The Unlikely Village of Eden

By Eliza Factor

Back in my twenties, a good friend and I used to stay out til dawn, bopping from bar to bar, scoffing at the patriarchy and howling at the increasingly fuzzy moon. A dozen years later, she sent me a homemade card that featured portraits of her, her husband and their two kids photoshopped into a sepia tone Victorian family portrait.  Inscribed were the words: It happens to the best of us.  

I kept chuckling about that card as I read Emma Nadler’s memoir The Unlikely Village of Eden.  Nadler was also convinced that she’d never get married, much less to a man.  Then she met a blue eyed saxophonist who smelled like the woods.  And so she found herself, queer as ever, with a cisgender husband, two kids and a house in Minneapolis.  Then they moved from the city to the suburbs.  Then she wanted a puppy.  Then comes one of my favorite lines in the book, spoken by the saxophonist. “Babe, I agree. Let’s fuck shit up and get a dog in the suburbs.”  

It happens to the best of us.  

But Nadler’s family would fit less well into that Victorian photograph.  Her second child Eden, born with a rare genetic deletion, would probably not have survived in those days.  Nadler is great on the surrealness of parenting a child engulfed in the medical system: “All the hospital visits started to blend together in a strange and disorienting way. We had been roomed all over the sixth floor, so that nearly every corner held previous memories, to the point where if I stepped out to refill my water or take a phone call while Eden slept, I would head back to the room that we stayed in the last time, only to find that the sign on the door now said Marcus or Kiara.”  

The doctors did not know how Eden would develop, only that she would be affected by her genetic condition.  It was a large deletion. A feeding tube became necessary.  Night nurses were enrolled.  Mountains of uncertainty, bureaucracy, exhaustion and guilt scaled.  One of the mysteries of good writing is the way experiences no one would wish to experience get transformed into compelling material.  In Nadler’s case, her voice does the trick; it’s so rich with honesty, wit, intelligence and love that you don’t want to stop reading.  

As Eden grew, she learned how to walk and talk, how to dance and blow kisses, how to appreciate and love a best friend.  She also learned how to physically attack herself and others. Her brother, quite marvelously, dubbed her outbursts “fuckfits.”  Nadler vividly and at times humorously (there’s a great Barnes & Nobles scene) illustrates their frequency and unpredictability.  

It’s not easy.  As Nadler puts it, being Eden’s mother was ”both a spiritual calling and something like a fork stuck in my eye.”  In my experience, being in emergency mode 24/7, day after day, year after year, is one of the hardest things about raising a child prone to these sorts of fits.  You begin to fray. It becomes more and more difficult to lead a full life. Eventually Nadler gets to the point where she fears that she can no longer work as a psychotherapist.  This is a double blow. Her job is important financially and is also keeping her afloat mentally.  Nadler is refreshingly open about not wanting to give up the many loves of her life.  She wants to practice her craft. She wants to see her friends. She wants to wear short skirts to her husband’s concerts. She does not apologize for this, and why should she?  But there is so much social pressure on mothers to prioritize their maternal duties above all else, it almost seems brave.

There are many heroes in this book, chief among them a remarkable nurse named Julie and her retired husband Marc (Eden’s best friend). Due to the radical generosity of this couple, Nadler doesn’t have to quit her job, her son can have some uninterrupted time with his parents, the book can be written and the sparkling gifts and charms of Eden shared with a wider group of loving people.

Sadly Julie and Marc cannot be cloned. But I know there are many unsung Julie and Marcs out there, doing their part to keep the world spinning on its wobbly axis. This book is a tribute to them and a reminder to all of us of the joy and rejuvenation that can come about when we stop trying to do everything alone and learn to share our most precious responsibilities. 

Happy International Women’s Day!

I’m grateful to Parallax for interviewing me on the occasion of International Women’s Day and Strange Beauty’s five year anniversary. It was lovely to have the chance to reflect on what’s happened since that book came out… and daydream about potential dinner dates. Check out the interview here–there’s also a code for 25% off Strange Beauty if that would be of interest.

