By Anna Blaedel
During the very earliest days of the pandemic, I went for a lot of very long walks. Hours and hours, mile after mile after mile. I walked my neighborhood, I walked neighborhoods I had never seen. I walked in the woods and along the river and through a precious patch of prairie. I walked across town, and walked myself right out of town. I spent a lot of time walking in the graveyard up the hill from my house, lingering near my great-grandmother’s grave. While I walked, I cried. I prayed. I sang. I paid attention to what was happening within and around me. A practice of intimacy, in a time of isolation.
During those earliest days, where I live, the first hints of spring were starting to emerge. The wind, not quite as bone-chilling. Daylight, lengthening. Small green buds emanating on branches and pushing up through snow-covered ground. Mortal life, wild and raw and uncertain.
Unfolding catastrophes, and miraculous signs of aliveness, nevertheless. Openings, and invitation into alignment with the sacred wisdoms and survival skills on offer from movements for disability justice and abolition, indigenous survival and queer kinship care. Life lived through interdependence. Mutual aid. Harm reduction. A slower pace and smaller scale. Elder honoring and intergenerational intimacy.
In those early days of zoom-everything, I started asking the students I chaplain what season they were in. A check in, emotionally, spiritually. Perhaps you are germinating, listening, taking in nourishment and incubating possibilities? Or perhaps you are rooting, reaching for new frameworks of meaning, or experimenting with freer ways of being? You might even be blooming. Vibrantly alive, energized and tapped into lifeforce. You might be dormant, depleted, laid bare, exhausted. Breaking down, decaying, composting.
So many seasons have cycled through, since then, in our collective life, in this Still Not Over pandemic. Seasons are not experienced linearly, singularly, sequentially, universally. Seasons are contextual.
Today is the beginning of autumn, at least in the northern hemisphere, where I live. The equinox–from equal (aequus) and night (nox.) Autumn, in the north. Vernal, in the south. The earth coming into alignment with the sun. Day and night, light and dark, rebalancing. Threshold moments. Invitations into alignment. Mabon, the pagan festival, the Wiccan sabbat. Elul, the Jewish month for chesbon hanefesh, an accounting of the soul. Preparing for Rosh Hashanah, the High Holy Days, and the new openings and offerings to come.
What season are you in, dear one?
What rebalancing is this season asking of you? What realignment?
As the pace of collective life has accelerated again, I realized my walks have become shorter, more sporadic, less lingering. So, I’ve been making altars as I go, collecting items that enliven, and align me with life. This altar, from a few days ago: late summer raspberries, bursting open. Turkey tail mushrooms full of medicine, and pokeberries, plump with poison and medicine, both. Native prairie flowers, ready to reseed. These altars, reseeding in me a slower pace, a posture of attention, a practice of intimacy with this precious, precarious mortal life.
In these days of late summer, here, I offer this prayer, “Late Prayer,” written by Erin Robinsong.
May our weapons be effective feminine inventions that like life.
May we blow up like weeds, and be medicinal and everywhere.
May the disturbed ground be our pharmacy. May the exhausted
hang out in the beautiful light. May our souls moisten and reveal us.
May our actions be deft as the inhale after a dream of suffocation.
May the oligarchs get enough to eat in their souls.
May we participate in the intelligence we’re in.
May we grow into our name. May political harm
be a stench that awakens. May we not be distracted.
Let our joy repeated be power that spreads.
May our wealth be common. May oligarchs come out
of their fortresses and become psychologically well.
May their wealth be returned to the people and places.
May we shift slide rise tilt roll and twist.
May we feel the very large intimacy
And may it assist us.
May it be so.
Anna Blaedel (they/them) is cofounder and co-director enfleshed, where they tend to the theopoetic intersections of spiritual, academic, and activist engagement. Anna chaplains University of Iowa students, and is a doctoral candidate in Theological and Philosophical Studies at Drew University’s Graduate Division on Religion. Waking before dawn, lingering in poetry, being an aunt, retreating to the woods or their basement woodshop, tending the garden, sharing silence, and feeding people delicious food are some of Anna’s favorite things.