Alta traición – José Emilio Pacheco

No amo mi patria.
Su fulgor abstracto
es inasible.
Pero (aunque suene mal)
daría la vida
por diez lugares suyos,
cierta gente,
puertos, bosques de pinos,
una ciudad deshecha,
gris, monstruosa,
varias figuras de su historia,
-y tres o cuatro ríos.

Little Altars Everywhere – James Crews

There are little altars everywhere
in the world, places where you can
lay down your suffering for a while.
Hollowed-out oak trunk by the forest trail
where you leave acorns and pine cones
and worries you’ve gathered on a cushion
of moss, whose patience softens everything.
Or the bench at the busy intersection
where streams of people crossing the street
parted around you, and you fell in love
with each of them—the men in suits, babies
strapped in strollers—and left your fear
crumpled there like a useless receipt.
Or the shelf where you keep the box
of your mother’s ashes next to an electric
candle that flickers day and night, how you
give your grief to the yellow glow of that
false flame over and over, knowing
that even the plainest of light can be
enough sometimes to hold your pain.

“Messenger” by Mary Oliver

Thanks Odin for sharing.

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

~ “Messenger” by Mary Oliver, from Thirst

birding is otherworldly.

as a birder, i’m always, even if not consciously, tuned in to birds. it frequently happens that i’m in a conversation, listening to someone and i hear a bird. …but it’s not just that i hear it, then i have to wonder about where it is, is it male (prettier) or female (likely boring-looking[1]there’s a feminist bird club that helps people identify and value female birds.  and my partner helped me realize that female birds are responsible for the beauty of male birds, often basing … Continue reading), what it’s up to. maybe i’ve identified the species just by the call, but if not, i have a real compulsion to look for it and see if i can figure out who just said that.

it wasn’t always like this.

ever since i was a kid i’ve had an affinity for and fascination with nature. i think most of us do, and some of us get to keep that into adulthood[2]i also believe it is recoverable, in case we weren’t allowed to keep it until now. i was encouraged by my parents to nurture it.

like: i remember one afternoon when my parents and i were walking around our backyard and my mom pointed out a group of chirpy birds and said they were cedar waxwings. she seemed to be excited about them and maybe surprised to find them. all i remember from the time was that there were a lot of them making noise and bopping around together, which isn’t super common for birds.

years later, now, i know that they’re beautiful and gregarious: thick black masks around their eyes, a very punk crest atop their heads, and wax-like red drips from the edges of some of their wing feathers. their bodies are a beautiful ombré blending of brown and gray to a subtle yellow[3] for more info and pictures. they’re most often hanging out in large groups in fruit trees, known for feeding each other small berries. they’re migratory, and i found out they come here, to mexico city, in some but weirdly[4]this is called “irruptive migration” by biologists, where migration isn’t only seasonal, and varies from year to year, often based on food supply: … Continue reading, not all winters. when they do, the city is full of their high-pitched squeaking. as a birder, this is intrusive and unavoidable to me: a group of raucous, playful, chismosos[5]this word loosely translates to gossipy, but has a different kind of culture around it in central mexico, with less shame i think. imagine it’s like when you see a bunch of people crowded around … Continue reading that i need to check out. there are even memes in mexico city about confusing the high-pitched mechanical sounds of tortilla making machines with these birds.

but back to birds interrupting my conversations (whoops)…this might make you think i’m a bad listener: always punctuating conversations or never fully listening because i’m also listening for birds[6]i think there’s a key difference between “listening to” and “listening for”. but are we really expected to give 100% of ourselves over to listening? i don’t think so: we’re also supposed to be internally making sense of what our interlocutor is saying (likely through the lens of our own experience), while listening to our own intuitive responses, and trying to mine those for something that might be useful for that other person or relevant in some way. a “good” listener might even be thinking about how to help or support the other person with something they’re “not saying,” listening for under- or over- tones, resonances between words.