Trouble in Paris

An excerpt from How The Trees Saved My Life (With a Little Help From Chocolate) to be released as a hybrid serialized novel/fundraiser.

Claude’s party was at his parents’ country house, supposedly an hour’s drive from Paris.  Some friends of his picked us up in a Deux Chevaux, a cheap French car made of metal so thin it was like driving around in a tin can, but a cute, jaunty tin can.  I was pleased as I’d never actually ridden in one, only admired them from afar. I squeezed into the back, in a borrowed skirt.  It was true what they said: you could feel every bump of the road, every turn of the engine.  It gave you a feel for the ground you were covering. 

I don’t think I ever knew the names of the kids in front.  The guy at the wheel was tall and skinny with frizzy, carrot red hair.  He kept leaning forward, gesticulating at the traffic ahead of us, saying Ooof! Merde!  C’est incroyable, ça! It was his brother’s car, on permanent loan as his brother had moved to Japan.  Next to him, practically sitting on each other’s laps were a couple of guys who were beefier and less excitable.  One kept turning around to talk with Stacey about some hilarious thing that Claude had done at school.  Stacy kept laughing and looking at me like can you believe it? So funny! The other was in charge of rolling joints.  I hadn’t actually smoked pot before, my friends at home being pretty straight edge.  I took an exploratory puff.  Nothing happened except that I choked, which was kind of embarrassing, so next time it came around I just pretended to inhale and passed it on.  There was another girl with us in the backseat, on the other side of Stacy, whose name might have been Isabelle.  She had short hair and beautiful, smooth olive skin and kept massaging the skin under her chin in this thoughtful way, like she was contemplating something very deep.  Then she’d open her mouth and give out this gutteral roar at the cars on either side of us. 

We were caught in eight lanes of traffic circling around the Arc de Triomphe.  The windows were fogged and smoky, but I could see the general shape of the monument, lit from underneath.  There had been a poster of the Arc de Triomphe in my French classroom.  Napoleon had erected it to commemorate all the soldiers who died in the Napoleonic Wars, when France was the one dead set on taking over the world.  Everyone in the car burst into applause.  We’d gotten over into the next lane. We were still far from an exit, but progress had been made.  Another joint was lit. An ambulance siren bleated behind us. Surely the cars would part for the ambulance.  Mais non, they didn’t.  We continued our circling, bumper to bumper, the ambulance siren keeping a demented score, our Deux Chevaux quivering with groans and giggles.

We must have gotten out at some point because the next thing I remember we were on a country lane, inching down a hill, the night deep around us, barely anything visible except the headlights shining on a stone wall.  Stacy and her friends were talking about people I didn’t know, places I hadn’t been to.  At the end of a switchback, the driver accelerated when he meant to brake. Everyone shouted Non! as we hit the wall. We were pulled backwards then forwards, but gently, as if in slow motion.  Salaud, said the driver.  He tried to reverse. Nothing happened.   

Are you OK? whispered Stacy.  Yes, are you?  We were all whispering, ça va? ça va? Oui, oui.  We all were OK.  We opened the doors of the car.  We stepped out on solid ground and careened around laughing, taken over by the need to pee.  Into the brambles we scrambled.  I could hear my pee and nearby Stacy’s and maybe some of the other kids’ crashing down like a torrent. Headlights cut through the trees.  The boys ran into the road, shouting and waving.  The car rolled to a stop.   I wanted to know what the boys and the driver were saying, but Stacy stayed in the shadows. She was crouched over, sniffling. 

 It’s going to be OK, I said, putting my arm around her. 

He’s going to kill me, she said. 


The scuzzball my mother married.

The history professor?

No, back home.

He’s not going to find out.

I’m dead.

You’re not dead.  You’re alive.  None of us were even hurt. This is not a big deal.

