As I nervously, hopefully await the election results, I find myself thinking about community. I have felt it in different powerful ways in the last couple of weeks, and as someone who tends to be a bit of a hermit, I am reminded of how important it is to get out of my own cave and connect with others.
I felt community in so many ways when I was in Toronto--just being with my sister and her family was such beautiful communing in itself. My sister and I created our own community as we were growing up (both metaphorically and literally--we invented a little land called "Purcell" in the side yard of our apartment building, complete with its own laws and language and customs) and being with her always feels like coming home, no matter where we are. I loved being able to visit some of her favorite places (including the sweetest little tea house you can imagine, where we drank lavender mint tea and ate an assortment of fall delicacies, our sweets all centered around pomegranate, fig and persimmon.)
I found another powerful sense of community at the Motherhood Movement Embedded conference--connecting with mothers who are doing important work around the world to promote peace and justice was very inspiring indeed. And after my speech, my sister and I raced back to the city so we could be part of Night of Dread, one of the most amazing communal experiences I've ever experienced. Night of Dread is organized by Clay and Paper Theater (the link is a few years old, but will give you the gist of the night), and is an artful, fun, moving way to face and exorcise fears as a community. It begins with a huge procession with giant puppets and drumming and people dressed in black and white wending through the streets of Toronto before landing at Dufferin Grove Park, where there is a wonderful, kinetic series of performances and experiences, from fire dancers to fado music to a ritual burning of fears (written out on pizza boxes painted white and planted into the ground with stakes--fears ranging from millipedes to Sarah Palin.) My daughter, who joined me on the journey, and my niece Mollie were both "death dancers" (I actually found a picture of them online in this slide show; they're in the 7th picture, where you see three figures with white and black masks and white robes (Hannah's the one on the left and Mollie is in the center.) At one point in the evening, the death dancers invite the crowd to dance with death, and later they come out with platters ringed with marigolds and full of the "bread of the dead" (cooked in cool community ovens in the park) which they wordlessly invite people to partake in. Such a powerful evening, full of wild imagery, cathartic chanting and overall awe-inspiring spectacle. I hope I'll have a chance to experience it again (but I hope to see my sister and her family again much much sooner than that!)
Since I've been back home, I've experienced other beautiful instances of community--a gorgeous Samhain ritual at my friends Nancy and Jenn's house, during which we each honored a loss from the past year by making altars and meditating on what we had learned from that loss, and what lessons we'll bring forward with us into the future. I made an altar for my wedding ring; it was very emotional and healing to be able to honor the years I spent with Matt and think about how to take the lessons I've learned from my marriage and divorce forward. The ritual culminated in Nancy and Jenn's legal wedding--a profound celebration!
Our Inspire Hope 4: Rock and Shimmy the Vote this Sunday was celebratory in itself--Nancy and I pulled the show together so quickly, but it ended up being a wonderful mix of poetry, music, dance and storytelling, with a great engaged audience. I'm so thankful for the community of artists who were able to jump in at the last minute to share their talents and inspire us all to use our voices at the polls.
And speaking of polls, my boyfriend Michael and I decided to vote a day early yesterday. We had to wait for three hours at the voters registry office, but it was well worth it. I was deeply moved to see hundreds of people waiting patiently, happily to vote. Most of the voters there were people of color; we overhead several people talk about how they hadn't voted in 15 or 20 years. I got teary several times as we waited and the enormity of this election crashed over me. Seeing people come together to bring change and hope to our country is a beautiful thing indeed. May all our hope prove to be fruitful. My fingers will be crossed for the next few hours!