Rites of Reconciliation

7:43 AM (18 minutes ago)

It is hard to see it for what it is, at first. This massive thing that just goes on and on.

You can look at a part of it, maybe get a glimpse, but it’s hard to really see it for what it is, the scope and construction.

I am laughing at myself right now, because isn’t this what I do? Come up with all kinds of ideas.


On Jun 22, 2019, at 8:03 AM:

It began with the morning that I thought,

“Pink beds,” quiet,

“I will go there.”


The woman was waiting in the sanctuary where she always waited on Thursday morning, green light from the walls and windows suffusing the air that is the air of all old churches, wooden pew and warmth, surprising quiet that still holds the echo of songs sung loud, muttered prayers, greetings and goodbyes.  

There is a sloped walkway down from the back entry to the sanctuary, and the younger woman always felt the pull of her feet as she walked down to the meet the older woman. If she were a child, she’d run down that ramp, shoot down the side of the room, run back up again. Her feet can feel the ghosts of all the children who have done this as she moves to sit beside the older woman in the first pew on the East side of the sanctuary, where they always sit to talk on Thursday mornings. The older woman has pulled a chair to sit in front of her. Her feet are outstretched, calves tanned and muscled from walking around town all day. This is what the houseless people do, they walk around town all day..*

“How are you?” The younger woman asked, a sensation of self-conscious gladness – a quiet, awkward gladness – rising in her upon sitting down.

“Abiding in the Lord’s Love and Grace,” the older woman declared without pause. The younger woman turned, set her bag aside, put away her phone.

“I got you a chair, put your feet up.” The older woman spoke in a matter of fact directive, the aging hostess.

There is a sigh that arises, to put up feet in a church, and the younger woman relaxed into the hard wood behind her. “How have you been?”

This is the way the conversations always start, with the press of bigger questions, questions of whether or not we had been abiding in the Lords Love and Grace, or whether we had been caught up in traps, snags and snares, whether we had been bound.

The younger woman always comes to answer this question with a trail of chains and shadows behind her. She is resigned. She does not strive toward grace, but knows that it sometimes finds her. She finds it difficult, to reconcile the darkness in her with the gleam of a certain light she feels when her heart is open.

She has been thinking about this a long time, her darkness and her light. She is no longer seeking God. She is trying to learn to trust, and to make beauty through thanks for what she is living in any particular moment in time. Most days, despite her intent, she has a heaviness in her, a heavy quietness. Her soul is not uplifted. She is not abiding in the Lord’s love.

The older woman is always abiding in the Lord’s love. She is Devout Christian by way of New Jersey Catholicism with brief dabblings in Buddhism and Chakras. The Bible and all that. She sends the younger woman text messages with scripture.

Sometimes she reads them, sometimes she doesn’t. She tries to be thankful, to soak up goodwill, to not feel suspicious, guarded. She does not like it when people judge or evaluate her fidelity to ways of living and believing that are not hers. She tries to be trusting.

She keeps it a secret that sometimes when she reads the scripture, she gets chills and believes, almost entirely but never entirely, that this must surely be a message from God. She doesn’t tell anyone this, especially not the older woman, because she does not want to go to church and she does not want to admit to believing, because she doesn’t believe it all, and will not believe it all. Sometimes, when she is walking in the woods on the west side of the river, she thinks about how she will ask the older woman to just cut it out, the sending of scripture, the ever-loving sanctity of her obedience and supplication, her praising be, the pious Amen.

She would not ever really tell the woman to cut it out. She knows this in her wiser self, that the woman is doing what she is doing now because it’s working for her, helping her to be healthier, to make good choices, keeping her clean, teaching her acceptance, non-attachment. She knows the woman is her teacher. Still, there is a part of her that dreads the Thursday morning meetings. It is hard, to be distracted and sit in a sanctuary, to be unpeaceful and to sit beside someone at peace. She is trying to just go with it, to trust, to see what she is supposed to learn.

It is interesting, to watch what comes up in her as a feeling of knowing as she listens to the older woman talk about traps, snags, and snares. She wonders if it’s true, that the things she loves most can be traps, snags, and snares.

She doesn’t trust her mind. Fear can mask as intuition.

Sitting down, with her feet up in the church, the younger woman is pleased to notice that she is, today, at peace. The stage behind the altar is covered with plywood and plastic sheeting, with orange platforms of scaffolding set at the fresco, which was still just a massive white space, a blank white space where a figure of Jesus on the cross might have hung, if it were that kind of church.

