VOICES ON UNITY: COMING TOGETHER, FALLING APART

Posted on Jan 31, 2018 in LIFE, READS

Last year while in a creative nonfiction class that changed my life, I was encouraged to submit a piece for an upcoming anthology. So I did. And then it was published.

Obviously, that is an extremely condensed version of the story, but that’s the gist.

Then, in early December, I was finally able to see that anthology in real life. I got to hold it in my hands, and see my work in print for the first time in a long time. I attend the book launch, where contributors from the book shared excerpts from their essays, poems, and even a song. The book’s theme touches on what it means to “unite” when it seems the world around us is doing anything but uniting. I chose to write about my experience at the Women’s March, and interwoven into that story, was a story of my yoga practice, my experience at Wild Spirit Yoga Camp, and the yoga community here.

I’ve never been to a book launch before, much less one where I’d be reading my own work. I was in a room full of writers who I admired and respected — plus I was likely the least experienced contributor there — so yeah, I was a little nervous.

(Hello, bartender. Chardonnay, please. Yeah, the whole bottle is fine.)

Kyle and I sat with Rachael and Joel, who really encouraged me to submit my work and are included in the anthology, too. I have to say, it feels pretty awesome being in a book with the both of them.

I don’t really remember much about my turn at the podium — I was just focusing on remembering HOW to read and not falling down or crying — but I felt great when it was over. The readings were inspiring and poignant. They were reflective, political, funny, and heartbreaking. The fact that this very anthology allowed us to be “united” in a way gave me some hope for the future. Once the readings were finished, a few of the contributors had everyone sign their copies of the book. Did I just give my autograph? Another couple of female writers came up to me and told me that they, too, were at the Women’s March, and we bonded over that shared experience. I left the event feeling a mixture of emotions: residual nervousness, inspiration, and belonging. It’s really something to be able to share your work with others, especially when your work involves mining your soul.

An excerpt from my essay, “I Hear You”

Seven months prior to the Women’s March, my sister and I traveled to rural Pennsylvania and camped at a yoga retreat for a weekend with a slew of strangers, and I’d been in the woods for three days before arriving home. My husband met me at the door, and I really hugged him for the first time in what felt like years. 

I ran a hot bath. It was July, but I felt a bath was the only way to readjust back into the world, to understand the experience I’d had in the woods with a group of fifty women who were now my sisters. I sprinkled ginger bath salts across the steaming water and eased down my sore body. I soaked in the water, listened to calming music and city sounds outside the window, and remembered the creek and makeshift village of occupied tents I’d just left. 

The steam from the water rolled off of my skin as I examined myself. I was cut, bruised, blistered and scraped. I had purple bruises on my hips and pelvic bones from acroyoga with my sister, from holding myself up in the air using her feet and hands against my body. Scrapes on my elbows reminded me of the countless forearm stands in the grassy field. I nursed a quarter-sized blister on the palm of my hand from a thousand attempts to stay in a handstand. My shoulders burned from the sun and ached from the classes and workshops I did every day. My legs were stiff from climbing the mountainside, dancing in a circle, and stretching muscles in new ways. My voice was raspy and hoarse from talking and laughing and crying into the night. My hair was a wild mess of tangles and waves. I used a pumice stone to scrape the dirt from my feet, stubborn streaks of black that clung to my calluses. As I climbed out of the bathtub, I watched stray pieces of grass and clouds of dirt float down the drain, the last remnants of the weekend in the woods. 

My husband took me to dinner later, and waited for me to tell him about the trip. 

“So how was it?” he asked, smiling and excited to hear what I’d experienced. When I opened my mouth to answer, my chin quivered and the pressure in my chest fought to release. 

“I feel like I was able to hear myself for the first time in a long time,” I told him. “and I didn’t like what I heard.” 

***

The original estimates for the number of people expected to attend the Women’s March on Washington hover around 400,000. Later, counts will show that it was closer to one million in Washington, D.C., and nearly four million worldwide. People come in masses. Sister marches sprout up in every state, on every continent. On the metro, I scroll through photos on social media of women in far-away countries holding marches of their own. When I see a group of women in China, who are not allowed to march, gathered in a cafe in solidarity, tears roll down my cheeks. 

Above ground from the metro, I can barely move through the crowds. I fight to stay with my group—my sister, brother, and three friends—as we file through the multitude to find a place to stop and stand for the rally, where feminist icons and humanitarians are scheduled to speak. In the thick of the crowd, it’s impossible to tell how many bodies are packed into those streets. My husband sends a text from home saying “I’m watching it on TV. It’s incredible.” Yet it’s only when I see aerial footage of the march on the news later that I’ll understand the gravity of this day. In the moment, in the crowd, I only know that I can feel the earth’s core buzzing as if the collective energy of the world might soon spark to life like a controlled fire, cleansing us to start again. 

*** 

My sister and I sleepily crawled out of our tent in the dark, early hours to join the other women at the yoga retreat to see the sun rise up over the mountaintop. We wrapped ourselves in blankets and sat in the damp grass, waiting patiently for the sun to show her face.  

We were quiet. We spoke, but in whispers. I yawned and pushed my glasses up over my forehead so I could rub my watering eyes with the heel of my hand. I looked down at my bare feet, and noticed how the dirt was clinging to the rough patches of skin on my heels. The sound of the other women whispering and giggling mixed with the wind from the top of the mountain like nature’s own cocktail, and I closed my eyes to listen better.  

When the sun arrived, as promised, she streaked the sky with fleshy pinks and bright sorbet orange. We took photos with phones that had no connection in the wilderness, and tried to feel the world spinning under us as the sun made her entrance to the day. 

After little discussion, we all agreed to greet the day with bare chests, free from whatever was holding us back. I peeled off my favorite t-shirt, ratty and worn from countless nights of sleep, and my bra which twisted within itself into a wad of black lycra. I covered my bare breasts with my hands and walked to the edge of the mountainside, my hair whipping over my face. Releasing the grip on my own body, I took the hands of the wild women beside me and looked out over the rolling landscape.  

We were all in a row. Our bodies rippled with muscles or soft with flesh. Our skin porcelain or mahogany. We bared our chests, our hearts, to the wind and the hills. 

The only sound was our breath and the birds. 

If you’d like a copy of the anthology for yourself, you can find it here.

1 Comment

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    February 21, 2018

    […] different kind of work. When someone agrees to publish your words in their journal or magazine or book, it’s unlike any other feeling in the […]

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