearts and strong backs. This is liberation work even if it’s hard and painful. May we build our capacity to hold pain and discomfort in order to take radical responsibility for the unconscious/conscious hate dwelling in us/in our brothers and sisters.

This I believe is why we do the work, white folk’s work of awakening to our whiteness and embodying radical responsibility because the nurses in the hospital, in Joyce’s room are our responsibility! How do we find the courage and the strength to disrupt racial conditioning and biases that live in all of us. None of us are free until all of us are free!

Please send me a note if you are interested in one of our trainings White Folks Work: Awakening to Our Whiteness/Embodying Radical responsibility!

Circles: Carry Us Through, Carry Us Forward

In 2019 while taking a workshop at the Tatamagouche Centre i heard once again Black folks express tiredness and anger towards sharing space with white folks in anti-racism programs, tired of internal/external expectations and assumptions of Black people educating us white folks. At that moment I remembered Bob Marley’s words from his legendary song Buffalo Soldier:

“If you know your history

Then you would know where

you are coming from

Then you wouldn’t have to ask

me

Who the hell do you think I am?

I also remembered Ruth King’s words in her book Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out, as she spoke of the injury she felt when white people said they did not see colour when they saw her. She said if you don’t see my colour then you don’t see me; and if you don’t see me then you don’t see my history, and if you don’t see my history you won’t see your history. And that, she said was a huge affront; a huge denial of past and present atrocities against Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

At the Tatamagouche workshop I shared Ruth King’s words, white folks needing to do their own work in what she called racial affinity groups (RAG). And I remember making a vow to myself that I would one day soon organize/host/facilitate such a group. A few months ago such a group began. Signed up were white women, majority working in the field of social justice who saw within an essential need to unravel and understand the layers and layers of their/our own embedded whiteness and how we continue to do harm within the unconscious racist patterns we hold; generations and generations of habitual and conditioned patterns that i personally believe cannot be brought to light unless this work of transparency, accountability, making the unconscious conscious is done in an environment that does not blame or shame but coaches and holds and guides and calls forth violence, ignorance and goodness; calls forth our capacity to harm and our capacity to interrupt, disrupt and repair.

Along with this sacred Circle I joined a seven part series called White Fragility meets Compassionate Listening (led by Yael Petretti and Debby Haase)  and another online, four part series called What Should White People Do? (led by Gibran Rivera and Tuesday Ryan-Hart). Deep bow of gratitude to Tuesday, Gibran, Yael, and Debby!

My dear friend and colleague, Nelly Marcoux and I are getting ready to co facilitate a five part series called White Folks’ Work: Awakening to Whiteness/Embodying Radical Responsibility! We will be sharing and honouring the wisdom of these teachers along with our own wisdom and teachings derived from paths Nelly and i have taken living and working outside dominantly white cultures making the bearing witness to our whiteness a journey chosen over and over!

Come and join us as we dive deep into critical self and collective reflection as paths to personal and collective sustainable action!! There are only five spaces remaining for this workshop so sign up soon!

I share with you notes from my notebook from three powerful transformative Circles; notes that will hold and carry us through the upcoming workshop!

This work is heart opening and heart breaking.

Call in the ancestors.

Take radical Responsibility

None of us are free til all of us are free

When we are in a privileged state we are robbed of our humanness

Descending into the darkness in order to find the light

Work that is less about our intellect and more about our bodies/ emotions/ creativity/ritual

There is no way to go through this unscathed but we can come out more free!

This is our journey! This is our life! Take up the Call!

What does cultural atonement look like?

Heal and wish to become the person you want to be

Understand this is systematic. We were born into this. There is no way to do work outside the system.

If you are not part of the problem then you can’t be part of the solution

Listen to what Black folks are saying; listen to their pain their stories, tune in

Talk to other white folks (don’t be intolerable) thin line between being right and self-righteous

Find out what your BIPOC friends need

Commit don’t collapse. Posture of dignity!

There is grief involved in this process.

Loss of innocence

In community with the great mystery

Calling forth abolitionists, bring these spirits into spaces

Calling in ancient wisdom

Calling in the ancestors

The great Epoch

Allies/Accomplices

Open heart/strong back

What is the work? What is the gift you have to offer?