meanwhile, are we supposed to deny that we’re surrounded by life in constant, chaotic, unpredictable movement? if a beautiful hawk soars overhead, if a hummingbird comes up to hover near the flower next to us, are we supposed to ignore them? should i ignore the rambunctious group of 26 bushtits, a barreling wave passing from tree to tree? for me these events are loud. it really is a wave barreling through, cresting in each tree, then ebbing slowly to peak in the next. because, the thing is, i know that if i look closely, i can see their little black masks bushtits here wear (and don’t in most of the U.S.). and i know that if the light is exactly right, i might be able to see that it’s not even really black: it’s that magical iridescence of greens and blues, too. and, though i’ve only seen it in pictures and heard about it from a pro birder, i know that the iris of female bushtits is white and those of males are black[7] – but i haven’t been able to see them close enough (or slow enough) to see it with my own eyes. or that other species of bug-eaters[8](warblers anyone?) often join in the bushtit groups, making a heterogenous blob of bug sweepers moving together through the forest.

so while i’m aware of the inner movements inside my self and psyche that are provoked while listening to someone speak, i’m also attuned to the pair of inca doves that fly and perch together on the wire across the street.  (is it breeding season already?)

marvelling at individual birds is the gateway to another world. a beautiful bright yellow oriole or an impressive indigo bunting might only be here, near us, during a few months of the year.  after they leave, we might await their return next year.  for me, i’ve recently become attuned to the quiet enormity that is migration. this is in part, i think, due to the quarantine times of the early pandemic. during these months, i leaned into the burgeoning hobby of birding, one of a handful of activities we could do safely, as individuals and later, as small groups outside.

in this piece and a little bit in the book undrowned[9]not exactly, but the idea of “scale of breath” comes from there, the authors draw on the metaphor of the scale of breath. that migrations, like ocean waves, are a kind of in-and-out, up-and-down of the earth itself breathing. does the earth draw the cedar waxwings south as we draw in breath with our lungs? is the swelling of my ribcage like the swelling expansions of flower blooms in spring? (and, as alexis pauline gumbs points out, how these are all interdependent: that our breathing needs plants breathing and vice versa, and as such, can we move away from an idea of cause-and-effect to the obvious interdependent nature of all beings together?)

these questions aren’t about their answers.  

rather, they are about the potential they hold to catapult our brains into other ways of thinking and our bodies into remembering other ways of being.

we’re so stuck in our own ways. and i don’t blame us for it. but i want for us to be able to catapult out. or to stretch out an arm of slime mold and see what else is out there. or a wind around a tendril of a vine to see where the edges are, to see what else there is to hold on to. i want us to know these other worlds, to know that ours isn’t the only one.

i’ve seen this idea few times recently: that it’s easier for us (who exactly, white people? middle class folks? americans?) to imagine an apocalypse than an alternative to capitalism[10]for example: “Capitalist realism thus designates an unbearable paralysis in an horrifying system that we can’t imagine getting beyond.”  But more … Continue reading.

what is it about birding that can bring us out of our “selves”? well, birding is about listening to other worlds.  it can remind us of the other worlds and our relationships to them.  it can help us see outside of our own rigidities around worldviews.  it can help us see ourselves outside of a dominating worldview: there is so much going on outside of capitalism crumbling. there always has been. but we’ve been trapped into it, where we can often only see it and nothing else.

birds ground me into an earth-sized worldview.

so maybe birds are an integral part of the conversation: reminding us to ask them what they’d think, how they’d respond.  reminding us to ask for their guidance.  reminding us of our interdependence and how to get out of our small mindedness, our “individuality.”

now, go out and listen to the birds.


