onefootintheclay

Creativity and Spirituality with Joel McKerrow

How to Break Free (nearly)…

His business suit gives away his profession but not his calling, not his burning, not what the little one inside desires.

His beard is a shift and a hollow. The first place that brown becomes grey and it tells him these years are waning on and on through the starch light of history.

His beard is a shift of ageing. I know this ageing, like he knows this ageing. His beard gives it all away. Tells me that five fingers grip his spine and twist it backward and he cannot feel this, but his face knows it.

He wears fluoro green socks. Beneath the cuff of his suit I see them. Fluorescent green and a splash of red. His rebellion against the system, against the office, against the ageing. The history of a man who never spread his wings and couldn’t see the the ocean through the window.

But I wonder how many times it called him. I wonder how many times he stood on its edge and felt the surge wrap around bare ankles, green and red socks tossed wild onto the beach behind him. To stare to the horizon like he’s about to dive in. But he stops. Turns a weary shoulder away from the waves. He is tempted to leave the socks behind, but in the last moment he snatches them up, puts them on his feet, trudges up the sand and onto the path and down the road and into the train and I see him sit there now dreaming of sailing ships, one hand folded neatly over the other. Composure.

The train slows and I know that he exits and he walks to the building and into the lift and into the office and to the desk to turn on the computer and catch a glimpse of himself in the black computer screen and the shift of his ageing beard shall scare him. And he shall spend the day counting the money of rich people wishing he could see the ocean from his office.

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No One Even Notices

She leans in close. They touch.
The light globe explodes in a million cliches.
No one even notices, except the couple,
who do not yet know if they are lovers or friends.

 
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On the Death of my First Love.

On the pavement outside the restaurant we spoke of how life changes and the moments that make us and how we have changed and still yet remain the same. She remembered being babysat at our house and she remembered my eating of a tomato sauce sandwich and the sauce dripping down my cheek.

I remembered years later. My eighteenth birthday. Rebecca and her had picked me up from my house and we drove down to the beach and the storm gathered out at sea like a curious puppy learning of the loudness of its bark.

We had stood at the edge of the ocean, where it kissed the cliff face. Next to the lighthouse. We stood looking out to the sea and we dared the puppy dog storm to come at us. She listened and came bounding. And what else can you do in such a moment, but dance. We danced. Wild. Unrestrained. We screamed and we yelled. The storm barked so loudly. Thrashed wildly. And we three wilder and wilder still. Limbs like storm. Body jerking. Barking. And somewhere in the loose movement I let myself go. I lost all sense of the tightness of my skin and I let the storm come in.

It was the first time I ever did that. The thunder crashing and the wind whipping and the lightning striking and the ocean pounding and the three of us screaming. Dancing. Everything was alive that night. Filled with a life and a luminosity. Including myself, I was alive. Everything was screaming that night, including myself. Everything is always wind and storm and wouldn’t we always be the brave ones to turn and face into the surge and bellow back.

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Rebecca died. Many years later. The first girlfriend I ever had. My first teenage love. In her sleep. Not long before her wedding. She died.

We remembered this too, standing there outside the restaurant, her child eating burgers, tomato sauce dripping down his cheek. We remembered where we were when heard she had died. I had taken all the photos I had of her, including one taken of the three of us that wild night. I laid them out on the floor all around me. I wrote her a letter that I could never send. I could not get to the funeral, so I buried her inside me instead. Wouldn’t we always be the brave ones to turn and face into the surge and bellow back.

My old friend tells me how she has just split with her husband and she feels a widow at thirty three. I let the tears come. Held her arm. Wouldn’t we always be the brave ones to face into the surge and bellow back. Wouldn’t we.

The cliff face is still there. I stand on its edge whenever I go home. Looking out to the ocean. So I go there that night after talking with my old friend and I scream at the top of my lungs and then I begin to dance.

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Speaking of God

I am speaking of God
and of disappointment
and the sacred who can feel so far away.

I am speaking of anger
and frustration
and a faith broken, scared, running.