It was a big deal, she protested.  A huge deal.  Her step father was ballistic about everyone having a clean record.  I wandered back to the road.  The headlights of the car illuminated the Deux Chevaux.  Part of its hood was smushed, and a light dangled by a wire.  The boys were in deep discussion with a man with a tweed cap.  Isabelle was leaning against the stone wall, smoking and looking beautiful.  I wished I could go over and bum a cigarette and look as gorgeous and bored as she was, but I didn’t know her.  I only knew Stacy.  I couldn’t leave her hyperventilating in the woods.  I tiptoed back.  

Are you OK?

He won’t let me take care of his kids.  He hires this babysitter and pays her for what I would do for free.

I rubbed her back.

We ended up at a tiny village police station with a black and white tiled floor, a French flag, a framed picture of Mitterand.  We were made to stand in a corner while an old man with a drooping paunch and a white mustache and a couple of younger policemen huddled together.  To our side was a cluttered desk, with a snapshot of a young woman on a horse propped up against a mug of pencils.  The sun shone on her hair, making a jagged white halo. I imagined myself on the saddle behind her, the two of us taking off through the sun drenched field.  I had only been riding once, with a friend who practically lived at the stables, who put me on an old mare known to be docile, who nonetheless broke into a canter midway along the trail.  I held on for dear life, whipped by bushes and branches, and hadn’t been riding since.  Now I was practically swooning at the thought of it.  The youngest of the policemen ambled over, grinning unpleasantly.  He indicated a row of straight backed chairs. Were all of us idiots?  The older policeman wanted to know. Didn’t we know that the police had serious business to attend to?  It would be our fault if something terrible happened because they were dealing with a carload of kids too high to get to a party. 

Poor Stacy could barely breathe, she was so scared.  But I’d been lectured by the police before.  If you’re white, they usually just puff up their chests and say if you continue at the sorry rate you’re going, you’re never going to go to college, you’ll never get a job, you’ll be a blot on society, you already are, while you sit there all meek and polite, saying I’m sorry, sir, I’ll never do it again, sir,  inwardly seething because you know there’s nothing wrong with late night skinny dipping or hanging out with guys in spiked leather jackets or climbing into a public fountain on a hot summer day.  They make you pay a fine. They assign you to community service, which in Maryland means working at a state run liquor store, lugging cardboard boxes filled with bottles of whisky and scotch to the parking lot, waiting while men with thinning hair take their time opening the trunks of their cars, the boxes getting heavier, your fingers feeling like they are going to pop right off.

 It wasn’t so different in France. The policemen grumbled and made like they were shocked by the youth of today, while we groveled and apologized, except for Stacy, who was crying too much. Then the old man, who turned out to be Claude’s uncle, cleared his throat.  We would be given a break this time, he said, but we should not count on such leniency in the future.  Our parents had been called.  They would discipline us as they saw fit. We could think about that as we waited for them.

We were all very quiet.  Even Stacy stopped sobbing.  There should be a word for the sensation of waiting in a country police station with the clock ticking and the stillness hanging in the air and the shallow breathing of kids you barely know scared shitless at the thought of oncoming parents. 

If you would like to read this story, email me at and I will sign you up. Thanks!

Our Baby Is Ten!

That baby would be Extreme Kids & Crew. Jason and I were very honored to receive the Felix Award at the wonderful, bedazzling Tenth Anniversary Gala. Thank you, everybody! Here’s the speech I gave.

There’s a lot of things I’m having a hard time believing.  That we are all here. That the Felix Awards are live, in person.  That Extreme Kids has made it this far through the pandemic to arrive at the practically established, double digit age of ten. Incredible.  But perhaps not so incredible when we consider the muscle and heart, tenacity, grit, wit, humor and more of Caitlin Cassaro and her fabulous staff.  