1 there’s a feminist bird club that helps people identify and value female birds.  and my partner helped me realize that female birds are responsible for the beauty of male birds, often basing reproduction on appearance and performance.  so i’m saying “boring” jokingly, because “boring” is an avoidance of seeing beauty in everything.
2 i also believe it is recoverable, in case we weren’t allowed to keep it until now
3 for more info and pictures
4 this is called “irruptive migration” by biologists, where migration isn’t only seasonal, and varies from year to year, often based on food supply: 
5 this word loosely translates to gossipy, but has a different kind of culture around it in central mexico, with less shame i think. imagine it’s like when you see a bunch of people crowded around someone doing something impressive on a downtown street; like people inspired by someone doing some amazing breakdancing or something. you have to go check out the action.
6 i think there’s a key difference between “listening to” and “listening for”
8 (warblers anyone?)
9 not exactly, but the idea of “scale of breath” comes from there
10 for example: “Capitalist realism thus designates an unbearable paralysis in an horrifying system that we can’t imagine getting beyond.”  But more importantly, the next sentence: “As Indigenous peoples, living already in a post-apocalyptic reality, our blood memory tells us there are other ways to live on this earth in an economy of abundance that doesn’t destroy that which we love and are intimately and actively in a mutually reciprocal relationship with.”

interstitial being(s): on biking

during the quiet quarantine months early in the pandemic, i accidentally found a personal trainer in my partner. he has slowly and patiently taught me how to become a cyclist in mexico city which has bloomed into a new relationship with my body and given me hundreds of hours of mental space to think as the wind moves past my skin. rather than picking up a pandy hobby like sourdough bread, airfrying, painting or whatever, i’ve traveled more than 10,000 miles by bike, mostly across the biggest megalopolis on the continent.

before i met my partner, i couldn’t imagine how to trace a path across some intersections on a bike. take for example an intersection near my apartment at the time: there are multiple parallel (lateral) streets with bike lanes, sidewalks, and medians in between, a monument in the middle of the road, dedicated public bus lanes either in the middle or edge of a multi-lane road — all crossing each other like a crumbly 10-by-10-grid of pie crust. as a pedestrian, you must be attentive to cross it slowly, so i couldn’t imagine it as a cyclist amidst the traffic, having had no desire to become a tiny fish sneaking between sharks that could pulverize me at any moment.

also: there are these things that look like traffic circles which do not behave as such. or, rather, they can look like traffic circles but are not. for a specific example, see what happens around the angel de independencia:

pay attention to the cars…

then, on top of the already complicated and always degrading physical infrastructure, add multiple layers of more chaos: people jaywalking everywhere; others pushing heavy, wheeled things in the bike lane or road because the sidewalk is too cracked; frenetic lane-splitting motorcycle delivery drivers; street vendors in moving in wide, 3-wheeled bikes; innumerable pot holes; random fallen wires which may or may not have electricity (but that i think/hope are mostly unused fiber optic cables); …and then add the giant chaos layer of drivers who have never passed a drivers test because it’s not a requirement of getting a license here (!!) – oh and the ugly but true feature of how normalized it is to drive drunk in this city – not to mention myriad forms of public transit belching black clouds of exhaust. it’s beyond easy to feel overwhelmed by a constant onslaught of heavy moving objects that could impede one’s (hypothetical) path on a bike. (not to mention that all of this is built on a slowly-sinking ex-lake-bed with pyramids and other sacred sites half-buried throughout.)

it is upon this unfathomable canvas that i’ve slowly sribbled GPS-guided lines across the map over these 3+ years.

recently, something suddenly shifted: i’ve come to see these heavy moving objects radically differently. i started to see their edges and spaces between them.

this might be because my partner was a fixed gear rider when we met. the nature of fixed gear bikes is that they don’t (usually) have breaks, so to stop, you need to slow the rotation of the rear wheel with your own weight, pushing in reverse against moving pedals. or hop up and force a skid to slow down. needless to say: it takes much longer to stop than a bike with breaks. and in a place where stopping on a dime seems like it should be a vital requirement, there are a surprising amount of fixie riders. (cue pensive head scratching and furrowed eyebrows: what the hell?)

