Thursday 12 November 2020

Oro en Paz

I'm so in love with this city. I've been sticking close to home a lot since we've been back, but today I got a dose of that San Francisco magic again, and it just never gets old for me. 

This morning, I went to Cliff's Variety on a mission to pick up some odds and ends (and walked out with a heaping helping of totally unrelated goodies). I popped over the hill, and the big rainbow flag was flying high and proud in a perfect blue sky. 

At Cliff's, Delia delighted people coming through, and I talked with the folks working there and other customers about creative projects and making gifts for people we love. I felt ambitious again, eager to create and do beautiful things. I felt that bandwidth coming back after I'd had to set it aside for so long. 

I walked for a couple of blocks with a friar in his robes and a mask promoting his favorite dog rescue. Delia of course befriended the monk instantly as he walked out of a door on Castro, and his lilting Irish accent sounded musical in the morning traffic. 

We chatted about the magic of dogs, how his had passed at the beginning of the lockdown, and how he was working with the Labrador rescue to find another furry friend. We strolled through the rainbow crosswalk together and lifted each other's spirits. 

This is a city that decisively voted down fascism. We come from everywhere to build dreams here, and while not all of them come true, the endeavor itself shapes us. Families come in all forms, and love wins. 

This city is changed by COVID, but not crushed by it. There are parklets, makeshift alfresco spaces lining the sidewalks to provide a solution to the risks of indoor dining. The shops are open, with hand sanitizer at the door and friendly faces enforcing mask policies. Biden Harris 2020 signs proudly hang on Harvey's, evidence of decades of work toward progress and equality. 

Nothing and nowhere and no one is perfect, but the sun is shining here and there's nowhere I'd rather be. Oro en paz, fierro en guerra--I love you, San Francisco.

Tuesday 10 November 2020


To concede or to not concede, that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the eye of the voter to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous democracy, or to take arms against a sea of neckbeards, and by opposing end them.

To concede—to sleep, once more; and by sleep to say we end the heart-ache of the thousand scandalous shocks that fascism is father to:

'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

Election Day 2020

Finally, it is Election Day. I awoke to many loving posts from LGBTQ+ families asking that we remember what's at stake for them at the ballot box, posts from Black families recounting generations of struggle against voter suppression, posts from new citizens citing their pride to help build the America of their dreams. 

And I also encountered a couple of posts from men I know emphasizing that they would never tell you who to vote for. Their studied neutrality offered safe space for those that would vote whichever way, some theatre of moral high ground fertile for false equivalence, open arms even for those that would vote to oppress others. 

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Desmond Tutu's words are at the forefront of my mind right now; they call us to use our best judgment to relieve the impossible weight of suffering for people in our communities, vulnerable by virtue of sex or skin color, age or orientation, paperwork or presentation. 

Today, US citizens have an opportunity to exercise our most potent weapon to fight injustice. Over 230,000 of us have died of COVID in a phenomenal failure of national leadership. White nationalist violence is surging, encouraged by the occupant of our highest office. Our economy is in disastrous shape, and an impeached president is on the ballot alongside his enablers in Senate, who could have done something about this mismanagement and repeatedly refused. 

The choices presented to us today are not neutral. They are not equivalent. 

Very personally, my rights to bodily autonomy are on the line. Healthcare is on the line. The rights of LGBTQ+ people to live openly and have families as they choose are on the line. Access to the polls for Black Americans is on the line. Our international standing, so much diminished over the last four years, hangs by a fraying thread. 

I will not stand in neutrality as oppression comes for me and surges all around me. I urge you to fight alongside me. If you don't have so much hanging in the balance, acknowledge your privilege and vote to improve the circumstances of those more vulnerable than you. 

This choice is binary: Vote to cast off a fatally damaging would-be dictator, who is shortening our lives and eroding our hard-won progress, or hold the door for the collapse of American democracy. The stakes are incredibly high. 

Vote for Biden. Fire Trump. Cast your vote for the opportunity to build something better together, because we all deserve the chance to live lives that are less brutish, nasty and short. 

Today, we have a sacred duty to protect democracy in this country and learn from the cracks that have been revealed in our foundation. Please don't feign neutrality in the face of someone else's peril.


Tonight, the Marigold Project’s Festival of Altars was rendered virtual, a gorgeous ritual made both accessible and distant by the coronavirus. I watched and listened, cried and smiled, had chills and connected with the universality of love and loss. 

I asked James to get the jar of spiced hot chocolate down from the pantry. I brought my grandmother’s jack-o’-lantern near for the festivities. I cuddled both alternately, hearing poetry and letting dance and art shake dust off of my soul as the thin veil flapped in the breeze to blow it away completely. 

In years past, tonight would have been an outdoor gathering, a soulful march through the Mission accompanied by our own renditions of second lines, visions of glamorous catarinas floating down the city streets. The procession would drift to Garfield Park, to an assemblage of altars amid a neighborhood of doorstep ofrendas and so many remembrances of loved ones held dear. 

Tonight, the park is closed. The remembrances now include the ritual itself, present but changed by this moment of viral compression, the altars private but certainly plentiful in a year where the Mission was an early hotspot of COVID tragedies. Multigenerational households full of essential workers felt the impossibility of escaping from this pernicious plague. 

In the midst of this, the acknowledgement of police brutality and anti-black, anti-trans violence remained focal points in the Festival of Altars. The earth was honored, and holding us to account. We are invited to contemplate not only our ancestors, but our shadows, too. How will our understanding of ourselves spur us to cultivate peace and well-being for those alive right now? How will balance be brought where things feel most lopsided?

I abstained from intoxicants, sat sober through the ceremony as is asked of us the night of the procession. Somber and savoring the depth of emotion. The moon is still heavy with fullness, and the days have an autumnal range that awakens me to shifting into winter itself in short order. Offerings of food, good medicines I also grow on the occupied territory I inhabit, laid beautifully before artistic elaborations on elemental strength. 

As the credits rolled, I felt grateful. The doorbell rang, and a grocery delivery arrived, resplendent with an edible bouquet of flowers and herbs, including marvelous marigolds. Marigolds were some of the first things I ever succeeded in growing from seed as a child; I’ve been meaning to plant more, and inhaling their particular scent fringed in mint and verbena made me ready to sow at first light. 

We all need rituals. Wonderfully, life in San Francisco has given me the unexpected gift of participating in some small way in this one. I lit a candle, put my herbaceous blossoms into water, and perfected the inadvertent altars in my dining room. The piano, once my grandfather’s, then my grandmother’s, then my uncle’s, and now in my home, has really become a kind of altar. I tidied and talked to my spirit kin, eventually eating some pumpkin cookies and sipping smoky mezcal. 

The marigolds arrived right on time, replacing the glorious amaranth that had been center stage on the dining table. The Jericho Rose finally got some water and began its magical unfurling. The corn and dried wedding flowers held down their spiritual places. I made a cup of soothing tea from the spare leaves of my bouquet. I played music that has become an annual winter ritual, because it is powerful and descriptive of these shifting seasonal energies. The magic of nourishment, life and renewal took over.

Tomorrow is a big day. This has been a year of survival. The stakes are high, and so are emotions. The veil is thin, but so too is our national patience. Souls hover around the decisions of the day, and we all must brace for what comes next. 

Tonight, though, I journeyed through the contours of what came before. I held my grief and my hope simultaneously. Just now, I feel fulfilled in the higher callings of human being. I’m trying to live my life as essential poetry in an animal dance; I think it just might work.