I’d like to start this talk with a moment of silence and gratitude for them and for all the people who have helped shape and create Extreme Kids. Some of them are still with us.  Some aren’t.  We as a community have suffered a lot of grief these past couple of years, and well before that.  So I invite you to close your eyes, or leave them open if you prefer, and dwell on those you have loved and who have loved you and who are in some ways responsible for bringing you here tonight.  

A whole lot of people. 

For Jason and me, the most immediate bringer would be our son Felix, in whose honor these awards are named.

Now we love Felix. Many of you love Felix. Everyone loves Felix.  But there have been times when parenting him was extremely exhausting.  When he was living at home, he’d go through these seasons of insomnia that were truly epic.  In order to get a little rest, Jason and I would care for him in 2 hour shifts, but that didn’t always work.  I mean, Felix can get loud.  When he was happy, this loudness could be rather wonderful, huge waves of laughter that rocked the house  When he wasn’t, oof.  When he wasn’t happy, we’d get the police banging to the door at 2 in the morning.  Bang! Bang! Bang! What’s going on in there? 

No, sir, no one’s getting murdered.  It’s just our son. 

Have you tried giving him melatonin? A friend would inquire.  Yes, my teeth gritted.   We had tried melatonin and harder drugs, too.  We had altered his diet.  We had dabbed his pillowcase with lavender oil and rubbed his feet with frankincense.  In the midst of one of these jags,  NPR launched a campaign to get New Yorkers to sleep more.  I would turn on the radio and there would be these chirpy newscasters saying, “Let’s get to bed at ten!  We’ll feel so much better!”  I wanted to throw the radio out the window.  I stopped giving to their fundraising drives.  My mom called. She’d read another article.  This one was about the CIA and how they broke down their prisoners with sleep deprivation.  “It’s a form of torture,” she told me.  As if that would make it go away?  

Practically speaking, we needed a night nurse, someone to help out those long hours from midnight to six or seven, so Jason and I could finally get some sleep.  To this end, I had filled out many forms and made many calls. Same with my doctor. Same with the people at Child Services. Visiting Nurses said Felix was too young. Another agency said he was too fragile—which is funny. I mean Felix might be the least fragile person I know. Most just put me on hold or said, we don’t do that kind of thing.  All this to say, I had tried the routes of government and medicine.  They hadn’t led anywhere helpful. 

It ended up being Felix who, in his weird way, led to some sort of respite. 

A fall day, Felix yowling and banging his walker against the front door.  As Jason was there to take care of the girls, I strapped Felix into his pediatric stroller, a bulky metal thing, sturdy enough to accommodate his ever larger body, and pushed him outside.  He quieted.  Being outside was often all it took.  I was glad to be outside, too.  A cool, moist, white skied day with the smell of decomposing leaves and bark in the air.  We turned on Lafayette. The people on the sidewalk looked our way.  I was used to that.  Felix almost always caused a stir, generally a pleasant one, at least if we were walking around our neighborhood.  Often I enjoyed the conversations he sparked.  But I was too tired to partake in any conversation that day.  We were on something like Week 12 of two to four hours of sleep a day. My shirt was buttoned the wrong way.  My legs were bruised from bumping into things.  I got to this cracked bulge of concrete. A tree root had pushed up the sidewalk. I struggled with the stroller, trying not to jostle it, but it was impossible.  Felix screamed.  Finally we got over the hump, only to be confronted by an old lady in a church hat. She approached in the way of a person who liked to chat.  I almost winced.  She leaned down to smile at Felix then looked at me, so kindly.  Her eyes were filled with light.  

“Good morning,” she said.  

“Good morning,” I said.  

That was it. She went her way.  We went ours.   But now I had a bounce in my step, a warmth in my chest.  I felt like I’d slept, a real sleep, an all through the night sleep. 

Later, I wondered if that had really happened.  Maybe it had been a dream.  Or a narrative I’d made up.  I’m a writer, after all.  I like to make up stories.  

