I had rituals planned for this solstice, but what I needed most was sleep and so I am committing to rituals of slumber, as grounding as my morning meditations.
In September, I moved to the Lenape land of “Swift Waters.” As a mother, I had to step away from a city that has failed our children. And though I love NYC fervently, being lucky enough to have options, I chose what was best for my family.
On our new lands, the elder I have taken care of for 20 years passed away in October. It was dementia-- over the years, it took his memory, his mind, and then the rest of his body. Just as I cared for him with leather and kink in the earlier years of our friendship, I doula’d his death with candles and Chopin, placing a leather vest over his chest, a full body massage and last bowl of ice cream. With friends close, I called his wife’s spirit into the room to take him home and within the hour, he let go.
The next day, to prepare his body for cremation, I dressed in leathers, applied red lipstick, and pushed my feet into heels. It was our last session.Cleansing a body I had committed wonderfully perverse and sadistic acts upon; a body I washed from feces and fed like a child in the end years.
A month later, November, I lost another friend to suicide. A brilliant writer, artist, and mother of two. I have lost many friends and lovers to suicide and to most of them, I’ve let go with deep empathy and hopes that they were free of suffering. But because this one left children in wake, I was full of anger for days. Until I sat with the acceptance that depression is an illness, like cancer, and some of us survive, some of us recover, and some do not.
Deaths amidst deaths.
One long night amidst a winterfull.
But for this moment, as I write, the sun is shining through a clear sky, setting the world of white snow ablaze and the only darkness is the silhouette of an eagle reeling on high.
BY MARY OLIVER
all the singing is in
the tops of the trees
where the wind-bird
with its white eyes
shoves and pushes
among the branches.
Like any of us
he wants to go to sleep,
but he's restless--
he has an idea,
and slowly it unfolds
from under his beating wings
as long as he stays awake.
But his big, round music, after all,
is too breathy to last.
So, it's over.
In the pine-crown
he makes his nest,
he's done all he can.
I don't know the name of this bird,
I only imagine his glittering beak
tucked in a white wing
while the clouds--
which he has summoned
from the north--
which he has taught
to be mild, and silent--
thicken, and begin to fall
into the world below
like stars, or the feathers
of some unimaginable bird
that loves us,
that is asleep now, and silent--
that has turned itself
THE WORLD BY JENNIFER CHANG One winter I lived north, alone
and effortless, dreaming myself
into the past. Perhaps, I thought,
words could replenish privacy.
Outside, a red bicycle froze
into form, made the world falser
in its white austerity. So much
happens after harvest: the moon
performing novelty: slaughter,
snow. One hour the same
as the next, I held my hands
or held the snow. I was like sculpture,
forgetting or, perhaps, remembering
everything. Red wings in the snow,
red thoughts ablaze in the war
I was having with myself again.
Everything I hate about the world
I hate about myself, even now
writing as if this were a law
of nature. Say there were deer
fleet in the snow, walking out
the cold, and more gingkoes
bare in the beggar’s grove. Say
I was not the only one who saw
or heard the trees, their diffidence
greater than my noise. Perhaps
the future is a tiny flame
I’ll nick from a candle. First, I’m burning.
Then, numb. Why must every winter
grow colder, and more sure?
THE SHORTEST DAY BY SUSAN COOPER So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us—Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
TO KNOW THE DARK BY WENDELL BERRY To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
Sabrina Talukder is the immigration attorney at The Exploitation Intervention Project (@eipnyc) at The Legal Aid Society. She represents non-citizen survivors of human trafficking with criminal histories in their legal proceedings. READ HER OP-ED HERE.
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