4:53 pm, 1/12/13. I am turning our car into Belvil, the quiet neighborhood, where I stay in Port au Prince. It is the precise moment when the earthquake of 2010 devastated Port au Prince 3 years ago. My friends, colleagues and I have spent most of the preceding week talking about how impossible it is that 3 years have past. As I observe the life on the streets, I see hundreds of people on cell phones, selling market wares, buying, walking and sitting while sad, thin dogs scrap for food. I muse at the thought that perhaps none of them are aware that 4:53 pm is upon us; 2 years ago, at the multiple 1 year commemorations, there were thousands of moments of silence around the country. Today, life is doing the usual, just as it was in the moment the earth opened up and shook, rolled and slammed.
I think it’s incredibly sane that life goes on. I spent most of the day being with close friends who I reached out to within minutes of my learning about the earthquake back in 2010. We talked about the elegance of how many people are in simple observation: a trip to the cemetery (or, cemeteries); visits to sites where friends and family perished; time for reflection with family. One friend shares how a dear friend of hers who lost her husband and was left alone with 3 small children, woke up, fed the children, took them to see their fathers grave, and then came home to do the very things they all loved to do together, reveling in the safety of their home. And their togetherness.
My friends son, a musician who wrote a compelling song about the beauty that is so paradoxical to Haiti’s many challenges, says “3 years already? The bruises still seem fresh”.
The song I am referring to, “Ayiti Se” (check out the official video on you tube; Ayiti Se Official Video Mikaben) celebrates everything Haiti is. There is no dwelling on what Haiti isn’t, hasn’t, or lost.
This is the spirit that showed up in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake (and so many of Haiti’s other tragedies and calamities) that so many of us labeled resiliency. It is resiliency, and; its more. One of the conversations about future projects I am engaged in, on behalf of TRI, is support for a documentary about these places, historic moments and cultural practices, that are Haiti’s ancient heart and soul. The richness of these places is available to all of us. I have other projects cooking, related to revamping Haiti’s education so that children, from a young age, are taught to appreciate their rich and diverse cultural and spiritual history (I blogged about this in 2010). While I acknowledge the importance of never forgetting this terrible tragedy, I tire of the media’s ongoing focus on what’s still going wrong. Yes, I am outraged that so much promised aid never made it, and that people are forced to live in and around rubble. It is a slander to human dignity.
And while I am deeply concerned at the erosive quality the ongoing challenges of living in poverty, rubble, and violence have on Haiti’s blood-and-spirit resiliency, I am in awe of that resiliency. Its worthy of a deep bow, and celebration. So, from now on, TRI and my personal efforts will focus on projects that bring to a world thirsty for compassion, goodness and joy; the upswings in Haiti’s current path.
This reminds me: Here is a blog I began over a month ago, and haven’t had time to finish. Its about my last visit to Australia, and changes happening there:
I have just learned that the ceremonies I have attended for the past 2 summers, with the Pitinjara, are ending. Just a week and some before 12/21/12, the last day of the Mayan Calendar (to which I have not subscribed much meaning or paid much attention). These ceremonies have been going on for over 20 years, maybe 30, as a movement to bring whites and blacks together, old (original) and new Australia, and to heal long festering wounds of racism and divisiveness and exclusivity. I don’t really think the worlds will end on 12/21/12, but I do think many indigenous teachings will emerge with some truths or revelations that the “modern” world needs to know. That’s the ceremonies are ending breaks my heart: Where will I go now? It became crystal clear to me last year, under that endless star studded sky, that ManShoun had connected me here, via my friend Annie and her Spiritual teacher, Nellie, who dreamed these ceremonies into being, so that I continued to have ceremony and women, mothers, teachers in my life. Now, contemplating the possibility that they might be all gone, I feel bereft.
But beyond me—this is so much bigger. Its a sad ending, but perhaps also signifies that those of us who shared this experience with the Aborigines have received the transmissions we are meant to receive, and we now know to (even if it’s a knowing that exists below cortical thought) what we must be prepared for in this new period we may enter after the 21st.
Again—I am not into any of the drama that has surrounded the 21st,
as I am even flying home that day. But I do think the ending of indigenous calendars, traditions and gatherings is significant. What we carry inside will matter more.
Here are some journal entries form my last time in ceremony, in Australia’s vast outback:
Sleep 5 nights in the outback and there is no doubt that Australia is the oldest land on our planet. Never mind the sharp cold at 4 am if you have to crawl out of your swag for a pee, or the intense heat and layers of dust you breathe in when its almost 100 degrees and the wind kicks up and there is no shelter. This place is heaven. Considered the heart center of Australia by many of her indigenous people, I believe the Uluru region may be the heart center for the world. And this is what, in some Aboriginal languages, the name of Australia actually is—mother land. Center , heart, navel of the world.
I have spent another 5 days in ceremony with the Pitinjara women. Once again, I can’t share the details or what we experience in ceremony. What I can share is the magic of sleeping under the thickets blanket of stars I have ever seen. On our second night, I woke up in the middle of a very dark, almost moonless night, and the Scorpio constellation (my sun sign, and I also have 4 other planets there) was perfectly aligned above the screen in my tent. I actually opened the panel to look up and make sure I wasn’t imaging this. I wasn’t. I lay back down, and looked up—-perfectly aligned, hovering in the only opening to the sky I had available to me on this coldest night, was Scorpio in the stars. That’s the kind of magic that can happen out here.
What I can also share are my thoughts and reflections about the meaning of this exchange, of 20 or so white Australians (and 2 Austrians and one American) being present for these ceremonies. It’s a reciprocal exchange. I didn’t grok that last year; I did this time. We do not do exactly the same things, for we are not allowed to do many of the things the Aboriginal woman have done for 10’s of 100’s of years. Our being present, our many acts of witness and the ongoing witness presence we provide, is a mutual reciprocal exchange. We are there to reflect back to the women the value, integrity, beauty and eternity of their traditions.
The Reciprocity is in the quality of attention we bring to this exchange, and the
mirroring is in the activities they teach us to do, with and for them.
Its not mirroring in the usual sense because it is not an exact replication. Like the concept of mirror in Vodoun, another ancient tradition, it’s the mirroring that takes place when the gathering of people who are alive — here and now — honors , acknowledges and calls up the ancestors who guided us here; and listens to the earth that always sustains us. I left feeling as if I had experienced a moment of what eternity is. It’s the continuity and ongoing tribute to the past, to our histories, her-stories, stories and ancestries, and the deep knowledge that we are just a flicker of a moment in a constant unwinding of life that will evolve in ways and depths we may not even dream (except for those who really know the dreamtime).
We are taught not in a didactic exchange but a purely energetic one, through listening and witnessing, and then reflect back for the women what we have learned.
As in many places where indigenous culture is threatened with eradication by the ongoing effects of Colonial dominance and oppression, its harder to find younger generations to carry these traditions. In no way are we, the whites who have gathered here, being taught to carry this brilliant tradition, but we are being taught to remember it. This is a mirroring of practices that still permeate all time, past, present and future. Geography and skin color do not matter.
I think I learned what matters here. It is: Listen to the earth and be danced by all the ancestors. They are the only ones who can guide us forward, in balance, love and dignity.