Then it happened again.  Not with the old lady.  A different day, a different stupor, a different person drawn to Felix and through Felix to me.  Again I had the feeling of being lifted up, dusted off, and gently put down, all from the light in someone’s eyes.  I didn’t care anymore if I was making it up. It was working.  These people, who I didn’t even know, were holding me up.  After that, when things got hard, when I felt myself on the verge of snapping,  I’d strap Felix in the stroller and we’d go out in search of these people. 

We did not always find them.  But these types of encounters happened enough that I began to trust that they were real.  A simple nod of recognition could work like six, seven hours of sleep.  I began to wonder about these people, this power they had.  They certainly weren’t powerful economically.  I mean, most of them were older, most were of color, most didn’t look like they had a lot of extra money.  Maybe, in part, it was the difference in our outward markers that made their greetings so special.  Americans are taught to love equality, but we don’t get to experience it that often.  It is a wonderful, visceral feeling.  Here we are, on this planet, in this city, in these bodies, together in this moment, absolutely equal. Just people.

In spite of that precious quiver of equality, I doubt any of these people would remember me or Felix. New Yorkers who can walk, walk a lot; we take multiple walks most every day.  Felix and I would have been part of a walk that disappeared, as most walks do, into some dusty file of memory. If they had been able to see the light in their eyes, then I think they would have remembered.  But they couldn’t.  I was the one who got to see that. I got to gobble it down. 

Maybe it’s easier to shine that light on people we don’t know well.  With the people we’re close to, things can get muddled.  There’s so much history, hurt, hope, yearning.  When someone you love is suffering, you so desire for something to be done, for them to feel better. You can’t help suggesting things, bringing up studies, remedies, the evils of the CIA, whatever it is you grasp for.  Even if you remember that unasked for advice is seldom useful, even if you hold your tongue, they can still feel the weight of your concern. It would be very hard for instance, for me to say a simple, pure, unaligned “Good morning” to my teenage daughter.  Whereas I might be able to say this to someone else’s. And it might be welcome, a light recognition from someone outside of the family.  Good morning. Here we are.  

I started fantasizing about a place where these exchanges would happen more often, more reliably.  A community center with disability as the draw.  So it was not only Felix who brought me here tonight. It was also the people he attracted, the lady in the church hat and all those others who gave me energy when I was completely maxed out.

The energy they gave me.  I think of it now as light love. Love light. It’s different from the dense, sometimes heavy bonds of love that bind close families and friends. It’s fleeting, almost impersonal, and precious.  If we let it run through us, we can be like an electrical wire for each other.  

When I was the opener and closer and greeter and janitor of Space No. 1, Extreme Kids & Crew’s first playspace, I felt that kind of electricity a lot.  Not always.  There would be days when no one showed up, or when the people who did were too tired, distracted, nervous to be able to take part on that level.  That was OK.  You can’t always get to that level. I know I can’t.  But very often, this sweet, simple exchange would happen.  I am sure that’s why Extreme Kids took hold.  Alongside all the hard work of Caitlin and crew, I am sure that is why we are still here today. 

I think of community centers now as places to practice light love.  We may be making art, or swinging our kids, or making a raised bed, but we are also recognizing each other, listening and responding, finding a lost shoe.  At root, we are building each other up. 

I’m not arguing that all we need is light love.  We also need strong love, bold love, diverse love. We also need safe shelter and healthy food, good jobs and inclusive, flexible education, healthcare, racial justice, civil rights for every single human being in this country, and underlying and connect to all of this, a deeper understanding of nature and our place in it.  We need a lot, and always have.  As we work towards these things, which we will forever be working towards, some gentle, light, loose love really helps.  Without it, we get worn out and start to lose faith. Or get concerned only for ourselves or our families and become cut off. 

So thank you for engaging in this practice with me, as all of you already have.  I hope you will continue to practice at Extreme Kids and extend your practice to Lonely Worm Farm, too.  It’s a wonderful place to visit. There are wetlands, glacial slopes, magical herbs.  If you are having one of those days and don’t feel like dealing with people, you can practice light love with a chicken or a pine tree or a gust of wind.  I think that’s what Felix is doing when he closes his eyes and tastes the breeze.  Just connecting.  Saying hi.  Loving lightly.  The way I see it, he is leading the way. 