(On the street, walking on the sidewalk, a slow moving group of aging men are talking about crack cocaine. “You don’t buy crack,” they say like conversation gospel, with a lilt on the end. “Nah, fuck the crack.” One man is wearing a bright orange sweatshirt. It is the same color, the exact same orange, as the jumpsuits at the jail.)

*The younger woman pauses as she writes this, what does she look like, this woman you have just suggested is houseless, which means homeless? What does she look like in this word? Is she dirty? Is she old? Are her teeth broken, nails bent and bloodied? Do her clothes hang off of her in soiled tatters?

How do you see her, in this word?

The older woman is healthy, tanned, calves muscled from walking around all day. She wears clean, sporty casual clothes that come into the clothing closet at the church. They call the clothing closet God’s Outfitters. It is a bright room at the end of a small, dark hall. It smells like a thrift store, the intermingling of the smell of people’s lives and closets, a dull bleach and dust. Cotton twill pants hang like flags on the racks.

The woman’s hair is brushed back and held in a ponytail like a girl playing softball. She wears no makeup, and has the look of New Jersey in her cheeks and the curve of her nose. Her eyes used to be brown, when she had a different life, but now they are turning green in the most beautiful slow striation, like light coming up through the water.


On Jun 22, 2019, at 7:01 PM

The artists are going to paint Beatitudes.

All the wet cold winter long the artists had been doing portraits of the people at the church, the people without houses and the people in recovery, the people who will never recover. The walls of the campus care minister’s office were covered with renditions of the church’s most familiar faces, old and aging and old before their time, toothless and eyes beaming, proud as fuck, humble. The people would say, on some days, “He’s going to draw me today,” and the younger woman would notice then that they were shining, face scrubbed, shirt tucked. Ready to be seen, waiting to be seen.

Art is just another human creation. This is what the younger woman thinks when she notices that she is excited, glad to be working at the church during the summer the first pigments are laid into the plaster.

Sometimes, everything feels like an invocation. She has to be careful what she believes, and reminds herself that there is no evidence that the painting of a fresco in the forms of real lives, with a spirit of real blessing, can somehow muster forth the vigor of the meek and return blessing to those who are favored by the Lord.

The painting of the fresco will not be an action of spirit.

“That’s not true.” She has a voice in her, a solemn voice, that tells her when she is lying to herself about what she really believes. She does believe that the fresco can work like magic to restore the wounded heart, that the spirit – the goodwill! – of the artists will guide their hands to craft a work of great beauty and love immemorial in honor of the lives that pass through the sanctuary and all the lives connected to those lives. To everyone.

“It is going to be an interesting thing, to see the fresco being made.”

Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in fresco.

This is her rational mind, calming down her righteous excitement.

It will be interesting. That is all.

The two women don’t mention the fresco, the sheeting or the scaffolding, but begin, as they do, with the question of “How are you?”

Sometimes this is phrased “How have you been?” or “What’s been happening?”

These are big open ended questions, a formality, a prompt to talk about anything, or nothing at all. “How are things with the program?”

The older woman spends one week at a time at different churches around town, rotating with a group of women that do not have homes, that are in the program. “I have slept so well. Yesterday, the Lord told me to just lay down, I’m tired, just lay down. So, that’s what I did, and the other girls, the other women, they were like “what are you doing? It’s 6:15?!” and there was noise and people were walking around and then, boom, they all leave, that’s how the Lord works. Praise God.”

What really makes things ‘right’?

What are we hoping to achieve in reconciliatory accountability processes around transgressions of action and ethos?

Are we hoping to achieve a deep and meaningful change in the relationship and how that relationship is conducted, the participation and roles of the entities involved?

A change in the culture that arises within relationship, a redefining of value and worth?

A change in old habits that reinforce the underlying power of an ‘ism’ – racism, sexism, classism, speciesism – which is to assume authority to see and/or treat another entity as what you define the entity to be, in your interests, be they economic or egoic, without regard for the facts of that entity’s existence unto itself, as a person or as an ecosystem?

Or do we want to reconfigure the underlying belief that drives old habits like placing your hand on the shoulder of a woman as though you have every right in the world to touch her and she must smile?

Do we want reconciliatory accountability processes to address not just the manifestation of underlying assumptions and beliefs, but to support processes of unlearning and relearning how one sees some facet of the world in relation to other people and the environment?