How courageous are you in your capacity to love?

What is the story we are telling?

Find strength, clarity, courage to create new possibilities

The world breaks everyone

What do we do with this brokeness?

There is wisdom on the other side of this

Learning how to hold space

Energetic anchoring

Learn how to hold ourselves so we can hold others

Discourse on trauma

It’s not about being triggered; it’s about our capacity to bring ourselves back to coherence

Here’s the shame, here’s the anger; how do I scale myself back into coherence

Don’t expect the environment to do this for you

Posture of self-sovereignty

Posture of dignity

Open heart strong back

White folks trying to be good is not helpful

How do we tend to each other? Build a culture?  Build relationships? What is the culture we can build with one another?

This is about heart and spirit

There is something deeply spiritual about justice work

Holding anger/rage/resentment this will come at you! don’t collapse into shame and if you do don’t stay there.  hundred years of history coming at you.

Don’t get caught! Hold it! keep your dignity! Stay with it long enough!

Meet humanity with humanity.

Hold other’s rage long enough to see the despairing sadness underneath

The body has so much wisdom

Notice. Notice. Notice.

Diving into the darkness of the foundational sin of our global nation.

John Lewis said, get into good trouble

Fresh eyes to new/old patterns

Name it/language it/speak it

Insight into action.

Where do you see it?

How can you name it?

What is at stake?

We are creatures of belonging; to name is to take a heroic risk

We currently live in someone else’s imagination

We have agency to reimagine and re-create and live in a different imagining

We need to heroically name it in order to re-imagine and change it

What needs to change? What is the path forward?

Deep listening! Authentic listening! Revolutionary listening!

 

What is the change you will make? How? What will be different?

What am I willing to give up?

Power decision.

Not cosmetic

Who gets to make decisions?

Who holds the power?

Stay engaged.

How to make this generative work?

No more good vs evil, need to change this.

Can it feel liberating even if feels bad?

Its not about niceness

Power with

Talked about explicit reparations

Not cosmetic/not personal/not just through upsetness

Action has to be In service of the wrong doing

What would it take to make a difference?

Dance

Dance our commitments into your bodies

How are we moving?

Being in our body is a form of resistance

Song, dance, prayer into being… our ancestors knew how to do this

Ideology is about performance

We are talking about something else… crafting our own story

Relationship building…

 

Come carry through and carry forward with us as we awaken collectively to our whiteness and embody radical responsibility!!

check out reflections of Tatamagouche workshop here: https://maureenstclair.wordpress.com/2019/10/15/choosing-discomfort-over-comfort/

White Folks’ Work: Awakening to Our Whiteness/Embodying Radical Responsibility

White Folks' new image WorkBlessings Dear Friends,

As you know racism is deeply embedded in our society and in the very fabric of our beings. How can we white folks uncover our racial biases? How can we white folks explore the ways we uphold white privilege, white supremacy and the status quo? How can we white folks take responsibility in grappling and reckoning with the manifestations of racism in our lives? And importantly how can we white folks commit to action for sustainable change?

The Awakening to our Whiteness/Embodying Radical Responsibility workshop is an invitation to other white-bodied folks to join us as we dive deep into the work of transforming racism from the inside out while learning from and with one another.

In this series we will:

  • explore, unpack, and work to change our embedded racial patterns using critical self-reflection and the heart-centered practices of Compassionate Listening;
  • practice interrupting racism while coaching one another;
  • learn how to work with our triggers by building stamina, resilience and capacity to stay with discomfort;
  • strive to move from shame and guilt to responsibility and solidarity;
  • explore how to hold ourselves accountable, work to repair harm, act in solidarity and build authentic relationships to and with our BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of colour) brothers and sisters;
  • commit to working towards transformative justice and sustainable action

If you’re a white person new to anti-racism work or already experienced in anti-racism work and wish to explore a creative, participatory and heart-centered approach- this course may be just for you.

We will meet on Zoom for five consecutive Wednesdays starting September 9th, 2020 and ending October 7th, 2020. 6:00 to 8:00 pm EST.  Cost $150. A percentage of funds will be donated the BLM movement. We are also offering a sliding scale for those who need financial assistance.