Found Dreams & Mugwort

The kids are trying to remember the lyrics to Hamilton, with no help from the internet as there was a thunderstorm a few hours ago and the electricity went out.  Fireflies outside, candles inside.  The dog noisily eating kibble after a good round of barking at the chicks, who scattered about, relatively unmolested, protected by good wire fencing. 

Earlier today, back in the time when we had electricity, I was clearing my computer desktop so as to have some space to work on a new website.  Medical records and such were easy to assign to their appropriate folders.  Not so much a document entitled “Dream April 2016.”  

I had a dream the other night, involving cutting cardboard into the shape of a midriff, the curve of a woman’s breast and arm in repose, accompanied by a phrase invoking the miraculousness of life.  A cliche, but with an urgency to it.  The feeling was that we all, with our snotty noses and frustrations, were miracles.  Even the current candidate for president.  He may be a miracle of ickiness, but he is a miracle nonetheless. Those concerned with the changing or maintaining of systems sometimes get annoyed by this sort of thing—who cares that we’re miraculous beings hurtling through space on a gem of a planet in a universe somewhat scrutable by numerical formulas? Four million refugees need to be fed and we can’t elect a Nazi. Well, yes.  And yet, that inkling of holiness, utterly outside of human will, is grounding. Whether you like it or not, whether you sense it or not, it is a balm, a perspective that lessens some of the pain and fury of the here and now. 

I don’t remember dreaming this.  And yet those words bring back the astonishment that I felt then, that I feel all over again.   It is a treasure, writing down dreams and refinding them.

I am particularly pleased to find this at this moment, as I’ve assigned the Lonely Worm Farm’s first interns their first and only homework: sleep with some mugwort under your pillow.  See what happens to your dreams.  I was thinking of calling this place Mugwort Farm as it grows in great bushy clumps practically everywhere except the boggy part of the field and the shade of the woods.  It is considered an invasive weed these days, but it was the first of the Saxon’s nine holy herbs and is said to induce vivid dreaming, along with other intriguing properties.  I am thinking of selling mugwort dream pillows to help fund this sprawling operation, but don’t want to engage in false advertising, hence the homework.  Will it be effective?  Stay tuned… 

Thanks Lonely Worm Work Crew!

In celebration of stone easers, sapling bearers, rafter hoisters, rust scrubbers, cobweb sweepers.

This Saturday, May 1, thirty volunteers visited Lonely Worm Farm to raise a yurt for our first farmers and make the barn habitable for our first goats. Gorgeous weather, gorgeous people, I couldn’t have asked for more! As my brother says, the teamwork makes the dream work…

Thank you, everybody!

Poem for the New Year

The timekeepers say it’s 2021
Hidden dawn, loaded gun.
Yet it’s quiet here,
The hoarfrost glittering in the field
Weeds outshining the wares at Tiffany’s
Stars of pink, purple, gold 
Blinking from broken stems and burrs.
The intermittent pound of a woodpecker
the only sound around
Aside from my boots, crushing the frozen stalks. 


Here I am, pausing amidst a thicket in a flood plain said to belong to me. As of a couple days ago,  Jason and I hold the title.  Title! As if land can be typed up, copyrighted, sold on Amazon.   I certainly didn’t write it, nor do I possess it, not really.  It possesses me. 

30 acres! Well.  29 to be more precise, in said flood plain and in the higher wooded terrain across the lane. The dream is to turn it–or a part of it, the small human part of it–into a biodynamic farm and inclusive arts center where we can live with Felix and others.  I keep coming up with fancy names for the project, but when I talk about it, I just call it the Felix Farm. I take it Felix approves from the upward rising roars with which he greets my talk.