Yesterday I was thinking about rites of reconciliation as I woke up in the morning, before going to work, after writing about sitting in the church with the older woman, and reflecting on how there is a ramp, a sloping near-seamless connection down from the door to the floor of the sanctuary, which brought to mind a friend’s account of seeing, in a church, that the balcony was kneeling down to the floor, that in the design was an apology to the people who were sequestered away in that loft, separated out by dark stairs and narrow passage.

Which led me to think about rites of reconciliation and what practices create and embody reconciliation, what we are talking about when we talk about reparations, reconciliation. 

What is the substance of reconciliation, the effect, the feeling of it?

How do we enact deep reconciliation, which is not simply the arrangement of new ways of speaking or the erecting of monuments symbolic of an apology, but the true restoration of trust and goodness in relationships that were once toxic, exploitative, unfair, angry, hurt, resentful, harming?

It’s not a simple thing, this business of reconciliation. The ways I have experienced reconciliation in my life have been through the mending of relationships both personal and professional, the making peace with concepts and institutions that embody practices that I experience as harmful, that harm me, the making peace with concepts and institutions that harm others, that harm the environment, that harm…

Okay. I have not made peace with all the concepts, with all the institutions that cause harm.

I do not want to reconcile with them. I want them to be destroyed. That’s what reconciliation looks like sometimes, that is how it is enacted, through the destruction of concepts, institutions, symbols, designs, arrangements, treaties, laws that cause unjust harm to people and to environments.

As I write this, I am having sensations of strident indignation, which relates to what I understand to be dignity, in that the word indignant refers to the human experience of feeling aware and angry (fear and defense) that something or someone has compromised what we feel as our dignity, our being respected as persons, or as a field of ancient trees, or as the water of the ocean. The dignity of being seen and related to and with as something that has value unto itself, value in the mere fact of its existence, the dignity of not being fucked with, abused, consumed without reverence or regard by an entity other than oneself, raped, exploited.

I am feeling the sensations of indignation, and noticing the response to the sensations of indignation, which is a “Oh, hell no. That must be made right!” in the wake of a scrambling assessment of how to make it right, how to correct – to deeply correct – for the wrongs that have been done, how to really truly reconcile the deaths of despair…and the conclusion that sometimes reconciliation requires destruction, or at least de-construction, the taking apart of one thing and replacing it with another, restoring, repairing.

My head feels like it’s about to explode, because these things matter to me, these questions of reconciliation, both at the micro and macro levels.

Why does it matter to me so much?

There is a flabbergasted and stammering self that is shaking her head and waving her hands, like, “Duh, over here! Hel-lo.You love the world! You do not want the world to die! You do not want people to be hurt! You do not want the animals to die!”

It really does come down to that.

I want to be able to be at peace in my life, and while I can be peaceful in moments, recognizing that the world is spinning and people are dying and forests are on fire and there are shopping carts being pushed through the endless aisles, while the hospital cries with birth and death and here I am, with the bird singing in the tree and the voices walking up the street and I am relatively safe, relatively well, my life is golden…

Except for all the mass atrocities unfolding all around me.

Which, I can accept, with the zen of blithe compliance with all that is without knowing, the perfectness of the inevitable death, the trust that, hey, maybe we do have to destroy the planet and keep raping people, maybe that is the brutal path to perfect peace and eventual renewal, perhaps by way of smoldering nuclear war field and cosmic mutation…maybe that really is how all this has to go down, just do what you can and ride it out, try to enjoy the moment, because in your lifetime, things are going to get very, very strange.


It’s best to take a deep breath, dispel the feeling that your head might float off for all the sheer enormity of everything that is packed into the need for deep reconciliation.

Why can’t I let it go?

There is a stubborn part of me that desperately wants the world to be okay. This is my child-fear, my most fervent loving of the world. It is connected to my ability to rejoice in the sheer beauty of trees and sunlight. If I want to love the world, I have to connect with the part of myself that very much wants the world to live and to thrive and to laugh and flow like clean rivers. I do not want the world to die. I know this in every moment that I love the world, and it is a difficult knowing to know, because all around me there is evidence of needless death, needless harm, animals dying, species disappearing.

Astounding creations and destructions.

My heart might explode.

Let it explode.

Take a deep breath.

No justice, no peace.

I really do think that every person has within them a part of themselves that might deeply love the world and want it to be okay, a part of themselves that is scared of war, that sees with a child’s simplicity that war is horrific, that does not want to see people get hurt, to see beautiful places destroyed, that instinctively knows that fire is frightening.