a pattern that i’ve noticed over the years in trying to learn from and (sometimes) mimic my partner’s cycling behaviors is that, whereas i’d find myself stopping behind something – a parked car, a crossing pedestrian, a 3-wheeled bike vendor taking up 90% of a bike lane – he’d have kept going and i’d lose sight of him. it has taken me a long time to figure this out, but the way i’ve recently understood it is that he sees and focuses on the spaces in between things rather than the thing itself. whereas i still often feel a visceral onslaught of things coming at me, things i should avoid smashing into, or things i should swerve around, and the added handfuls of unknowns like a possible car door being opened or the depth of a puddle in the rain – i think he navigates by thinking about, seeing, and sensing the spaces that he could temporarily occupy.

instead of only sensing an obstacle, sense paths around it: a subtle shift, but one that’s fundamental to flow.

imagine, for example, lane-splitting between two lines of moving cars*. the embodied fraction of a second determination of whether or not the space between two rear-view mirrors is bigger or smaller than the width of your shoulders: can i fit? and knowing that this “yes” or “no” is a switch that flips on and off as the cars move in relation to each other…it’s kind of like tetris. but in 3-D. but instead of a shape of bricks, the shape is your body: with all it’s softness and exposed skin and breakable bones (and maybe your precious bike).

(*my partner calls this “ratoneando” – being a rat – by the way. something like “scurrying” might be a decent translation.)

if you want a preview, here’s an internationally known fixie rider and race-winner from CDMX, with an excerpt of her ride on calzada tlalpan:

so: the interstitial – the space between – is constantly shifting, not fixed, structured, or contained. this is because it is based on the relationship between two or more things which are also in movement.

this realization immediately felt metaphorical to me. though deeply physical in the case of biking, i know that it relates to systems transformation, next economies, network structures, repairing our relationships, maybe even internal family systems and shadow work

(most of) white/western/scientific thinking tends to focus on an object of study, or maybe a dichotomy of object and subject. however, what i’ve always found fascinating about network science is that it also includes the links between the two things, paying attention to relationships. same with ecology.

focusing on interstitiality is different than that though: it’s noticing what’s not there – the space, the emptiness – between or outside things. this is a necessary absense in the same way that the spaces (called “rests”) between notes are necessary for music. in the same way pauses after questions create invitations and invoke creation.

this space or emptiness is a point of origin: from nothing emerges new.

it is also a point of termination, like how the edges of a thing bleed into, degrade into, and return to the nothing.

the interstitial includes this liminality and edge-ness, and it includes what/where those things fade out into.

passing through the spaces between creative blocks

one application of the metaphor i’ve been running into lately is around what i’ve been taught to call creative blocks. it’s a deeply frustrating feeling to repeatedly run into the same block. the guiding principle says i need to “overcome” the block, or perhaps somehow “go through it” or maybe “disarm” or “dismantle” it. (similar vocab exists in relationship to oppressive systems, too.) all of this thinking continues to focus on the block itself, ignoring the rest: infinite space around it that i could potentially move through: alternate paths.

there’s a freedom that comes with seeing** the spaces instead of seeing the obstacle. you’re not impeded, rather, you have choice. it feels powerful. that you get to decide how this is going to play out. that there are so many more ways than one of going about this.

(**i realize i am very visually-dependent in describing my ways of sensing, but other senses are surely implicated: feeling and hearing come up for me, too. smell and taste don’t feel that relevant at this moment.)

who or how do i have to be to exist in that space?

i believe that developing this wider way of sensing and being is necessary for the next phase of humanity. and as soon as we can develop, practice, and share it, it becomes immediately easy to know that transformation/transition is well under way. you begin to see the edges of structures of capitalism crumbling. you see the germinating seeds of what’s next. you see elders and those who have maintained connection folding time, pulling indigenous tradition through colonial contexts. you see experiments and less solid formations which may or may not persist.

i suppose i always end with questions…so some questions on my mind are: how do we start to see what artists call “negative space” in a physical and social sense? where are the negative spaces around us, and how do we inhabit them? what do we notice about our being when we’re in that space – do we have to shift somehow to be able to fit in there, or do the expand once we’re there? how do we develop shared vocabulary or ways of collective sense-making about being in these ways?