We would also like to give a Big Shout Out and Much Gratitude to Tuesday Ryan-Hart and Gibran Rivera and the Compassionate Listening Project  (Yael Petretti and Debby Haase) for both their powerful workshops; their teachings have informed our approach and methodology!!

Please contact Maureen St.Clair: mstclairrespect@gmail.com to register and/or for further information.

 

 

 The Opposite of Radical Responsibility

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 PHOTOGRAPH: JOSHUA BERSON

Did I hear correctly? Did I hear with all the assurance of a middle aged, white, able-bodied middle/upper class, heterosexual man say there are no victims in this world? Did he just say there is absolutely no difference between being a victim to an open fridge door and being a victim to one’s family murdered in the street?  Did he just say if I send my children to school without a body guard and they get killed whose fault is that? Did he just use the example of, “Whose fault is it if I put my head purposely onto the road while a vehicle drives by and the vehicle smashes into me?  Did he just say the nine year old child who watched her father suicide himself realized that she was not a victim after this same Man asked her “who chose your parents?” And did he just say when she realized she chose her parents that for the rest of her life she was no longer a victim?  Really, for the rest of her life?  Did this middle aged, white, able-bodied middle/upper class heterosexual man just say all this without contextualizing his opinion? Did he just universalize his opinion into truth?

Does this mean then George Floyd would be alive today if he didn’t put his neck under the knee of the policeman that murdered him or Breonna Taylor chose the police man who shot her dead while she was asleep; or Trayvon Martin’s parents should have sent him to the store with a body guard to protect him from the security guard who shot him dead; or Brayla Stone, Merci Mack, Sahki Peters, Draya McCarty, Bree Black; the five transgender women found dead in the past month purposely chose their deaths?

I believe we white-bodied folks have the potential to do great harm in our non-contextual truth stating, in our self-assuredness, in our arrogance mixed up with our kindness and intentional good works. I believe we progressive white bodied folks become dangerous speaking our white subjective truths while in leadership positions of predominately white-bodied spaces potentially absolving responsibility of the racist systems we and our ancestors have benefited and thrived from.

These are real stories:  slavery, genocide of indigenous people, mass incarceration of black and brown bodies, biased laws and policing practices; racist media representations; cultural erasures, attacks, and mockery; untold and perverted accounts of history (just to name a few). These violent racist systems are ours to take responsibility, ours to dismantle; ours, white bodied folks who’ve benefited and continue to benefit. By universalizing the belief that there are no victims is irresponsible and does not align with taking radical responsibility!

Ruth King (African American Buddhist teacher, writer, activist) states there is a distinction between ultimate and relative reality. As I understand in ultimate reality there are no stories, there are no victims, we are all One, we all come from one mind, one love, one human race AND in relative reality this is NOT so we belong to stories, real stories, in real bodies with real social constructs that create real divides, real forms of violence.

Yes we may all have agency as human beings to create possibilities, to create change and new stories BUT access to that agency and those possibilities are not on equal ground and this is due to a story, a real story of violent racist/patriarchal/imperialist systems and structures many of us have benefitted and many more are victims to.

And, yes there are folks who have found their agency and changed their lives despite these violent systems and there are many more who have not. I believe by stating with such certainty and without context that ‘we hold the power to be empowered beings or helpless victims’ is another form of violence as it shames individuals into believing they are the cause. Victim shaming is real. Victim shaming is a form of violence.

I believe by stating there is absolutely no difference between the victim of a left open fridge door and a victim of someone’s family murdered in the street is the hallmark of white superiority, the opposite of taking radical responsibility. I believe we white-bodied folks need to actively step into our responsibility and own (and transform) those aspects of our identities (whiteness) that cause harm. I write this blog in the spirit of taking radical responsibility.

Reflections on the recent incident at Fort Jeudy, Grenada, WI

adrienne maree brown

 

As another white bodied folk living in Grenada I write this reflection for other white bodied folks living on the island and not just to the family who assaulted a man for running over their family pet.

