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25 November 2018


Some nights, reading, I am intensely lonely, wishing someone was sitting next to me in bed, writing his own work, painting, planning, sculpting the world in the images he sees—manifesting his own voice, however he does it. Other times, I hear that author voice like she is my best friend or godmother, or grandmother… like I know her heart intimately. But then other nights, I think of the old ways. Old ways everywhere, Lakota, Catalan, Viking or Tibetan, when people sat in circles on dark, long, cold nights and told stories around fires. Where words breathed life, and children didn’t have to close their eyes to see the wolves and snakes and leopards in the stories weaving the histories of gods and humans and spiders. Words took form and breathed out into the world, made Anansi and Iktomi dance before us.

I think of the old Bible stories, how God breathed life into Eve and Adam. How Christians and Muslims blew the noses off Egypt’s great stone Pharaohs and Gods—to take their breath and their power. Breath and voice are entwined like truth and wisdom. They carry each other, they harmonize, they manifest. They are power.

I am not the only one speaking of taking back my voice. Far from it. I am far from the only one screaming to take back our voices. I am within a cacophony of women and men I hear rising in the media, on the train, during work conversations about art, politics, religion and education echoing Paulo Freire when he shouted out “persons who have been unjustly dealt with, deprived of their voice, cheated in the sale of their labor.” And Freire got it right, because the machine doesn’t try to take our voices from us only by leaving the ability to read off our student bill of rights, or by denying formerly incarcerated, Native and Black votes. They do it insidiously with gmail’s new predictive composition feature, and Stitchfix sending you clothes they think you should wear. Gmail and Stitchfix may seem innocuous, but I think that is because we are already so accustomed to capitalism telling us who we are, what we value, and who we should be. We have been bought, and sold. Are we aware that we gave up our voices long ago?

At first, they took them—separating tribal Africans so they lost their languages, cutting hair and abducting First Nations children to schools, making women property. They took our cultural languages so they could take our souls. Souls travel in stories, songs and words. And our souls know it.

So, why are we all saying it?
Why are we all feeling it?
Why are we all talking about taking back our voices?

Because our voices carry our souls. They are how we deliver ourselves out into the world. They are where we take our soul out from deep inside and put its power into the world. This voice is how the soul’s purpose makes it into the world to do its work, to realize the dream. The work our souls were put here to accomplish.

And the machine. The machine all around us would stop this. Has worked to stop it, to bulldoze it, to raze it and burn it. Because if we are free the machine dies. If we are our souls in the world, the machine cannot own, cannot steal, cannot rape, cannot control and destroy.

That is why they always come for the voice, the language, the stories. If they take them, our ancient souls stay caught inside us. Cannot work their magic on the world. Cannot change the world and pull it up into its next life. This is why the words are taken first, and why we are all screaming to take our voices back. Because we have souls that are made to love and change and grow ourselves and the world, and they must be heard. It is their very, only purpose.

When I saw Congressperson Deb Haaland post this, a new hope came up in me:

Newsweek quotes her as saying, “Congress has never heard a voice like mine.” But Ms. Haaland says, “it is such a privilege to be a voice to so many who thought they were forgotten.” She takes up the voice of her people. She takes up a bigger, deeper truth that is her own—and also ours. She takes up a truth that can be made manifest in the dark of night around the popping fire, because the voices are shared. The voices are a chorus, they are a shared humanity’s purpose. Because she remembers her people’s old way: the way that made many individuals one people. Because that truth is a deeper one, rooted in the wisdom of a people, of a long-lived people and our shared humanity.

They took our voices—the machine, the corporations, the power-holders—to silence us, but deeper, to take our souls. To dehumanize us. Language binds us, stories bind us, words bridge us, bring us closer, are the breath before a kiss and the moment of insight before genius. Words live in the fifth chakra, the throat, where we bring who we are out into the world, to make ourselves known, to walk our path on this earth.

One voice, one vision; but a thousand voices, one vision—this is where words walk from our souls into the world. Where the words stand up and become our new world. Where we become our new world. The truth is we are one humanity. The wisdom is in making that known. Take back your voice, not only because it’s yours, but because it’s the only way to live the truth of unity with all living things.

16 September 2018


or, what I learned about love from Lakota parents

Love deserves two posts. I write a lot about love because it is such an incredible force. Because it binds us to each other and cosmos. Because it makes us strong. Because it may be the very best humanity offers the world and each other.

I’ve learned a lot about love from the Blackfoot and Lakota people. Spending time not only with their home lands but with their children has made me both a better lover and better mother.

One of the most meaningful things I learned about love from the Lakota is borne in their name for children: “little sacred ones” or wakanyeja. I remember being taught that children and elders are closer to the spirit world, and so they are more sensitive than we “grown ups,” middle aged people. Professor Red Shirt writes that, "as long as a small infant has a soft spot on its head, it is sacred. It is through that opening that Tunkasila communicates with that child."