How to edit

I’m finally sitting down to edit and add to the crappy draft of the book. (That I’ve finally printed out to feel its weight and to be able to scribble on it – something digital writing will probably never be able to achieve.) Anyway, here are my expert-level steps for editing your work:

  1. Scroll through the document to see how long it is, looking for any interesting headers. Peruse the start and ending to see if there’s any logical connection.
  2. Happen to notice that ball of cat hair on the floor next to the desk.
  3. Look around and realize the whole floor is really dirty. Sweep frantically.
  4. While sweeping, notice that the floor really needs to be mopped. But today I want to write, so that will have to wait.
  5. Notice that I haven’t made the bed, so I have to do that to really start the day.
  6. In the bedroom, see a dirty article of clothing, quickly prepare a load of laundry to be washed.
  7. Meanwhile, observe all the random clothes lying around, hang them up in the closet. (I had been meaning to do that all week.)
  8. On the way to the washing machine, notice how dirty the living room floor is and sweep that, too.
  9. Now I’m feeling hungry and I realize I have no meals planned for the week and it’s Sunday.
  10. Buy a book on Kindle with recipes for estrogen detox. Skip to the meal plan section, will read the fluff (a.k.a. science) later.
  11. Pick some meals and make a grocery list.
  12. Fret that I don’t have enough time in the day to go to multiple stores to find all the niche ingredients, let alone prepare the meals for the week.
  13. Scrap that and sweep some more.
  14. Become aware of the inevitability of house cleaning that must happen after having achieved a crappy draft and laugh to myself. Doubt that I’m unique in this and decide to write about it.
  15. Publish this blog post and then start editing.

EDIT: This post has not been copy-edited for obvious reasons!!

Come to me – Julia Cameron

Come to me.
There is no darkness in which
I cannot see you.

Come to me.
My green heart holds your ancestors.
They are waiting to hear your dreams.

Speak to them. They know your name.
Do not imagine you are alone.
Do not imagine they have left you.
They are listening,
Waiting for your voice.

Come home. All of us are waiting.
Every bird remembers you.
The lion, in his pride, still knows your name.
The gazelle, the snake, the silver heron
Lifting at the shore— all these and more—
Your family.

Come back to me. 
You do not need to grind your bones to dust,
Rusting your heart.

You are known to us,
Only come home.

moving from ladders of engagement to self-organizing as decentralized leadership

Thanks to June Holley for thought partnership!

In campaign-based organizing, we tend to think of engaging people hierarchically: the goal is to move people up the ladder, progressively increasing their levels of engagement. Transplanting this to network organizing can give people a sense of “the network does all the things for network members,” where a few network facilitators become responsible for creating all engagement activities.

These practices shouldn’t be applied to networks. Why? Network members often experience shifts in capacity to engage in a way that is non-hierarchical. Because network participation often happens outside of the context of a job: we may devote less time to it – more sporadically and perhaps with varying levels of commitment. Network organizers should embrace these factors as part of how networks work, rather than trying to mash organizational thinking into network structures.

So, I’m starting to understand the idea of self-organizing as a decentralized, non-hierarchical version of engagement and leadership. We need to unlock this decentralization and move away from centralized levels of engagement. I say unlock because I think this involves a process of unlearning: doing things differently and practicing new ways of being with each other.

What prevents network members from self-organizing?