I speak of shame.
I speak of comfortability. The ignorance. And,
haven’t we all walked this path before,
you know the one, it weighs heavy on each of us.
This draw toward living for ourselves,
giving ourselves,
to the bland sameness
of day in, day out and
the falsity of possession. The seduction.
The wide path
and the many who walk upon it.

But the many they miss each other,
and they pass each other lonely.

Somedays though, I hear it,
an offer, the invitation,
a small gate and a narrow road. A new way and
the few who walk this path. The few and the holding. The giving. The crumbling. The freedom. The painful. The costly, but nothing ever more worth it.

Still we are walking. Still we are choosing,
and this choice is our freedom
and this choice is our finding,
and this choice is our beginning.

I am speaking of God.

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I doubt I ever saw you God…

I doubt I ever saw you God,
sometimes, in the dark night, I doubt you,
when the fire is so low and
I am more darkness than light,
more ash than flame,
more ember than burning.
I have demanded your face and it never came.
I have demanded the undeniable and you deny me still.
I have demanded and you have not
listened to my demands. Or have not
paid heed to my demands. Or will not
pay homage to demand.

So I burn them, my demands, I set fire to their stipulation
and as the flames catch alight inside, once
more I think I see you.

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Imagination in a World of Fear

Fear demands a certain reading of reality. It forces anything unfamiliar to be named as dangerous. To take a stranger and paint them. To take a culture and blame them. And isn’t this world thick with the dripping paint of our prejudice.

A paint by numbers. Number one is white and privilege. Two is orange. Three is black. Four is privilege. Five is immigrant. Six is homeless. Seven is Muslim. Eight is conservative right. Nine is progressive left. Ten is red.

I have never been great at staying between the lines. Neither is my daughter.

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Ursula was neither. Ursula Le Guin. She died two days ago. Her book Earthsea was monumental. Her writing was monumental. She was monumental. She painted over the lines that separated literature from fantasy from science-fiction from social-critique.

In 2014 she was given the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards. She said this,

‘Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.’

Realists of a larger reality. Painters outside the margins. This is who we are. This is who I desire to be. May imagination set us free from the constraints of our bigotry and our bias. May we see things that are not yet and name them as reality. The deeper reality. Beneath the fear. Beneath the ice of winter, when all is thought lost, the seed still waits for the spring. Our imagination is our hope and our hope denies the current ordering. Imagination calls us to a new reading of reality. That I may look at our world with Kaleidoscope eyes, to see the things we have forgotten, to remember freedom. That I may look at people with these same eyes, to see that behind the face of each person is a nuanced and complicated and messy splash of rainbow.

No more paint by numbers.

I have never been great at staying between the lines.

Neither is my daughter.

Neither was Ursula.

My hope is that you too would struggle with the same.

 

Winter.Summer.Autumn.Spring. (A new Year’s Blessing).

For the winter that has been, may you look now to see the seed that lay beneath the snow.

For the winter that is to come, may you trust that you are strong enough, and if not on your own then held in the hands of the beloved.

For the summer sun that warmed you, give thanks. Even when she scorched you, give thanks. Even when the fires came, give thanks.

For the summer sun that shall be, may you turn your face toward her, believing that you are truly deserving.

For the autumn that swept through, may you see how the shedding of leaf and skin is, in the end, our only way to grow.

For the autumn calling out ahead, may you come to trust the slow wind and the way it wraps around you.

For the spring that began, know that new things are like babies, the stumble and fall is their only way of learning how to stand.

For the spring that waits for you, be patient, hold onto hope, do not yearn so much for her that you miss this moment. The one right now. She will always be there waiting. Always. Always waiting. Always.

 

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Do Not Despair Dear Friends

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There is too much pain here. Have you seen it?
Or not seen it as much as felt it. Let the broken wrap around you like chain.
Like heavy chain. Like Sorrow. There is too much sorrow here.

It gets under your skin and changes the way you feel
and it gets under your eyes and changes the way you see.
A dark lens and everything seems hopeless these days.

Everything seems hopeless.

The little girls taken as sex slaves;
The suicide behind detention centres fences;
The black man shot; the little boy washed up on the beach;
The wife beaten; the president and his grabby hands;
The incarceration of colour;
The starving children, always the starving children.

