I had some good “cry time” tonight. My eyes are still a little red and raw. I needed that “cry time” (a phrase my beloved friend came up with to help her through some particularly acute grief) to process all the emotion welling up in me on this, the 20th anniversary of 9-11.
I was sitting in my car, parked in front of our home this evening. I had just returned from doing a little shopping (bought a book, big surprise) and I thought I’d take a quick scan of Facebook before heading inside. A friend had posted the entire transcript of Todd Beamer’s Airfone call from flight #93 on 9-11-01. I read it and burst into tears. Can you imagine such courage in the face of certain death? As you will likely know, Todd was one of the passengers who attacked the hijackers of the plane, causing it to crash in a field in PA, rather than their intended target, likely the Capitol Building in Washington, DC.
I’m sure we all have stories to tell and our losses to grieve from that dark day in our country’s history. Mine is this: I had flown to NY on Monday, September 10th. As I rode from JFK to my hotel in midtown Manhattan late that night, I remember putting down the window and looking out at the people spilling out of bars and restaurants in the NY streets. People were partying. It was a beautiful summer-like evening. What struck me most was the fact that I saw, on three separate occasions—many blocks apart-- three people getting sick, which I assumed was related to excessive partying. This wasn’t a holiday or even a weekend and I couldn’t understand why I was witnessing these troubling scenes. The next day, it made slightly more sense. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that some people could feel, deep in their being, that we were on the eve of something truly horrific.
Once I made it back home (about a week later), Roy and I started having conversations about life and death. “What do you wish you could do more of before you die?” was the question he asked one evening. My response, “dance”. I love to dance and, at that point, I hadn’t been doing nearly enough of it. As luck would have it there was a hospice volunteer (my husband was also a hospice volunteer at the time) who talked about this conscious dance practice she participated in. My husband put me in touch with her and, although it took me a couple of months to work up the nerve to attend, I finally attended a dance in Berkeley on a Wednesday night. It didn’t take me long to have this thought pop into my head, “I know exactly where I’ll be on Wednesday nights for the rest of my life.” Admittedly, it didn’t quite work out that way exactly (I don’t dance on Wednesday nights), but I am happy to report that I’m still dancing. Joyfully dancing. So yes, the nightmare events of 9-11 are what, ultimately, led me to this dance practice that I love so much, that saves my soul on a daily basis.
I tell you with both joy and a deep sense of comfort in my heart that Stacey will be at the helm tomorrow. She will guide us and hold us and provide just the right soundscape for us as we move our bodies and wake to our souls.
Here’s the link: https://openfloor.discology.me/events
We begin at 9:45am Pacific.
Here’s the poem (there’s actually two):
ACT GREAT What is the key To untie the knot of your mind’s suffering? What Is the esoteric secret To slay the crazed one whom each of us Did wed And who can ruin Our heart’s and eye’s exquisite tender Landscape? Hafiz has found Two emerald words that Restored Me That I now cling to as I would sacred Tresses of my Beloved’s Hair: Act great. My dear, always act great. What is the key To untie the knot of the mind’s suffering? Benevolent thought, sound And movement. ~ Hafiz ~
Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name --
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.
*This poem is dedicated to the victims of September 11 and to their survivors.
- Billy Collins -
Act great, my beloved dancer friends.
That’s what we learn from the dance, from connection and community. That’s what we learn from our teachers and from each other. Everything is inspiration. Act great.
Sending love & comfort,