I think that, as I alluded above, that to even look at the world and to see it with love and wonder, we must face the fact that, God, we have made a tremendous mess of things.

Like, seriously, what.the.fuck.

(This links to Joanna Macy’s ideas around apathea? Conversation in beech trees.)

So, looping back, practices around reconciliation, rites of reconciliation. What are we trying to achieve in deep reconciliation? How is this measured and accounted for? Do our efforts toward reconciliation result in reconciliation?

I will have to think about this more.



I just realized that all wars result from the effort to reconcile a perceived wrong.

So, the potential usefulness of this as a project that is achievable… Well, any resource of information that might inspire a small ease of suffering is a good thing… But, as far as working on this, I know the material fairly thoroughly, and the parts that I need to expand on, to research around, well… I know where to find the information, And what information is necessary to include…

There are all these resources on how to put together a successful e-book, and well… It might be an achievable project…

I really like the accessibility of digital formats… And, digital formats are much less made out of trees than paper books are… and a person can, especially with help, self publish an e-book… This isn’t a new idea but the rehabilitation that my focusing ability has led to this feeling like a much more achievable project than it has in the past.

There are parts of the outline that are sparse, because I was just trying to write down an overview of the bigger body of ideas

Begin forwarded message:

Date: June 17, 2019 at 5:55:54 PM EDT

To: Me 

Trauma Healing Crashcourse

  1. Defining trauma.
  2. Popular definitions and common understandings
  3. It is only something that people who’ve been through life-death situations like war and severe harm or insult to their physical bodies go through. Ex. The trauma unit, where severe bodily injuries are cared for
  4. Defining life-death
  5. Fear of death or predicted risk of death can be traumatic
  6. Thinking about fear as death, the body responds to fear about what is happening to or what might happen to the person we are, our bodies, our minds, our relationships, our possible futures, the things we love and what makes us who we are, our freedom and safety in existence. Fear, both acutely profound and cumulatively chronic, triggers the body to respond with the same mechanisms that dictate that, as animals, we  tend to avoid death, (at least at the beginning, when we are driven by our biological instinct and processes to keep living, rather than our psychologies and the learned responses of our pain/pleasure associations and experiential reactions. Our psychologies and how we feel in response to something impact what we lean toward and what we are afraid of, what thrills us and horrifies us. Sometimes we want what we are most afraid of, but that is another conversation.[insert conversation]

*Trauma as the physiological reaction to fear and concurrent psychological orientation around fear, what it means to us, what might happen because of what is happening, how events shape our lives and perspectives of ourselves and the world.

How we experience and recover from fear-producing events, whether these be tragic assaults on one’s physical self and personhood or the threat of social exclusion, witnessing something terrible happening, sexual abuse and emotional abuse and psychological abuse. Not having enough food, a safe place to sleep.

Notice the body. Is your heart beating a little faster? Do you notice an amplification of your thoughts? How they jostle and have an urgency? Is there a slight tightness or heaviness in your chest?

There might not be. You may be feeling nothing. Lots of people feel nothing. This is, for some people, a survival strategy after experiencing the sensations we call feelings, or emotions, as harmful and painful and maybe also a little useless, to feel hurt, to be scared. Or dangerous, because the sensations are bigger than our ability to lower the voice, unclench the fists.

I notice in myself some sensations of sympathetic nervous system response

fight, flight, freeze, tend and befriend, submit, collapse

…in me when I write about the feelings of how my body responds to stressors. I appreciate this, because it lets me know that I am stress vulnerable, or more likely to experience reactions that are out of proportion with what might be happening. There is no reason for my heart to begin beating hard while sitting on my porch on a beautiful afternoon. I didn’t get quite enough sleep last night, and that alone can make me more stress vulnerable. Some people can go for days without adequate sleep and be relatively fine. Some people don’t have any reason to have to think about these issues of what their nervous system is doing, whether they are in flight, or fight, what might be happening in the internal workings that determine how they might experience any given moment. I do believe, however, that the vast majority of human beings – at some point in their life – experience a fear that is bigger than them, or suffer a slow erosion of their peace of mind, become restless and anxious, depressed and/or numb. The paths our lives take depend in large parts on what resources we have to cope with adversity. These can be internal resources, such as a naturally robust parasympathetic nervous system due to genetic luck and family lineage, the safety and security received as a child, the positive reinforcements of healthy environments and joyful activities, exposure to healthy relationships and mentorship in developing into a healthy adult.

