The Fertile Territory of Edges and Margins

“Edges- places where forest meets meadow or ocean meets shore- are often the most diverse and fertile parts of an ecosystem.” Starhawk



A few weeks ago, I lay in bed listening to the crows wake up the morning. They make a raucous sound for some, but I enjoy having them around. A bit later, I reached for one of the books I won during the Poetry Week give-a-ways (Fire On Her Tongue: An Anthology of  Contemporary Women’s Poetry Ed. by Kelli Russell Agodon and Annette Spaulding-Convy). I turned to a random page and found Joannie Kervan Stangeland‘s poem The Crows Song; in her words I felt the familiar pull of affinity.  The last stanza of the poem:

They told us we had / no voice, no song, / and yet we wheel, we fly / a swarm of black wings / flinging dusk. / We sing of beak and claw / of scavenger trash. We sing / and we welcome the dawn / before anyone.

Our culture tells us that we have no voice, that we should only echo what we’ve been taught is proper and keep secret our experience and truth. In spite of that, so many of us learn how to fly and we call out from our very core with our truth.

For that we get told to silence ourselves, or at the very least to censor ourselves – make our song sweeter and more palatable. We get pushed to the margins of culture where, to our amazement, we find treasure, we find our “twig and old silk, / twine and foil.” As ecologists know, it’s at the edges of ecosystems that we find the most diversity. We find others like us, and those so different that they help to shift our perspectives. We find our voice, our dreams and the inspiration to make them into reality.

Sure, there are a few unsavory aspects of the territory of edges, but as crows know so well, sometimes that’s where we find the most intriguing, uplifting, brilliant, open-hearted ideas and people. I love the song Drag Queens and Limousines by Mary Gauthier because it speaks to the not only the diversity, but the kinship we can find at the edge of our worlds.

The lines in the last stanza sound too true:

They tell me they miss me, but I know they don’t understand / Sometimes you got do / What you gotta do / And hope that the people you love / Will catch up with you.

Those spaces at the boundaries between culture and subculture are full of activists, artists, poets, story-tellers, trouble makers,  …. a dazzling landscape. We  can feel alone  in the mainstream going about our business at work or at the Laundromat, sipping on some good whiskey at the local bar or a  glass of ice-cold sweet tea on our front porch. Let’s show up as ourselves in these places, the whole messy brilliant package that we are, so we can find one another.

Much love.



The Intimacy of Politics


Love(A post I wrote back in 2012 – still true. And I see how oppression and unethical behavior is getting normalized every day. I still stand by “Oppression is not a valid point of view.” Those friends I wrote about? They have fallen away, distanced themselves – and I’m ok with that.)

Politics is an intimate relationship between people and their government and between the diverse voices of those people. It’s intimate because whatever our government does, wise or foolish, can deeply influence all our lives. How we relate to one another as citizens is an intimate dance with profound implications.

This election season I’ve discovered that some of my friends and acquaintances, both online and off, seem to regard shining a light on things that lack ethics and concern for the dignity and well-being of others as somehow inappropriate. Their philosophy embraces staying positive and that means saying nothing about, for example , the systemic oppression of people of color and other marginalized people. According to some of my friends, I should only say positives things about what I support and no more.

 I disagree. Compassion or spirituality doesn’t mean never challenging the unethical and callous. In my other intimate relationships I don’t bind myself from pointing out when things are unjust, and I see no reason to do so in the intimate relationship I have between myself and those elected to govern, between myself and my fellow citizens. I believe that not shining that light makes oppressive ideas just another valid point of view in the political milieu – that’s how the unacceptable sneaks in and become reality. We can call it out in speech and action. I think it’s imperative that we do.

What about compassion?  Speaking up to say no to injustice doesn’t negate compassion. And compassion for another often must include saying what’s true even when it makes someone else uncomfortable, even angry. Hearing unpleasant, often horrific, truth is a gateway to waking up. Living in the false comfort of unearned privilege is a soul killing way to live.

I won’t turn my eyes from injustice and oppression for the sake of anyone’s false comfort. Along with whatever work I can do to support the causes and ideals I believe in, I will continue to speak out against the unethical and abhorrent. Oppression is not a valid point of view.