I’ve been reflecting, unpacking, listening and listening some more. I’ve been writing and sharing and writing some more. I’ve been doing my own work (work that will continue until the day I die) as a white folk in unlearning and unpacking and listening and listening some more and sitting in circle with other white folks doing our work in unpacking and reflecting and listening and listening some more; finding ways to stand up and speak out.

I write to speak out in the form of wondering:  I wonder how this family, how we white folks are processing/reflecting/learning from this particular incident. Are they/we thinking about the impact of this family’s actions not just on Mr. Smith and his family but his community and the rest of Grenada? I wonder how they/we are unpacking all of this with y(our) children; do their boys/our kids know their world history, racial history, anti-black history? Do they/we know the atrocious history of the Caribbean islands? I wonder about the conversations being had with other white-bodied friends and family? I wonder if we/they blame the behaviour solely on emotions out of control over the loss of a pet?  I wonder if we/they are wondering what would have played out if the man driving the vehicle was another white man; if the tables were turned and they/we were the ones who accidentally ran over and killed a Black man’s dog? Do they/we wonder how that may have played out; whether they/we too would be assaulted by the family of the dog; whether the police would have gotten involved immediately? Do they/we wonder what the impact would be of a Black family assaulting a white man?  Do they/we understand the likelihood of them/we getting off easy due to the colour of our skin? Do they/we know how many Black people are in jail for a fraction of a fraction less of an assault resulting from the accidental run over of a family pet.

I wonder if the family apologized; and who the family apologized to? I wonder if they/we would have the courage to apologise publicly? I wonder what words they/we would use? I wonder about the courage/vulnerability it would take for us white folks to admit the workings of white supremacy within us and to come up with an apology that could possible sound like this: “i am sorry for the impact of my family’s deeply rooted white supremacy. We commit to do better by educating ourselves about the socialization of racism so that we never respond in such a violent way ever again and so that we work ceaselessly in dismantling racist systems inside and outside ourselves.”

I wonder if they/we understand that none of us white bodied folks are exempt from how white supremacy operates within us; that racism is not an event but a system that we’ve been socialized and that this is our work; work that is necessary, uncomfortable and hard; and we will fail over and over we will fail and in that failure there is possibility of transformation; healing our world and communities from the inside out.

 

 Found in my Notebook After Trauma Healing Workshop

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“Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathic witness.”  Peter Levine

How do we build capacity to bring our full presence with and for one another. (the foundation of The Grenada Listening Project)

Seeing, hearing, experiencing, acknowledging our whole complex selves

How do we move from our heads to our bodies?

How do we acknowledge our feelings/emotions and where do these show up in our bodies?

Noticing. Noticing, noticing.

What do you notice in your body right now?

Can you hang out with these sensations?

Notice what you notice.

Let me know when anything shifts

Where does that voice live in you shouting, should, should, should, do, do, do?

Can you isolate this voice in your body?

Notice what you notice?  Can you stay with it?

Learning to track sensations, emotions, behaviours, meaning, images in ourselves and the folks we work with  (SIBAM)

Where is emotional memory located in our bodies?

Language of I’m curious, no judgement

Remember some people have never had the experience of being seen.

Rely on body awareness and physiological regulation

How to interrupt body sensations

Building capacity to hold intensity

The healing takes place between counter and trauma vortex.

Pendulation

Capacity to be in our suffering knowing we have counter places to return to

How to keep the energy moving

Creating safe spaces to feel more

We all have a tolerance to hold intensity, may look like “I’m fine.” When ‘I’m not fine.’

Can we build capacity over tolerance?

Can we let our bodies catch up with our minds when we go into freeze mode which may look like “I’m fine” hours after being yanked out of a burning car (Dad).

“There is a voice that doesn’t use words.  Listen.”  Rumi

Noticing

Orienting through our senses: pull ourselves from the inside

Changing our relationship with suffering

“Its ok. Its ok not to be ok”

 

What is the addiction in service of?

Who are you without the addiction?

Everyone is different

Traumatic events disrupt our boundaries

Traumatic systems disrupt our boundaries

Women’s choked back ‘no’s’

Repairing ruptured boundaries

Work the edges. Was there any time that you were able to say NO? Start here.

