I have been plagued – or bestowed, depending on the vantage point – with a bottleneck of writing ideas. In fact, the writer’s bottleneck is an actual phenomenon…I know this because, I Googled it.
For me, there is such a surplus currently filling my mind and heart and so much I would like to convey. The running lists I keep and bursts of insight I receive glide a serpentine track through my brain like a caterpillar adding plump segments to its length with each light bulb moment. There is so much to communicate and to offer out and the current reeling of the world seems to be reeling within me.
And yet, I haven’t added a blog post in over a month. I’ve not completed a poem though I have one incubating. No finished essay of any sort has come to fruition despite the four saved pieces donning a few paragraphs each. Lacking productivity in the face of a constant state of receptivity has felt disempowering.
I believe deeply in the service words provide and the power of the stories that link us. I believe this so much so, I’ve been stuck at my own starting. I’ve been stuck in an ideological pile-up of sorts and within my predicament resides a gift. Within this bottle exists a mother lode of human experience, vicissitudes, and care so full and fizzing it seems deceptively inert. Within the bottleneck is also a principal vein to be mined. So, as we like to say in my house when one of us feels overwhelmed by the task at hand, I shall start at the starting.
On Tuesday, I participated in my second public and peaceful protest within the span of a month – a call to action at my state capitol for one of our Senators to hold an in-person Town Hall. I arrived on the steps of the capitol building in Helena where, a month ago exactly, 10,000 people gathered and marched with other cities around the Nation. I stood with hundreds of citizens concerned about health care, education, the environment, reproductive freedoms, and human rights including LGBTQ, immigration and refugee rights. My fellow citizens were also growing resentful of the Senator’s evasiveness. As I was listening to one of the speakers share about the richness and inherent worth of a diverse community, my heart swelled with the dignity, sorrow and life the speech carried. The words this speaker expressed were my truth as well and, in that instant, we the whole were joined in the solidarity of being unapologetically like-hearted even more than like-minded.
My first act of civil protest was to participate in a Sister March, part of the National Women’s March the day after this Presidential Inauguration. As a long-time advocate for women’s rights and for survivors of crime and trauma, I have organized and joined marches, walks, and vigils to raise awareness and to offer platforms for strengthening voices to be heard. These events have been typically small, homegrown local, and made up of “the regulars” of each cause. The Women’s March was of a level I had never experienced before. I returned to the city I had lived in for the past 20 years to be with my dear friends and sisters of my heart. With them, I walked 11 soggy blocks, crossed the Hawthorne Bridge connecting Portland’s east with its westside, and waited in the mud as the rain began to pour and the group of drummers and Native Peoples among us chanted and pounded a beat that seemed to pulse with the growing crowd. The signs my fellow marchers carried were as creatively varied and sincere as the people carrying them. When the time came, we marched. We marched with nearly 100,000 other souls and we were cheered on by hundreds of onlookers hanging from parking garages and grouping under store awnings.
My friend-for-the-long-haul and I in silence and both soaked and cold slowly rounded onto Jefferson and, gazing at the sea of people surrounding us, the magnitude of it all filled me. Tears and raindrops mingled on my damp cheeks. My fellow Latinx marchers passed by, a very organized cluster riling the crowd with their vocal verses in both English and Spanish and I brimmed with pride in sharing a part of their heritage. A woman in front of me carried her watercolor painted sign and I read the poem about love and inclusivity she had scribed on it and I tried to commit the words to memory and to hold onto them as much as to the earnestness and hope they imparted. Behind me, I could hear a woman singing a soulful hymn in a language I could not place and looked to see her head bent, jacket clutched and arms linked with the people near her. I thought of my young daughter and my two sons and the freedoms and sense of agency I wish for them and the values of kindness, courage and intention I strive to teach and offer. I thought of my husband and his gentle strength and conviction. I thought of each step I had taken in my life fighting for social justice and personal efficacy and I saw how each paved the path that led me to my part in the March that day. And, I was part of a larger reality; an immense network of people who also believe that something trustworthy and irrefutably important is rising in this distinct slice of history in the making.
And with that, the aperture of my bottleneck widens and what I love and cherish and want to convey moves forth. We were made for these times, all of it. We were made for the most elating joys, for the deepest of sorrows and for the expanse of the mundane. Most of all, we were made to matter. We were made to weep, throb, gaze, rejoice, reflect, glow, love, hold, stand, release, move, voice, rest, honor, face and rise with the moving parts of life.