Or internal resources of learned perspective, learned from books, from songs, from teachers and natural mentors in our life, people we trust and who we allow to teach us, people we listen to, people we believe. We can learn through watching an elder move through their days, or listening closely to the difference in a person’s voice when they talk about what makes them happy. We develop resilience in connection to the environments and communities we are a part of, the people who are our people, the people who know us for our strengths and capabilities and for who we really are. Human beings have some element of an innate desire, at first, to seek out healing, to find the songs or voices that lift us up, the ideas and beliefs that give solace.

This is the space where the internal and external meet, because what is happening outside of us affects what is happening inside of us.

External resources are experienced internally, meaning that if you love a song, you can sing the song in your head even if you cannot hear it, if you have learned from a book, you can call up those lessons even if you are swimming in the open ocean with nary a page in sight. If you love a place, you can go there by thinking about what it feels like to be there, by calling up a memory and savoring the way the wind sounded in the tops of spring trees.

Our immediate environments and the resources they hold are heedlessly connected to the larger landscapes we are a part of – our cultures and histories, the cities and open spaces that make the map of the world we find ourselves in.

Thus, some people live in environments that are full of harm, scarce of resources in both the literal and figurative sense. Literally in the form of food scarcity and an absence of safe shelter; figuratively in the form of the experiences we may inherently have access to in communities which meet criteria as being ‘Healthy Communities’

  1. The body
  2. Stress reaction basics
  3. The brain and body, working parts
  4. Basic mechanisms of response
  5. How these mechanisms of response create sensations
  6. Factors that affect stress reaction systems
  7. Basics – food, etc.
  8. Chronic stress and adversity


The conceptualization of stress reaction and subjective experience as a complex adaptive system primarily impacted by variables such as physiological baselines, previous experience, and the presence of exacerbating or mitigating thoughts/meaning-making around events.

  1. The mind
  2. Common definitions of the mind
  3. The rational mind
  4. Memory
  5. How fear-spurred and reward-spurred memory functions differently than, say, remembering the grocery list*

*I struggled to find a meaningless affectively-null example to use here. At first, I thought, “your childhood phone number.” Quickly, I realized that for some people there can be, in association with one’s childhood phone number, all sorts of fear-spurred memories, or difficult memories, powerful memories, beautiful memories, terrible memories. Home is never null-affective.**

**In using the phrase null-affective, I mean that some stimuli has no significant affect on our nervous system activity, meaning that it doesn’t make us feel anything too strongly bring up associations and memory. Even the grocery store list is not null. I have had plenty of times when going to the store stressed me out, so I notice a minor tension in my chest and irritation at the edge of my mind in considering the grocery store list.

  1. Personality and perspective
  2. Natural and learned tendencies in how we interface with the world and solve problems
  3. Self-concept and trauma
  4. Cite research on ‘self esteem’ and PTSD
  5. Frameworks and schemas and complexes
  6. Victim perspectives
  7. Revisit how it all works together, synopsis and review, integrating narrative re: using skills to support my body and mind in shifting out of a stress reactive state.

“Without turning another page, what is one thing that you know that you can do to help yourself feel calm, present, safe, and otherwise grounded? What can you do to help you ease out of a stress reactive state? Are there things you have noticed always help you to feel better?

What are those things?

Go spend some time with them.

Note: If there is nothing that helps you to feel better, ever, what is something that helps you to survive, to get through it? This might be a song or a place where you go by yourself, either in your mind or in real life.

Go there.

  1. Spirit
  2. Existential crisis
  3. Demoralization
  4. Loss of faith in the world’s ability to not be brutal and stupid

VII. What does it mean to you?

  1. How do you operate?
  2. General stress reactivity tendencies
  3. Prompts to consider experience of this.

[Note: need to have some sort of grounding getting present process early on, and repeated, so that people can engage with the material and reflect from a place of grounded perspective.]

Consideration: Start from identifying positive or neutral sensations.

  1. Sensations. What does it feel like when you know something has pushed your buttons, triggered you, or upset you?
  2. Thoughts
  3. Thought watching, curiosity, non-judgement
  4. Acknowledge that trauma-rooted thoughtlines are intrusive and stimulating of affective responses meaning that they make a person feel something. Usually, for me, trauma-rooted thoughts produce sensations of fear, disgust, self-loathing, deep sadness, etc. it is not easy to just watch these thoughts and not be judgmental. The very nature of these thoughts, and the sensations that are linked to them is judgmental. We are judged, our lives are judged. Everything is terrible and threatening. These thoughts come from the ancient and very confused part of our brain that is terrified of all the bad things that might happen and sees the worst possible outcomes. These thoughts get our attention because we are wired to pay attention to thoughts that create or reflect fear.
  5. Negativity bias


  1. Connection between trauma, mental health, and substance use
  2. Research – brief overview, key statistics, ACEs, etc.
  3. Anecdotal evidence re: behavioral manifestations of trauma states and their similarity with diagnostic criteria for miscellaneous mental disorders.