Building a more regulated container to handle the discomfort of NO

Boundary exercises

“This is my personal space. You can only come in if I let you.”

Growing our capacity to know where our boundaries lay

Breath is primary way to track.

There is so much info in our breath.

Boundaries change based on who we’re with and where we are

Taking time to build relationship with ourselves

Slowing down is the best work

Working with Shame

‘An addict needs shame like a person dying of thirst needs salt water.’

How to shift ourselves and others out of shame

Shame is universal and cultural

Acknowledging shame

A sign of great shame and humiliation as a child, defence system unable to see oneself in the blame

Shame can manifest in hiding/pathological lying

Shame can control every aspect of our personality

Suicide is profound shame

Wound of betrayal

Shame can become deeply lodged in brain and body

Loss of connection

Difficult to work with shame, bringing shame up results in more shame

 

Accessing shame without amplifying shame

Dignity is opposite of shame

Recovering with a core sense of dignity

Shame can feel like death

How to counter shame: What you did is not ok but you are still loved

 

Addiction: I will do anything not to feel this primal pain

Shame can look like a collapsed spine, hunched shoulders

Disgust is a developmental companion/emotion of shame

Guide through, tracking sensations, images, emotions, meaning

Working with the posture of shame

Playing with: collapsing forward, sitting upward: coming into extension

What does it feel like to be in shame collapse? What does it feel to be in dignity pose?

Opportunity to move the body in and out of shame

Tracking

Noticing what you notice

Translating teachings into the Grenada Listening Project

Into my own healing work

Into my own practice of presencing within and with people.

Becoming empathic witnesses

Creating safe spaces to be witnessed and witness others,

to be in our bodies, to track sensations, to notice what we are noticing, to ground, center, orient

The last physical community gathering (for now) I attended, a three day trauma healing workshop with Dr. Peter Levine, yes, The Peter Levine, world-renowned pioneer of Somatic Experiencing.  Even though Peter (first name basis cause that’s the kinda person he is!)  in the end did not travel due to coronavirus and bronchitis, he sent two of his team members Mahshid Hagar and Alexandra Whitney (phenomenal womyn/facilitators!) while he zoomed into our community space every afternoon. I am deeply grateful to have had this opportunity to share space with Caribbean family from Grenada, Carriacou, Barbados and Trinidad. Such an honour to deepen my own work in conflict transformation/compassionate listening; conscious healing, transformative justice with those working front line trauma work.

Hand to heart thank you Peter, Mahshid, Alexandra and the rest of our divine community!!

We scrape from the world… its wonder

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My friend Karen Wilson shared a poem she wrote recently, ‘White Egret Speaks’.  Her poem expresses sentiments many have expressed regarding the developments taking place in what used to be one of the most beautiful, pristine and protected seascapes in all Grenada, the La Sagesse Nature Centre.  In the name of development, government and a big fancy resort are destroying the very earth that gives life. I realize how complex these issues are when unemployment is high on the island. However, there must be other ways to create sustainable and equitable opportunities for employment without destroying the very earth that gives us life.

i am deeply interested, curious, passionate in how to build right relations with the natural world; how to strengthen, initiate a love affair between human beings and the earth.  We have moved so far from understanding SHE is living, SHE is breathing, SHE is our navel chord. SHE is our very breath.

Thanks for this powerful poem Karen

White Egret Speaks

We scrape from the world … its wonder Jane Hirshfield, LEDGER

There has been a disaster, all is lost –

nothing left of my home, my refuge

on this tropical shore

this salt pond and mangroves

 

shelter and shade

feeding and breeding grounds

for me and countless creatures

 

created from the sea, joined to the land

vital buffer against wind and storm

water filter, sediment collector

communicating with the sea

by underground seepage –

complex, flexible ecosystem

 

“protected land” –

but money changed hands

 

Now a moonscape, no green thing left

bulldozed and ready for further change

until not a hint remains

of what was before

 

laid bare to be ‘tropical paradise’

for visitors from afar – hotels, villas,

swimming pools, clear views to the sea

 

and a sanitized beach swept clean

of debris (animal, vegetable and mineral)

brought in by the ceaseless waves

 

I fly over from time to time

vainly hoping something’s been saved

while our kin inevitably decline

 

Just a small destruction,

some might say – those who don’t know

the agony of losing livelihood and home

 

Karen Wilson La Sagesse, Grenada March 7 2020

When You Don’t Hear Back, Write a Poem.

