Thus says the Lord:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
“and when we speak, we are afraid, our words will not be heard nor welcomed, but when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak, remembering we were never meant to survive.”—Audre Lorde, A Litany for Survival
“So be it! See to it!” — Octavia E. Butler
It has been a bit since I’ve sent out an update to you, my community of support and care. It’s not because I’m not grateful, I am actually stunned by your faithfulness and trust. I have started writing a ministry update and prayer journal many times over this last year and, for reasons I haven’t yet come to understand completely, the words have not made it from my notepads onto the virtual page. Perhaps the shift from traveling internationally almost monthly to very infrequent or none, has something to do with the breach in the communication conduit. Perhaps I’ve been wrestling with preemptive loss, that foreboding sense that creeps in as we imagine what could happen even if it hasn’t yet, thus stymieing our progress towards the uncertain new, assuming it will turn out poorly. Perhaps because I still can’t seem to make sense of the divisiveness, uncertainty and complexity of these times to offer a “good word” to fix the fray, I stay silent, keeping my musings mum. In the last year or so I’ve done more listening, learning and leaning into my own healing, discomfort, complicity and ignorance of family, national and global history and it has made me tentative, not wanting to blurt to avoid hurt. When the words don’t come out, I have turned to art. Playing with images, ideas, postures, and poetry I explore and discover the arts as a way of knowing, being and healing. Although my preference is accompaniment with skin on, face to face encounters, I continue to stay connected virtually and occasionally in person. I have been researching, designing and developing tools and strategies to support our global friends as they navigate disruption, dis-ease and disconnection. The work continues. We create, share, shift and support in new ways.
To give you a glimpse of how the restorative arts works for meaning making, the following are examples of arts-based research explorations, specifically intermodal poetic inquiry for those who are interested in the academic description. One using breath, a rice paper canvas, water, paint brush, iPhone, observational writing, music, & poetry the other a form of jazz poetry.
I am practicing with others and preparing to use it in both virtual and in-person trainings coming up soon.
Breath prayer painting process:
The canvas of rice paper was blank and positioned in front of me as I knelt to breathe. After setting my watch timer for 9 minutes and 30 seconds, I took the paint brush in my right hand, dipped it in the water, and then brought it to the canvas. With each slow inhale I raised the brush, then as the breath left my lungs, the brush descended. Each inhale and exhale makes wet marks of contrast on the page. Up and down, slowly filling the space, with grays in between. Once I reach the end of the page, I turn the canvas and begin again. Each inhale and exhale crisscrossing with the previous ones, creating a grid of sop and shadows, a play of plaid patterns, a painted prayer. The minutes pass, a rhythm rises: in and out, and in again, up and down, and up again, left to right, and left again, dip and drip, and dip again, touch and touched, and touch again. Each stroke, side by side, crisscrossed, under and on top, each strand singular, yet forming a solid and complex cloth. With each pass, the many meld into one, yet retain their singularity, though the space between is harder to see. By the time the alarm bell chimes, the canvas is soaked and I am still. And now we wait to see what appears.
Observations in one minute intervals of drying:
I notice saturation, dripping, blacks, blues, grays, and gold.
I see clouds, rocks, dots, ducks, shadows and spaces
I notice shifts, patterns, and surprises
I see a mountain, a burning bush, a beast
I notice the edges, the insides, the contrasts and constantly emerging contours.
I see singing and standing, turning and taking, tearing and teardrops
I notice textures: solid, straight, spotted, speckled, splotchy, soft, fuzzy, fizzy, dappled, dark, and deep.
I see fissures and fading, singing and shine.
I notice dissipating, disappearing and drying out.
The blues went away and then came back to a different place.
I see sediment, stains, shadows and sprinkles.
I notice smothering and spaciousness
I see damage in the dryness
I feel gravity and grief, sprinkled with levity and grace.
In front and below, I notice the brush and the droplets of water, behind the canvas is a layer of books.
I see a face, present long before I noticed her, there from the beginning, I see again for the first time.
I notice in the disappearing, a blank slate appears
I see a wet and wide new breath.
Again, we begin again
The following poem came after an aesthetic response text from a colleague and collaboration partner:
inhale I raise
the breath left my lungs,
I reach the end
and begin again.
sop and shadows,
a play of patterns,
a painted prayer.
a rhythm rises:
up again, left again, dip again, touch again.
Each strand singular, yet forming a solid and complex cloth.
the canvas is soaked and I am still.
we wait to see what appears.
blacks, blues, grays, and gold.
shadows and spaces
shifts, patterns, and surprises
a burning bush, a beast
edges, insides, contrasts and contours.
Standing, turning, taking, tearing and teardrops
fissures and fading,
singing and shine.
dissipating, disappearing and drying out.
came back to a different place.
shadows and sprinkles.
smothering and spaciousness
gravity and grief, levity and grace.
In front and below, behind is a layer
a face, present long before I noticed her, there from the beginning,
I see again for the first time.
in the disappearing, a blank slate appears
a wet and wide new breath.
we begin again- M Baits 2022
An invitation to co-spiration (breathing with):
*What do you see and feel emerging?
*How are you breathing?
*What do you notice as we breathe together?
What if I lean in ?
What if I love first?
What if I die?
Have to say goodbye?
What if I don’t?
What if I lose?
What if I fail?
What if I blurt?
Live in a yurt?
What if I write?
If I can’t?
If it comes?
If it goes?
If it stays?
If it strays?
If it stings?
If it sings?
What if it’s not enough?
What about me?
-M Baits 01/27/22
I hope you’ll play with me. How do these words land for you? Where do they sit in your body? What words form in you as a response? An odd invitation perhaps, but I can imagine it could be fun and just a bit significant. Who knows what might come?