Anyway.  The grasses.  They were Felix-ish in that they would have dwarfed me if they stood at their full height, instead they bent and swayed, giving me the illusion of towering over them. Our dog Magic, however, was totally subsumed.  I only knew where he was from the swish and undulation of the stalks.  There were scads of tiny purple flowers arranged in pyramids, fuzzy, burrish dots of slate blue, white bells, seedy sour blackberries, poison ivy which I hope to have avoided, fuzzy bees, dragon flies, goldfinches. There was the weight of the muggy August air, the heady plant smells, the cacophonous buzzing, peeping and trilling of countless unseen creatures, and my phone, overheating in my pocket, cycling through ringtones for reasons unknown to me.  Perhaps it was trying to compete.

Magic drinking the pond

None of our kids have seen this place yet.  Jason and I bought it after having visited only once, each of us separately.  It was all rush, rush, an emergency response to a late June phone call from the head of Crotched Mountain School, where Felix has been living for almost seven years.  The added costs and loss of revenue due to COVID had decimated finances already on shaky ground.  The board of directors had unanimously voted to close on November 1, giving some 90 kids and the 350 adults dedicated to helping them four months to find new schools, new jobs, new habitats. In the midst of a pandemic.  In a country that spends far more money on juvenile detention centers than residential schools for kids with disabilities.  

My grief is more for the community than for us.  We are fortunate.  We have Jason’s job, which–because we don’t dare bring Felix back to Brooklyn– allows us to do things like purchase 29 acres in Dutchess County that come with a three bedroom house built in 1856, a barn calling out for goats, an ever rippling pond.  We have Felix magic, which has led us to dozens of marvelous people over the years, and it seems to be working now in the guise of Mark, a local contractor whose previously scheduled job just got delayed, allowing him to make our entryway and bathroom accessible to Felix’s wheelchair. With his assistance, we should be able to roll Felix into our new abode by November 1.

What comes next? Stories for sure. Masked people who will help us farm and carve out paths through the forest. Like everyone else, I’m looking forward to the day we’ll be able to take off these masks and show off our smiles again. By then, who knows, maybe the barn will be cleaned and the roof fixed, and we’ll have some baby goats. Maybe the beginnings of a wheelchair accessible orchard will have been planted. We will see. There’s lots to do!

Seven trunked pine in the forest out back.

Felix’s Laughter

I’ve been missing my qi gong pals in the Metropolitan Detention Center. For the past year or so, I have been leading a class there through the Prison Yoga Project. For obvious health reasons, all such programs are on hiatus until we are on the other other side of this Covid 19 surge. But as I was cleaning my desk (how many of us are cleaning desks at this minute?) I found this piece of automatic writing from when my prisoners and I were experimenting with a movement/writing format. It cheered me up, and felt relevant in this season of remote connection… From the fluorescent lit, windowless chapel of the female ward, some Tuesday afternoon in December:

Felix laughing like the wind–his lungs filling with the air of galaxies inside him, his laughter carrying over sidewalks–Felix’s laughter so free it disrupts, people look out from car windows wondering what is happening, what are these waves rippling through them, what is this loosening in their belly, in their temples, cheeks, why are they smiling? What is getting into them? And some take this glee and start giggling, feel this tap of merriment growing in them–for no reason–for no blessed reason and they roll down their windows and wave and laugh and say hey, brother! And some purse their lips and swallow down this force, it is dangerous, who knows where it will lead, and it gets bitter as it is swallowed, and their bodies stiffen at the taste and some, well, their minds are on different things. Felix laughs and they don’t notice, they are perhaps thinking of their own children, grown now and so far away and how to visit when the laws say this and then the cost is so dear, but they are there, on the other end of the telephone, when the cards and connections work, their voices are transmitted, waves that wiggle up to satellites in space then back down to earth towers and little plastic receivers that travel in back pockets and should not fall out in toilet water. The waves of their children’s laughter, the taste of the fruit of summer, let’s hope they are thinking about this.