When you don’t hear back

from the well-respected, beloved teacher

after spending days deliberating

how to write him skillfully,

respectfully,

compassionately;

cultivating courage

to call in, call out, call forward issues important to you:

accessibility, representation, basic visibility,

whiteness decentered,

power reorganized.

 

How confused you feel

not hearing back

one-month

two-month

three-month

embracing the irony

of the beloved teacher, healer, mystic

of trauma

personal and collective;

trauma almost invariably involving

people not seen, heard, acknowledged;

collectively rooted

in whiteness, centralized patriarchal power, invisibility.

 

When you don’t hear back

From the well-respected, beloved teacher

And you find yourself triggered

at the invariableness,

engage others in conversation

with kindness and skillful means,

mindful of not blaming

but

holding paradoxes,

knowing

none of us are unproblematic,

unscathed

by trauma

personally and collectively.

 

When you still don’t hear back

listen deeply to other teachers,

like my dear friend Nanci Lee

who wrote:

continue offering your truth,

kind and generous,

what they do with it, is their own path.

This is stunning and messy work.

Love your triggers.

Love your truth teller,

she can exist on the sidelines too.

We all desperately want to belong.

 

And

when you still don’t hear back

from the well-respected, beloved teacher

write a poem.

 

By maureen st.clair

Theo, Thanks for the Teachings

25587763_10155684434906187_8081054275769316819_oWalking home from the bus I see Theo’s neon pink BMX leaning against the shop.  I creep up to the bike and spin it around. I look up at the boys in the shop across the road and smile, put my finger to my lips. They light up, “Yes yes take it, take it. I go behind the truck. Theo walks out.  The boys arms waving frantically telling Theo they see someone take it and go down the road. They don’t know if ‘theif they thief’ or just go for a ride. It’s all unimaginable because everyone knows everyone in the area.  Theo walks quietly back into the shop and I am thinking damn I don’t want to give this man more pressure so I come out from my hiding and walk back up to the shop. In the meantime all the boys are calling, “Theo. Theo! Look your wife have the bike.”  The boys are laughing his name out, “Theo. Theo. Theo.” Finally he turns around and sees me with his bike and busts out in a gorgeous giant grin.

I reflect on Theo and his buddha like nature (most times). I remember many moons ago when one of the youth from the village broke off a good portion of his ready-to-be harvested corn and Theo commenting, “Next time I’ll plant more so he has to work a little harder.” Or the time the same youth a few years later stole a rabbit from our pen. Theo and I on the verandah enjoying our evening splif when the youth man arrives pleading for Theo to take the curse off the rabbit he stole. And Theo laughing. And the boy in a panic saying he ate the rabbit last night and he feeling funny like Theo must have done something to the rabbit, put a curse on the rabbit. And Theo laughing. And the boy getting more and more frightened saying he’s afraid he might not wake up in the morning. And me in the background telling Theo to tell the youth there is no curse on the rabbit. And the youth man saying he don’t want to dead. And Theo saying, “Well if you dead you dead.”  And now the youth man begging Theo to call a price for the rabbit. And Theo calls a price. But the youth not satisfied, “Nah Man, the rabbit worth more than that.”  All to say the youth man woke up in the morning, Theo got some money for the rabbit and all restored.

I admire these occasions where Theo could have flown into a rage just like he could have flown into a rage when he saw his bike gone the other day. His Buddha like nature in these  instances honourable, kind and buddha like.  How to hold the tension of strong emotions and find equanimity, a balance in how we respond to provocative times in our lives.  Thanks for the teachings, Theo.