Kevin McKenzie, Cree & Meti; NMAI 2017

In the Christian way we are taught that before we are born an Angel takes all through cosmos and shows all the greatest mysteries. Then the Angel presses the finger to our lips creating the divet over the upper lip so that we will not tell all these great unknowns to everyone when we are born, but get to experience them and live them—find them out all over again through life. Some say the older we get the more we forget what the Angel showed us. But I think the idea was that deep down inside we would know the mysteries, so that when we experienced them our intuition would leap up and recognize them—THIS! This is it! And we would stay on the path that brought us to that moment. We would find our way back to Source, back home.

But in too many Christian traditions, children have not been treated as “little sacred ones,” often their sensitivity is beaten out of them with words and hands—instead of revered and learned from. Instead of hugging our children and holding them so they do not need to cry, we tell them to buck up, shut up, with hands and words.

As an HSP, I have a different perspective on the strengths and purposes of sensitivity. Because, like a child, I am still deeply, highly sensitive. Not only does it make us more aware of the world we are in, the feelings and experiences of the living beings around us—it makes us more aware of the Spirit world here with us now. The sacred in the mundane. Some of us have visions or dreams, others pull down great insights about life and cosmos in every day conversations, colors, weather, from animals or art. Our sensitivity makes this possible, makes us awake to communications on both axes of the medicine wheel. Children and elders are closer to that spirit world, we are taught, and they have access to this wisdom more directly, more seamlessly, more readily than adults. Because as we harden, we create walls to all kinds of things, not only pain or struggle.

And while I am HSP, and hold onto that sensitivity, still I find myself hardened by the world: Cynical or low on faith, sometimes more than others. Beat down, tired of the hegemonic world I live in that places so little value on the things I hold most sacred, beings I most honor.

So, I think we are meant to learn about love by loving our children and our elders—who we are asked to love better, with more awareness, with more energy, with more dedication, with our higher selves. We are asked to be our best selves as we love our elders and our babies. Compassionate, empathetic, without walls of any kind. This in itself is a great gift.

But I think there is yet more to learn from our little sacred ones. I think the sacredness of our children, and the love we are asked to give them, helps us keep cosmos closer to us, keeps us closer to the Spirit world where we can feel, know, experience our interrelatedness, our inseparable connection to all of life. Loving them well reminds us how to live like children and elders: closer to Spirit world.

One more infinitely meaningful thing the Lakota offer that makes my life more significant. Pilamaya ye, Lakota people. May this post honor you and your ways.

three of the sweetest little boys I know

11 September 2018


or, how raising a boy taught me what I deserve

One of the Lakota values is pure and simple love. In some languages there are as many words for “love” as the Inuit have for “snow” and the Hopi have for “sand.” Because there are just so. Many. Kinds. of love.

I would like to be all lover, but I’m not. I’m half warrior. As in all things in life, there is a time to love and a time to fight. I like to keep those spaces discrete. Keep fighting in the ring, or the world—as need be. And keep loving in my home, in my close relationships, but sometimes also in the world—as need be. Sometimes we give our fight love, and others, we fight for love. Both are necessary. Both are difficult.

I have been single a long time, punctuated by some incredible romances, one marriage that didn’t work, and a few men that fell in between. Now, I have an incredible, beautiful child. A Boy. An insightful, curious, imaginative, intellectual, deep, mixed Boy who started talking about the same time the #MeToo movement was born. A few weeks ago, we were walking along and he said, “mama, what’s the easiest thing to do?” I’m his mother; he is my baby who I grew, carried and birthed. And there is nothing more innate, more hard-wired in humanity than the need, survival need, to connect. So, I said, “to love!” He replied,

            “Oh, no, mama! Loving is HARD!”

Not for nothing, the kid is right. There is nothing more hard-wired than loving. But there is also nothing more difficult.

I’ve dated a few men in the last few years, most have children, all were black. One of the things we talked about was how I’m raising my white-black-red son, and how I’m preparing him for the world. How do I give him love, and what kind of love at home prepares him for the world? And that’s a big question, because I have a lot of responsibility on my plate to prepare a brown child for a world full of cops and neo-Nazis, but also to have relationships with women (if he’s hetero) that will be mutually supportive and healthy.

I feel pretty strongly that as his mother, I set the tone for all of his relationships with women. I would like him to feel safer, freer, and unbound by the toxic masculinity that makes messes of love in so many forms for so many, and has for at least 10,000 years. I want him to have all his feelings, not only anger. And I want him to feel free to express them with me so that when he goes on to have intimate relationships, he will feel safe and secure to share his inner world with the people he loves, or wants to love. If he cannot, intimacy will be hard to achieve, and that is a lonely life. Emotional, psychological intimacy and trust are bound up in one another. And they should support each other. This requires vulnerability. So, he is safe to be vulnerable with me, and explore whatever he feels vulnerable about. If not, his shadow can grow and become a demon that he will not be able to love and therefore live with.