  • Not feeling autonomy: having experienced generations of marginalization, disinvestment, and maybe never having seen someone like them in positions of power
  • A narrow definition of leadership that privileges only a very specific type of person and way of interacting to be able to arrive to a position of power
    • A relationship to leadership that trains us to do what we’re told rather than to initiate
  • Resource dams and gatekeeping: only certain people have easy access to resources and/or resources are accessible but only after jumping through flaming hoops
  • Lacking a sense of belonging to the network: why should I contribute? What’s in it for me?
  • Culture – how we understand all of these things (autonomy, leadership, resources) is artificially narrow – we’ve become trained to understand them in certain ways and may have difficulty imagining that they could be different

How do we unlock decentralized engagement?

  • Popular education: training and capacity building for and from within marginalized groups (these can be groups that are literally on the margins of a network, and/or groups of people that have been pushed to the margins of dominant society)
  • Less gatekeeping of funds: innovation funds and shared gifting can be a way for funders and other gatekeepers to begin to practice letting go of control. Decolonial commons and cooperatives are closer to real, community control of resources. (Consider also: reparations!)
  • Communities of practice to unlearn some ways of being and practice new ones – creating new cultures of interacting: specifically anti-racist, feminist, decolonial, and otherwise undoing hierarchies while also being caring and supportive to hold space for change
  • Protocols and practices that break down how to do things – the steps to take to form a project – as an activity that regularly happens in a network
  • Measuring and creating intentional interventions around demographic shifts for who are in positions of power in a network
  • Collecting, sharing, and visualizing data that gives us a real-time picture of where we are in this shift
  • Using network weaving to help people find the “right” person/people to start a project with

Attributes of a network that support self-organizing:

  • Widespread desire and openness to collaborate: it feels easy to meet people who are interested in talking, sharing learning, open to new ideas
  • Self-authorization: you don’t feel like you have to ask for permission
  • Accessible resources (including funds, spaces for discussion, knowledge databases, mentors or coaches, whatever else)
  • Liberatory culture: all network members actively practice undoing oppressions; working across privileges
  • Spaces to learn in: you can see what others are doing, you feel like you can ask questions and get answers; you can see what others are learning
  • Culture of seeing “failures” as rich learning opportunities (plus a shift away from an attitude of seeing these projects as a waste of time/resources)
  • Understanding of how efforts connect to network goals/values/principles
  • Ease of finding the right people to collaborate with and learn from

How can we understand engagement as an ecosystem rather than a hierarchy?

  • Appreciate richness and diversity of engagement, instead of focusing on “how high up” someone gets
    • Should be activities at all levels all the time!
  • Think about *indicators* of engagement like the attributes above – how to create a healthy environment that supports engagement?
  • Culture shift (see “feelings” above)

What activities contribute to self-organizing? / What could a healthy self-organizing ecosystem look like?

I’ve written about flexible formations for networks – in how we can create spaces/containers within networks that allow for variations in size and frequency.

Perhaps a different way to look at it would be to map out outcomes of these containers:

  • Lots of network members meeting people that aren’t the right fit (might help them triangulate to learn who is a better fit, also works to build strength of weak ties which can lead to unexpected outcomes)
  • Some network members meeting people that are the right fit
  • Most people know what’s going on in the network (reading a newsletter, reading activity feeds)
  • Many “failed” experiments from which learnings are harvested:
    • Projects “fail” and that’s not hidden but rather seen as opportunity
    • People learn from other projects
  • Harvesting learning is a part of running a project
  • Many projects at all phases: seed, sprout, plant, fruit, compost
  • Understanding and measuring how projects contribute to systems impact/change and/or contribute to building new/alternative systems

As in any ecosystem, there are many kinds of activity happening at the same time:

  • Small transactions (ex. reaching out to people, connecting people, listening, skills exchanges, resource exchanges)
  • Self-organizing to co-design and implement network structures through circles (ex. innovation funds, equity funds, communities of practice)
  • Self-organizing projects happening in the network’s focal area (ex. food systems, water rights, economic justice, etc.)
  • Ongoing processes such as reflection, sensemaking, and learning
  • Training and capacity building (ex. network weaving, knowledge harvesting)

Network members can start to track these activities and share them back to the full network. Ideally this tracking happens in a way that supports network members to continue doing their work, while at the same time providing aggregated data so the full network can start answering the question: “what’s going on in the network?”