Joy is Such a Human Madness

‘Joy is Such a Human Madness’ is one of the titles of Ross Gay’s essays in his recent book, The Book of Delights. And this I believe sums up this exquisite book. Amongst the madness and suffering of this world, there still exists delight, accumulated and witnessed here in these powerful and delightful essays. Please don’t be fooled Gay does not fling at us romantic notions of positivity, the nauseating cliché about glasses being half full, half empty; but writes with a keen sense of light and darkness; a sharp sense of sorrow in regards to this fucked up and gorgeous world. Gay does not dismiss the complexities such as ‘the terror of being a black man in America or the ecological violence of consumer culture or the loss of friends and family.’ It is all there and so is his whimsical glorious graceful ability to write a book of delights.

Could this be a sign?
While reading Gay’s rules for writing these essays I was quickly reminded of a writing project I contemplated while journeying with my dad as he laboured towards his death; a set of essays that did not only hold the deep deep sorrow of Dad leaving us but also the moments of such exquisite delight in the time we still had left with him.
Gay’s rules: 1) Write a delight every day for a year (I wrote every day for five months while dad was dying and documented such hard and beautiful moments); 2) Draft them quickly, write them by hand (I am an addicted journal writer by hand; fast and feverish). 3) Begin and end on August 1st. (Dad died on August 1st 2020) Could this be a sign? A calling forward? A summoning? Permission?

A Sample of this Potential Summoning
Dad took his last breath after his last shave. “He was waiting for his shave,” Janet crying on the phone, minutes after he died. Dad teetering on a spider web thread between life and death. Me asking one of the personal support workers if she knew the signs of death. Her face from cheer to fear, “Oh no! Only God knows.”
Dad’s God wanted him clean shaven. Or maybe the shave distracted him from holding on to that spider line of life so he could slip away in a state of delight. A video of Dad shaving three months before he died and the day after he suffered with nightmares, physical pain and a deep restlessness.
The buzz of the electric razor like a community of hummingbird wings
“Dad you ever hear the song “never give the power to a bald head?
Nope.
A song by Jacob Miller.
Oh go on.
Its true
So it’s the Pope’s fault?
Me laughing hysterically
You never trusted those guys did you? he says
Me laughing hysterically
Did you trust them dad?
Well they had a job to do.
I think your finished that side dad (his cheek red like a rasberry)
Nope
Your going to take your whole face off dad
Him chuckling.
Ok there is a little piece of hair under your lip. Or you could leave that there, I say.
Oh no. oh no. I never trusted those guys. How long have I known you maureen?
51 years
Go on
So you think I’m younger?
Younger than me.
Ok dad say goodbye
Hello. Goodbye.

The video ran for 6 minutes and 33 seconds with other delightful memory exchanges…

Could I write a book of delights based on the journey of dad’s dying? So many pop into my head; like the indigenous woman singing in the stairwell of the cancer ward. She and her mobile IV stuck in the middle of two floors belting out Sinead O’connor’s Nothing Compares to You.  Music my medicine, she said. Cancer in liver and stomach, she said.
A young woman singing the Rocky theme song to her Aunty on a stretcher going in for an operation. Same woman that night crying into the phone, “Its everywhere, the cancer is everywhere.”
Me, mom, dad chilling in dad’s hospital room, me djing their fav songs crackling: Rose, Rocky Mountain High , Sunshine on my Shoulders, The Way We Were, Day O, a circle of three with and no distracting tv in the background like back home.
Me going on and on to mom about non-attachment. Somedays Dad was up and in the chair and greeting with such fervor and delight “What you bring me today kiddo?” Or two hours later startled from sleep gasping for air; or the next day his mouth popping open for butterscotch pudding; or calling out for more blankets, less blankets, buzzing the red emergency bell frantically.
I am learning about non attachment mom.
And shes looking at me like the beginning of a 5,000 piece puzzle, “What the hell are you talking about?”
Or the young black man yelling into the crack of the closing elevator, I love your dreads.” And me turning red and smiling. Or Dad telling me to give each of the care workers $10
Really dad $10?
Or the Elder man smiling, shuffling into Dad’s room with his grandson close behind translating Arabic into English “I am going home today and you will go home soon too. Have faith” Dad grinning behind his sightless eyes.

In truth joy is such a human madness. Thanks Ross Gay for your book that made my belly laugh, my head shake for the madness and my lips curve fervently for the divine writing you share!