Too many of the men I have dated, have wanted me to be tougher on him, some called it “tough love,” others called it “preparing him for the world,” yet it was never because he didn’t respect me, do what I asked, behave well, or had somehow gone out of bounds. It was “because he’s a boy.”

I’m calling bullshit. I think this thinking is part and parcel of toxic masculinity. And I think it actually ruins our boys for the world, for the ability to know when to fight and when to love. Here’s why.

When we feel loved, we feel safe. When we feel safe, we can be who we are, take risks, explore ourselves and the world. Love makes us courageous. Love urges us forward, it powers us for the fight through self-knowledge, confidence, having safe places to explore scary thoughts, feelings, patterns, experiences. Knowing someone has our back makes us MORE willing, not less, to go out into the world for the fight… for the work… for the risk.

Letting my son be vulnerable at home while knowing he is safe and loved no matter what IS what prepares him to go into the world to be courageous and strong when he needs to be. He will know himself, he will know he is loveable, he will know his strengths and weaknesses, he will be friends with his shadow self so that his shadow doesn’t overtake him. And in that process, if I reflect some insight back to him about himself, or try to teach him something, he will know he is loved and accepted, NO MATTER what, so that he can accept that new insight, without feeling defensive or angry or unlovable. But even that, is not really my job. My job is to help him know himself. Help him know that no matter what he learns about himself, he is still loved, so that he can face his own demons. Let him know this is a place to be free. Because he is safe. When he can explore freely, he will be ready to face the demons in the world.


It was during a time when my marriage was falling apart that I realized attachment theory (children and parents) applied to intimate, romantic love relationships. If we ask for something without response long enough, we will stop asking. We will detach. Babies will die. Adults will move on. We will find another source for connection, closeness, the give and take that is love. And so have I. I ask for a safe space. I ask for love. I ask for intimacy and vulnerability in my love relationships. You will feel safe to be, to show, to explore all of yourself with me. And just having me there to do that with you, will make it possible for you to grow yourself in the way you desire. And for me: the same. Let me feel loved, safe, that I can say anything to you, show you my shadow side, show you whatever is there. Because If I can show it to you, I can face it myself, and I can also grow to become who I know I am meant to be.

When love at home makes us feel safe, we can take the risks that make us strong. We become courageous enough for the fight in the world, for the love in the world.

23 April 2018

Terror Became Honor

Last year, the word was Courage. I found myself in a constant conversation with Courage. What was it, what did it mean, and where did I find her? When were the “right” times to be courageous?

This year, the word is Honor. Another of the 12 Lakota virtues I said I wanted to talk about in the fall when I rebirthed this blog. I think I find myself meditating on these ideas in part because when I have heard them spoken of in Native circles, they don’t sound moralistic or static. They feel, instead, almost like living beings I need to meet—or nurture—in myself. Parts of myself, both weak and strong, imperfect like me, who I need to have relationships with. The Brave Woman that I am, the Honorable Woman that I am… the Wise Woman than I could be… (Maya’s phenomenal woman?)…

The closer I came to dropping the book, the more terror took root in my pelvis and my solar plexus, and my shoulders and my very skull, just behind my ears. The more I had to order myself, “stand tall, shoulders back, girl!” Courage did not provide an answer for what I feared.

For decades, I lived in terror of being my self, putting my voice and her words into the world. I imagine that I feared what we all fear: being misunderstood, not being seen for who and what we know we are. So, I just didn’t do it. That way I had “nothing” to fear. Not so much, honey.

I found out the hardest way what happens when we ignore who we are, look away from her and leave her to crave recognition. Courage helped me to do what I need to do, but she didn’t answer fear’s incessant lack of faith... in myself or the world? And, what was the difference?

Perhaps that is why Honor came to me. Courage made me write the book. But it was Honor’s job to make me give it away. If I honored myself, respected myself, regarded my own value, my own truth, my path, my story, my words, my vision, my wisdom, then I had nothing to fear. If I knew my truth was good, then I could stand tall and strong: a tree in my own grounded roots. If I looked on my own story and saw what was good in it, then I had honored it: shed light and rain on my tree to grow and thrive.

That is Honor. It is more than giving respect, more than privilege enjoyed because somebody respects you and what you do and who you are. Honor is born from true regard. I think of the French regarder. From my mother and her family, I always heard that word as not only to see, but to look deeply. One sees because one looks deeply. To regard, then, was to see deeply into another. It is only through that immersion into her watery eyes that we can see down to her depths, her soul, her truth—see her well enough to honor her. In regarding, we honor who we meet. When I regard, when I look deeply, I find love for myself. I needed only to regard my story, to honor it and offer it.