  1. If a person has a severe and persistent mental illness and/or an active addiction, they have almost certainly experienced trauma, if not as the cause of their struggles, then as a result of their struggles. This is not to say that all mental health challenges and substance use challenges are tied to trauma and can be potentially alleviated through trauma-centered recovery skills and practices. However, in the event that any aspects of suffering in one’s human experience may be alleviated by exploring personal resilience strategies, it is worth considering the ways that dysregulation of the mind/body/spirit integrated stress response mechanism may impact one’s mood, behavior, communication, ability to be present, ability to make plans, ability to just have a decent fucking day where you feel somewhat alive and at ease in who you and in the potential your life holds.


VIII. Skills Exploration

  1. Different solutions for different problems
  2. Up regulation, down regulation, overview of all skills in CRM and RfR
  3. WRAP and T-MAPs
  4. Wellness tools
  5. Support
  6. Systems thinking and strategic thinking as skills
  7. Establishing a practice
  8. Habit formation
  9. Motivation
  10. Transformative change model of recovery

Begin forwarded message:

Good morning…

This is all free-write from this morning, but instead of going on and on, I wrote out a draft with imagery of an illustrated book I have wanted to create. This is an achievable project.

I have identified several achievable projects. Now, I must choose the achievable project I want to work on. This may require me to make an inventory of required steps to completion, what the work toward completion would require, anticipated barriers and drawbacks, complications, and likelihood of potential efficacy beyond the immediate satisfaction of doing the work, as well as likelihood of satisfaction in doing the work. Which project will be most likely to be enjoyable – joyful – to work on?

In the morning, there is all stratagem and list, the gray of the road and the block of the building, these everyday matters of where we must go and what we must do, and it fills the mind like the city fills the window of the plane, tilting and closer, severing the view of the sky and all that stretches out into nothing.

Note: that was just free-write for the sake of getting started, writing down what was most immediately on my mind, which was a vague awareness that I am thinking about things I have to do today, and that these things are giving my mind a cluttered feel.

Then, I remembered the story of the wildebeest, and turned it into a wild boar in a re-telling of a story I told to myself to gain compassion for difficult feelings.

I think it would make a good illustrated book, and be useful for readers of all ages. I am writing it to be fun to read, and utilizing devices from children’s literature (repetition of phrase and image, for example) to engage attention in reading.)


The Wild Boar


She sat on the steps

in the quiet neighborhood

right by the town

right by the street

no wild woods anywhere near her


On her arms there was sun,

skin clean and unbruised


There was nothing she had to do,

Nothing she had to run away from


And yet she felt like running,

in her body

There was a great feeling of running,

as she sat there, perfectly still

she felt the stampede

tear through her chest

like horses, thundering charge

wild dogs, a whole herd

tussling and snarling

yipping and growling

running like a freight train

Yes a freight train

a freight train in the night moving fast

through a cut in the forest

and a tidal wave, yes, a tidal wave, too

bigger than running, a great cresting build

a towering wall

that trembled under its own weight

and crashed into the world,

into the horses and into the dogs

into the freight train

and it’s cut through the forest


She sits on the steps,

With the sun on her arms

And knows her face looks like crying

“What is tearing me apart inside?”


Her chest was hot and crumbling, her belly tight and queasy.


Breathing came quick and ragged,

like she really had been running, like she needed to cry.


She would not cry.

                                                                                                                                  “Go away!”

She scowled at herself. “What’s giving me this feeling?”

The boar crept up, to the edge of the fence, right where the gate was swung open. Snuffling and grunting, nosing the ground, scraping it with its face. [more here, developing the character of the boar, why it is so antagonistic, what it has to do with the feelings alluded to in the earlier text]

The woman felt angry. Her arms wanted to push or punch something. She wanted to spin and throw things. “Go away!” She commanded. “Go. Away.”

The wild boar looked up at her…

…and snorted.

The woman kicked out her legs, clenched her fists. Closed her eyes.

She could still see the boar standing there, and she willed it away. “Go away, away she said, “go…away.”