So…the goal shifts from getting to the top of a leadership/engagement ladder to participating in an active ecosystem of autonomous self-organizing, resource flows, and learning exchanges that contribute to the network’s bold systems-level vision.

what is the way from here to there?

sometimes i record myself reading blog posts – use this to listen instead of read

i just got off a call with two people who are starting up a program for strategic planning for non-profits. they had heard about my work on The Light Ahead podcast and wanted to chat with me about next economies and NGO networks.

on the call, one of them used the metaphor of “blowing things up” a few times. in that they had created a plan for their work, but blew it up last week (which was both frustrating and good). or that non-profit sector employees are in a different place than many board members and funders, and those relationships need to change (or “blow up”) for real transformation to be possible.

i wondered, asking that if we’re trying to get from here to there (or if we’re just trying to get out of the “here” we identify as undesirable), what is that process like?

what do we call it? change? transformation? culture shift?

what metaphors do we use for it?

and are these metaphors violent? scary? doom-and-gloomy? apocalyptic?

do we perceive this as a painful, difficult experience? (does your body even react viscerally because of this question, because it can already imagine the answer?)

do we assume there will be some kind of revolution? and, given our limited understandings of revolution, do we imagine it as hard, bloody, with much sacrifice and death?

it’s important to consider the metaphors we use in how we understand and talk about what’s next.

it’s also important to be clear about whether we are in the camp that is a) making incremental shifts so that there is less harm done within current systems, or b) working from a totally different set of assumptions, values, and ways of being. (or c) some mix of the two.)

to be explicit, i’m pretty sure i’m in B. i tried camp A for a while but the kind of energy required to say “NO” so strongly and so repeatedly always turned into a kind of self-incendiary anger that my body just couldn’t sustain. (check out block, build, be as a framework for figuring out where you might be if you’re not sure – their model supports being in multiple categories.)

in my very non-scientific way (sorry, entomologists), i’ve been using the metaphor of a butterfly chrysalis to describe the process, as such:

an intact caterpillar decides one day to create a cocoon for itself. then, magically, they break down into liquid form while maintaining the imaginal discs they had been carrying since birth. (tangent: imaginal discs are actually magic, by the way, and they are the genetic codes that create new body parts: caterpillars go around carrying the seeds for wings before they know they’ll be able to fly. (this is real.)) then, somehow they reconfigure themselves and emerge as a being capable of flight, light enough to float on air and to travel with millions of their peers to other worlds thousands of miles away.

(brief pause for the several questions i have for these beings that i’m just going to leave here: does this hurt? what happens in how you understand the world and your surroundings? as a butterfly, do you remember what being a caterpillar was like?)

on the other hand, the metaphors i have been given from mainstream media are more in the direction of fear-based, apocalyptic, individualistic, and escapist. this is evidenced by the fact that it’s way easier for me to imagine the gritty details of specific apocalyptic scenarios: zombies, natural disasters, wars, escapist so-called “cottagecore,” nuclear bunker canned food storage, etc. there are so many movies about this and the mainstream/corporate news broadcasts every night look very similar to this. my social media feed has so many millennials glamorizing the process of redoing old vans and then living in national parks with their cats who have been trained to walk on leashes so as to not get eaten by bears. (ok, maybe that’s because i often share these stories because they’re so ridiculous, but hey, don’t judge me by my algorithm.)

there are other metaphors, other ways of understanding what is possible. a lot of “what if…” questions come to mind:

what if the shift was easy, or at least easeful?

what if it was like how Tricia Hersey imagines it in her work with The Nap Ministry? (or the #softlife trend that’s emerging as the antithesis to #grindculture?)