* * * * *
Massive gratitude to all of you who have stood behind me, stood me up, walked beside me, communed with me, shared and held space with me: you honor me.
Just South of the Solar Plexus will drop soon because you regarded me.

18 February 2018

B.R.A.V.E.R.Y.  or  courage

Bravery is simple. We complicate it. 

Fear is a part of life. How we handle it is, in some sense, how we live our lives.

The New Museum, artist?, 2015
Not every fear is “bad” or “wrong.” Fear is a tool used by instinct to tell us danger is ahead. And, sometimes, danger is ahead. Sometimes it’s not. Some dangers are real, and the risk versus reward quotient isn’t in our favor. Do I need to jump off this cliff? Maybe not. Do I need to risk my heart with this person? Maybe not. We need fear to keep from dying, following paths that are not right for us, and a million other dangers that pull us from our souls’ paths and our bodies’ survival. We need fear, but we also need bravery—when danger is not real, when it is imagined, or when danger is present but worth it.
Recklessness is not bravery.

Bravery is regarding fear and pushing past it.

So, what’s courage?

Do you have the guts for this?

 Courage is pushing past fear with heart. If bravery is facing fear; courage is facing fear when pushing past it can mean a new us, a new world, a transformation, a rising from the ashes, or even just one moment of progress, regardless of how it is measured or valued—pulled from our soul, our muse, our will, our intuition.

For Dr. King’s Day, my first best friend, Chandra, wrote to us of courage: the value in pushing past fear or discomfort or conflict—even anger and violence—because if we do not combat hate and racism and patriarchy and the Western hegemony that is destroying humanity, we will lose our collective and individual souls.
Dodsworth, Bushwick, 2015

This year, challenge yourself to not be silent. Don’t turn away. When something happens, close to you or halfway around the world, where the darkness of injustice requires the light of equality, are you watching? Are you listening? Are you making yourself knowledgeable? Are you talking to others to educate or educate yourself?  Are you silent?

This fall, I wrote about the straight-up necessity of learning from Black and brown cultures, minds, hearts and souls: collective and individual. (Yes, my bestie is Black, Beautiful and Powerful. I raise up her voice here now because she has something incredibly important to say.) Let’s wax on, let’s dig deeper. Let’s build on Chandra’s call to action with what we can learn from the Lakota people.

Some Lakota say there is a set of 12 virtues the People honor and practice in great earnest. This year, I’m going to focus on them to explore Lakota ways that have taught me about those values, what they mean, and how I can learn from them to lead a more meaningful life—as a writer, a mother, a woman, a human being, a friend, hopefully an ally. Let’s tip 2018 off with Chandra’s encouragement to courage.

Woohitike, courage, requires vulnerability. Whether or not we are safe, in vulnerability we don’t feel safe. Safety in itself is perhaps a mirage, and how much of it any given person wants or needs is variable—across time and in contrast to what another person may need or want.

In moments of courage, I try to see that vulnerability and stand strong in it. Because being able to be vulnerable is strength. And in that moment of so-called duality, I stand in a space where I can take courage, take heart, to walk down the path my soul presses me toward.

In this moment, I do not find myself thinking of the great strong men, Gall or Sitting Bull or Black Elk or Geronimo. I think instead of unsung women. Of the women who stood with their children, sisters, husbands, fathers, who survived, out-lived and pressed on in vulnerability. “Ordinary” women who loved extraordinarily, bearing great pain in order to love men who would not return home, children who would not survive to naming, smallpox epidemics, the Dawes Act, flooding the Oahe in South Dakota, and letting go of daughters married into another lodge—only to be visited once a year when certain summer moons came toward us.

We need heart, courage, for so very many things. To become who we are made to be, to put ourselves honestly out into the world, to start the businesses and non-profits we desire to create, to apply for the job we really want… But most of all I think of the courage it takes to love another human being. Romantically, yes, but platonically, communally, tribally.

On Valentine’s Day in South Florida, several beautiful children lost their lives. I think of their immediate families, but I also think of us as a community, a society. Can we love with more courage? Can we let go of our need to “protect” violently, to greedily hold onto “rights” that give us a false sense of security--denial of our intrinsic vulnerability--but take others’ whole lives, whole loves? Can we courageously love one another as Americans? I believe the Native women I’ve had the honor to read and hear from, to meet and listen to, had that courage, because real love requires vulnerability. I urge us to live in the vulnerability that real love means, and to live courageously in that love. Justice will require courage.

Marthalicia Matarrita, 2016