The boar smirked a boar-ish smirk, all tusk and black wired fur. Pawed at the ground with its hoof.

[more here. Transition to the willing of the boar away]

She pictured it wandering, back out from the gate. No, running! Scurrying away, tumbling down the steps. Disappearing into a poof of air. Never existing. Walking alone out into the desert, vultures flying overhead. She wants it to die, to never have been. She wants this boar, this digging, snorting clawing creature standing at the edge of the yard to go away, to go away and die, to leave her alone, to let her be.

She feels her shoulders slump, relieved to see the boar staggering into the horizon, vultures flying overhead while the sun bears down and there is no soft soil to dig in, no grubs to find, no water to catch on the sharp black hairs of the snout.

“The boar!” She thinks, a rush of great urgency blooms in her chest. “The boar!” She stands where she stands, where she sits on the steps and, without thinking, her arm reaches out, the boar seems to feel this, this nudge of reaching, the small stirring of the air between the tip of finger and the turned back.

The boar paused. She saw the shape turn back, stand still, the shadows of the carrion hunters casting over the sun-blasted land.

There is a knowing, when something needs love.

[describe sensations of compassion]

She began to walk toward the boar. The boar walked back toward her.

[these are just image notes, not draft of actual text, which will need to be more prose-driven and Demi-dramatic]

[what happens then? What is the resolution?]

One thing that occurs to me, in relation to our conversation the other day about how we get these big, gleaming ideas and then they sputter out, is that part of the problem is not being realistic or informed in accounting for how long something may take, or how long the completion of a project’s constituent parts and processes may take.

I think that because we can see fantastic potential outcomes and have the imagination capacity to visualize what we want a project to be, the space between visualization and actualization can become vast.

For example, tonight, I spent about an hour drawing boars. I learned that I do not really know how to draw a boar. Nor do I know how to draw a train. Fortunately, I know how to draw well enough that I could learn how to draw a boar, a train.

However, if a project involves a growth edge or learning curve, that has to be taken into account in deciding whether the project is a reasonable investment of one’s time, something you can commit to, if not seeing through to completion, then at least worth exploring, ideally in a way that will build skills that may be employable in other projects if the project you are working on dead ends or becomes exceedingly joyless.

Another thing that occurs to me is that we can not compare our work to other people’s work.

Our work is our work. Our style is our style.

Especially in beginning.

In the media-and-talent saturated landscapes we live in, it is easy to, for example, see impeccable illustrations on instagram and think that i should not even waste my time.

I think that if we strive to do our authentic- work-that-is-joyful-and-engaging in the best possible way we know how to do it at the time, we will inevitably grow and improve, not necessarily towards being comparable to others’ works, but towards being exceptionally skilled in the work we do and how we do it, and we will learn how to share that work, and even if it goes nowhere, if it does nothing, well…I guess that just has to be okay.

I really do think that when people step into their own unique ways of being brilliant, that they figure out what they need to do with that.

Plan update – now with more encouraging self-talk!

⭐️ Devote as much time as needed to developing drawing skill, focusing on fine tuning the lady and boar-skills

⭐️ Use need for storyboard of images to practice drawing, focus on the skills needed to develop, don’t try too many hard

⭐️ Determine an end-point in skill refinement and plan to begin illustrations. You know what it feels like when you are drawing freely, when you have a confident hand. You know the aesthetics you enjoy creating, the media you like to work with. Stay within those territories in approaching this project.

⭐️ For coherence of line form and flow, experiment with sketching the basic forms of the illustrations in one or two sittings, or identify sketches that may be done in the same sitting, e.g. water sketches, animal sketches, lady sketches, to ensure consistency in line and flow throughout the project.

⭐️ Apply layers and colors strategically, meaning use the same palette and be working in the same process across multiple illustrations, to – again – ensure consistency across pages. *this will require a table and blocks of at least two hours to engage in focused work in a relatively uninterrupted fashion.* [things I know I can do when I paint: have someone else in the room with me, talking deeply and casually, talk on the phone sometimes, listen to music]

⭐️ Document the creation of the project. This is documentation.

The container

Add page to existing moldering website devoted to this project. Update regularly – remember, this is *fun* – you love this shit. This will impel attention to existing moldering website, and will engage you in thinking about ways to spruce it up and re-organize.

Create Instagram account (done, haha. How many bold projects went no further than their 1 post Instagram accounts?)

