Here are the First Two of Four Signs that showed up to rekindle my passion, and re-open The Safety Pin Cafe.
1. A big metal something showed up in my town. What is that metal something?
It's a safety pin. A safety pin in this town four years after a medicine story called The Safety Pin Cafe wrote me through another tough Pacific Northwest winter. Symbols and characters fed me a version of life where mythic and ordinary beings laced the wild and civilized natures into remedies and common magic. The story of The Safety Pin Cafe begins with this line: "It was a day a duck could love."
occupied stolen nation, this Pacific Northwest Indigenous Land has been re-tooling us with its own brand of Tough Love and mythic wisdom. The rains in all its elemental manifestations do wear into any illusions about being in control of outcomes; the damp forces us to make a place within for the warm fires of Spirit.
The physical place where I shop for groceries to make comforting meals; the sidewalks that lead from library to post office where we keep in touch and reach out; the community that raises their voices and faces to me as a familiar being; this space has offered connection like the underground network of roots in the Salish woods of Cedar, Fir, Hemlock, Salal. Weaving the everyday with stirrings in my imagination, I figure the Muses of Creativity were having an `aha, a gathering, and they want to be sure I didn't miss my personal invitation. Muses have long-term purpose and perfection is not primary; expression is no laila, therefore I keep writing. The huge pin on First Street in front of City Hall Langley? I took as a personal (if not collective) sign. I held on to it and let out a long blissful ahhhh, 'A 'o ia, that's it! I had a connection.
2. This blog post, "One Step Forward" by Aurora Levins Morales was written in November, 2016, but I did not find the writing until March, a week ago. The post begins with this paragraph:
"For those who don’t know, right after the election, someone proposed wearing safety pins to indicate that we are allies to anyone being attacked in the post-election upsurge of hate crimes, and while many embraced it, many also criticized it as superficial, and debate over this tactic continues to rage. There are several things that this very heated argument ignores. Many People of Color rightly critique the possibility that white liberals will wear a pin as a form of self-soothing, feeling brave for taking a largely symbolic action, without actually doing the necessary work of building ally muscle. But it seems many assume that these are the only people who would consider wearing a safety pin as a statement of intent, that anyone wearing one is doing nothing else. It’s an assumption based in fury and frustration, and utterly understandable but inaccurate. Seasoned and dedicated allies also have reasons to wear them..."The irony and the synchronicity of this post is Aurora Levins Morales and I had begun emailing in the fall of 2016; prior to these communications I had no conscious awareness of her. It was a young woman, and intern at the South Whidbey Tilth who asked me, "Do you know this person, she writes medicine stories, too?" That was all it took for me to pick up the scent of another Woman of Color, living with Environmental Illness, a writer, storyteller, historian who had just finished a six-year project to design and create A Vehicle for Change.
Our communication began when I emailed an invitation to house and host Aurora on the South Whidbey Tilth Sustainable Campus. With the support of the Tilth Council, Pete and I were excited to support and meet this woman of courage and far-reaching positive impact. She was driving across the US in her newly built 32' Cadillac of a toxic-free home on wheels. By the end of the year, 2016, we would hold space for the woman and her home.
Driving a 32' rig across the North American continent is difficult for anyone; driving a 32' rig for a person with multiple physical disabilities was legion. Around the time that the post "One Step Forward" appeared on Aurora's website, I received an email saying she was sorry to say she was having health problems, would need to receive special treatment immediately, and would have to postpone the long drive from Southern California (where she was in November) to Whidbey Island.
No laila, so, instead of meeting us face-to-face Aurora Levins Morales has inspired Pete and me as we read her books through the harshest winter yet. Remedios infused us early in winter with the poetry and medicine of banana peel and ginger; we applied the medicine of both plants literally and then a new medicine story forces itself out my orifices nourishing my soul as yet another damp cold winter tests my resolve. We had read Medicine Stories during the fall, and those stories furnished a guidebook for our activism, pointing to the holes in our personal and joint histories as a Woman of Color and Recovering Catholics born from opposite sides of the Earth. Kindling included prose and personal experience with Environmental Illness that served us as fuel; as Aurora described our story through the telling of hers.
Levins Morales challenged me as I read:
"So my question about the symbolic action of wearing safety pins is how can we deepen its significance and turn it into a doorway through which people can grow? Are there more impactful actions we can attach to it? Can we create safety pin trainings on how to actually intervene in a hate crime? How can we teach people about both the power and flimsiness of sanctuaries and safe houses, the history of successful and unsuccessful efforts of allies to support and get the backs of the most targeted—everything from the Underground Railroad to Danes wearing yellow stars to the Central America sanctuary movement. The thing is, we all start from the places our histories have brought us to, and we all have the opportunity, always, to grow, connect, be bigger in our solidarity, clarity and capacity to make change. Every step forward matters, and this moment of upheaval is a great time to encourage everyone around us, wherever they are on the spectrum, to take the next one, and then the one after that."There are steps we can take to deepen the symbolic action of the safety pin here. The Safety Pin Cafe was born years ahead of the movement to wear the pin as a symbol of solidarity but the Cafe's story is inseparable from the movement's intent. I am re-inspired to use our experiences as exiles, immigrants to this Salish Island, to come up with a renewed and ready attitude of old people weathered by place and honed by experiences. We know what it feels like to be homeless and invisible; and know the transformation that happens when we/you/he/she are/is supported. Aurora Levins Morales' questions are another set of markers. First, I keep blogging, and writing medicine stories sharing what I know. Then ...
The thing about change is there must be a balance and agreement between the body, mind and spirit for flow to move into the spiral. As a writer of mythic tales it is this agreement that opens the vein, causing creativity to flow. It is that venue of recording the myth that by-passes the loud and critical censor. But still the act of writing is daring, a risky business. The story Banana Skin and Ginger is taking me from the harshest winter into spring as a plot and familiar characters stretch an old story into something new; a new story not without growing pains. My physical body pointed to old grudges held too long. The next sign showed up as pain.