what if, instead of it being punitive, returning to community felt like a warm embrace? (see: the book we will not cancel us, circle practice, transformative justice)

what if relinquishing stolen land and resources made us feel whole instead of empty? and helped us start to repair relationships with land and communities? (see: the land back movement, though not everyone is non-violent, and with good reason.)

or look at all these amazing “what if” questions created by intelligent mischief, asking us to consider:

i asked before about going from here to there, or at least just getting out of the “here.” i don’t know that we have to know where we’re going. i think it’s ok that we don’t, and maybe even good. (though certainly some of us know more details about the next place(s) than others.)

In the book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott wrote: “E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.‘ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you.”

the other thing is, is that if we’re still deeply in the “here,” (or even just in the mentality of the “here”), our ideas about the “there” will be really similar to what we can currently understand, embody, feel, or imagine. so in the meantime, i propose that we focus more on the breaking down, on the cocooning and going back to imaginal discs (one of which is definitely about justice and reparations, and we have ideas about others), and, importantly, becoming less attached to the “there” as the goal. for now the outcome is the process: the process of slowing down, and as norma wong says, the process of creating the conditions to become aware of what else is emerging.

additionally, if we’re so caught up in an anxiety about where we’re going, we won’t be able to be present with the process (and, therefore less likely to be able to support others in it), and we won’t know how we got to the next place either. this anxiety limits our possibilities, too.

so…how do you imagine the work of our time, the work to move ourselves outside of extractive, imperialistic, racist capitalism? is it a violent, rough, scary thing? or is it an easeful return into the embrace of true community and wholeness?

A Map to the Next World (Joy Harjo)

In the last days of the fourth world I wished to make a map for
those who would climb through the hole in the sky.

My only tools were the desires of humans as they emerged
from the killing fields, from the bedrooms and the kitchens.

For the soul is a wanderer with many hands and feet.

The map must be of sand and can’t be read by ordinary light. It
must carry fire to the next tribal town, for renewal of spirit.

In the legend are instructions on the language of the land, how it
was we forgot to acknowledge the gift, as if we were not in it or of it.

Take note of the proliferation of supermarkets and malls, the
altars of money. They best describe the detour from grace.

Keep track of the errors of our forgetfulness; the fog steals our
children while we sleep.

Flowers of rage spring up in the depression. Monsters are born
there of nuclear anger.

Trees of ashes wave good-bye to good-bye and the map appears to

We no longer know the names of the birds here, how to speak to
them by their personal names.

Once we knew everything in this lush promise.

What I am telling you is real and is printed in a warning on the
map. Our forgetfulness stalks us, walks the earth behind us, leav-
ing a trail of paper diapers, needles, and wasted blood.

An imperfect map will have to do, little one.

The place of entry is the sea of your mother’s blood, your father’s
small death as he longs to know himself in another.

There is no exit.

The map can be interpreted through the wall of the intestine—a
spiral on the road of knowledge.

You will travel through the membrane of death, smell cooking
from the encampment where our relatives make a feast of fresh
deer meat and corn soup, in the Milky Way.

They have never left us; we abandoned them for science.

And when you take your next breath as we enter the fifth world
there will be no X, no guidebook with words you can carry.

You will have to navigate by your mother’s voice, renew the song
she is singing.

Fresh courage glimmers from planets.

And lights the map printed with the blood of history, a map you
will have to know by your intention, by the language of suns.

When you emerge note the tracks of the monster slayers where they
entered the cities of artificial light and killed what was killing us.

You will see red cliffs. They are the heart, contain the ladder.

A white deer will greet you when the last human climbs from the

Remember the hole of shame marking the act of abandoning our
tribal grounds.

We were never perfect.

Yet, the journey we make together is perfect on this earth who was
once a star and made the same mistakes as humans.

We might make them again, she said.

Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end.

You must make your own map.