Link to website – just do it. Update a couple of things and do it. Do not allow the need to update website be a deterrent or stalling factor, just do it. Remember: this is *fun.* Be stoked!

Notes for Profile

This is an illustrated book in progress. Documenting the process.

The book is about making peace with snarling, tusky feels…healing the relationship we have with the wild and howling aspects of ourselves.

[Note internal reaction re: hokeyness of wild and howling aspects of ourselves. Observe doubt re: project’s quality. Remind self that you can make this beautiful and effective. You have the skills. You have the motivation. You have the reason/s…so many reasons…]

Regularly post excerpts of documentation of the process. These can include select phrases from draft text presented in a visually pleasing meme-like manner, or – better – as hand-written notes, as this would improve my use of the hand as an instrument of making lines look a certain way. Include notes re: things like handwriting and the brain. Or facts on wild boars.

Each post is a small art project.

You know you can do this. You know how to do this. Remember, you finished the project to draw every day for a year. You finished NaNoWriMo. You posted to your blog compulsively for waaaay too long.

You. Can. Do. This.

But, first, the drawing of the wild boar…

As a person who has been justice-aware for most of her life, I have worked in healing and education services for the entirety of my adulthood. I have worked with and been in community with a myriad array of folks who are struggling, ranging from adolescent girls in group homes to people dying of AIDS. For the past decade, I have worked primarily in areas relating to mental health and substance use recovery, including serving as local groups coordinator for a grassroots radical mental health movement that seeks to create spaces for connection and dialogue about mental health in our communities and to encourage people to explore their own unique understanding of why they struggle and what helps. I have facilitated hundreds of groups, classes, and workshops on various topics relating to wellness and the human condition in the modern Western world. Additionally, I coordinated and/or contributed to multiple community organizing efforts. Although I am a high school dropout, I earned a Masters Degree in psychology, with a specialization in Transformative Social Change. I currently work for a small peer-led nonprofit, where I facilitate groups, provide support to people who are struggling with various complex life issues, and assist in organizational operations.

Although I understand that your program is not intended for artists, poets, or memoirists, I do recognize the value of the artist’s vision, the poet’s heart, and the memoirist’s recognition of how deeply powerful our stories are. I am largely self-taught in arts and letters, and though I rarely call myself an artist, I have spent the past ten years experimenting with drawing, writing, and design. I have talent, meaning that I have something in me that shines, that I naturally delight in engaging with. My project, although primarily a resource to provide practical and useful, factual information about trauma healing processes and modalities, includes elements of story and prose, as well as intentional aesthetic design, to engage the reader in the process of reflecting on how the book’s content is meaningful and interesting to them.

Through my work as a facilitator, I have learned a lot about what connects people (and disconnects them) from learning and from healing. Skillful inclusion of artful and poetic elements in what could otherwise be a heavy read increases the accessibility and appeal of the project.

My dream is to be able to find a more efficient way to offer my experience and skill to people who may very much need support in navigating their unique human experience. Many popular paradigms of understanding mental health, substance use, and human struggle fail to account for the dynamic and deeply personal histories that shape our experience, and offer few tools for understanding the individual tendencies in cognition and feeling through the lens of learning, association, and trauma. I have worked with everyone from ex-CEOs to people who grew up on the side of a mountain and have an eighth grade education. I grew up in the American South and have traveled a fair amount, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. Nonetheless, I have had the opportunity to learn to connect with and have meaningful dialogue with all manner of diverse folks.

My dream, as I mentioned, is to find ways to do my work more efficiently, so that I can reach the people who might find the ideas and practices I am passionate about sharing to be helpful…even life saving. It is my anecdotal experience that many of the people who struggle most in their lives are – at their core – powerfully brilliant and sensitive creatures who see and experience the world in deep-felt ways. There is ample evidence that the connection between creativity and all manner of madness is strong. Every human being is a creative genius in their own right. We all have talents that are especially ours. When we are wounded in lives that do not account for what we need, lives that harm us and threaten us, we cannot shine. Life inherently holds a tremendous potential for beauty and goodness. Even terrible lives have the potential to improve, to heal.

I want to help in the most impactful way that I can.

So, I’d like to put together an accessible and amazing book, and begin consulting with people selectively.

Haha, there are a few steps missing in that summary.

It’s probably pretty clear to you that I have ideas, inspiration. I need help channeling that into a process that will result in completion of the project and progression to next steps. I have a busy life. I work in a nonprofit that serves mostly houseless people, and have two teenage youth in my stewardship.

I have a lot of potential. I need help.


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