Despair is an absence
and I feel useless
in the blank face of it all.

And yet, my daughter still makes me smile
and my son makes me laugh.
Yet the girl who was raped, she would not stop tickling her brother,
the both of them lost in joy.
Yet the girl with aids and with scabs in the streets of Kampala
she could not stop her giggling in the face of the fire
that burned through her body.
Yet the boy whose family had just been killed he still loved
to play paper, rock and scissors.
Yet they chase each other daily
through the bombed out buildings of a broken city.
Yet they fly kites. Yet they dance. Yet they dream.
Yet the mothers still sing and I have heard their song and it sounds like hope and revelry.

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I do not understand it
but joy still resides there, somewhere,
between the spaces of suffering
and amidst the affliction,
and beneath the hurting
and within the wretched.

Where joy should not be
there she thrives
more vibrant than anything.

So if they, those fractured friends, if they may smile in the face of it all,
then I too must find a place of gladness,
lest I deny them the delight they have to feel.

To honour who they are
I too must appreciate the way the sun rises always with colour;
I too must find the flowers growing like hope in the gardens;
I too must savour the taste of these words on my tongue;
I too must let my children draw me in;
I too must hold hands with delight and kiss the lips of extravagance;
I too must revel in this existence
and believe that the God who created this world
did not make it bland, nor tasteless.

She made it full. So full. So very full.

Beauty is everywhere.

Beauty is everywhere.

Beauty is everywhere.

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What #metoo tells us about ourselves…

Social media has been inundated with #metoo over the last few days. Many women (and some men) who are expressing, often for the first time, how they have experienced unwanted touch and unwanted words in the most cherished parts of who they are. I have sat with tears dripping down my face reading through these.

But what shocks me is that so many people reading these statements have then expressed shock at the magnitude of this reality. I think to myself, surely we know this as truth, that nearly every female in our society has experienced this kind of evil against them in some way. Hence the whole point of this hashtag. To show the magnitude.

That we are shocked at the over-arching presence of #metoo is perhaps one of the great evils about all of this. The denial of reality. Rape culture under the guise of #boyswillbeboys. A media/advertising industry that teaches us to think of each other as objects. All the ways our society perpetuates such evil.

That precious girls and women and boys and men have gone through this is one thing (and definitely the most awful thing), but that we as a society perpetuate such abuse is another level of evil altogether.

And that we have a society where so many of these victims have never been able to share this before and their first place of sharing is now on social media. Oh how this saddens me too.

I have been part of two identity formation courses over a number of years where one of the first things we ask people to do is to be in a small group and to share the entirety of their story with this group. They have an afternoon to do so. It is a group they then journey the rest of the year with. What has always saddened me about this is that 90% of these students have never had a space at any point in their life where they were able to do this. To share the highs and lows and dreams and fractures of who they are. To share their #metoo. To share their story.

So stemming out of #metoo my hope and prayer is that we would stop the denial of how prevalent this is within our society. That we would own it. That we would challenge that which perpetuates it.

That we would then create spaces in our lives and friendships where we can say face-to-face what our ME TOO has been. Where stories may be told and held in all their glory and pain. A world where women would feel safe. Where men would be honest.

I am so deeply sorry to every woman and man who has written #metoo in their social media world the last few days. I am sorry that you had to go through it in the first place. I am sorry that our society has denied and perpetuated it. I am sorry for my place within it. I am sorry that there has not been safe space for you to share what has really happened to you. I am sorry.

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Photos of Marija Herceg.

Just another classroom…

She spoke of the pressure to stand in front of the mirror and she broke. Eloquent words tripped over closing throat. She wept on the stage and then…the class held her.

The next told of her sisters anorexia and the class held her.

The next of the rape and the class held her.

Three school girls stood before their peers and the tears fell like the clouds were crying and none of us chose to lift umbrella. It was their tears and it was my own and it was the other teachers and it was half of the students. A downpour. Dancing in this kind of rain is a new experience altogether. This slow movement toward our freedom. A moment I shall not forget.

It is why I do what I do.

It is what I have given my life to.

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