Rites of Passage was the hardest labor of my life. And though I was around incredible women for those final weeks, I also felt alone - particularly afterwards. That loneliness, and the sadness afterward is one known by those who have been the village chief, as Martin Prechtel writes about so beautifully, and also known by many mothers. Despite how much I knew about post-partum dos & don’ts for new mamas, like so many, I set my self up so poorly. This “setting oneself up” is only required because there is no village to hold us in the aftermath, or the lead up to birthing. It should have been no surprise that after the massive birth of Rites of Passage, I struggled with my own kind of post-partum depression.
Following Rites of Passage and 10 days of cleaning up, I returned to not to a village, tribe, or family but to an empty house I soon had to move out of. People kept asking me whether had I rested, when the reality was no – there was no time for real rest until very recently. I was starkly alone, and woke up again to the heart of sadness in me that for the past year I would wake to every morning. This kind of loneliness is a mirage that has us wishing for something that can never wholly be. This world is not set up in a sane way to nurture healthy mothers. There are so many reason why our ancestors lived in villages, and somewhere in our blood and bones we long for this like an echo.
Rites of Passage brought to life what I and so many others had been longing for since forever – a living village that offered us a sense of belonging that's so rare for most of us, especially as Women of Color. This is inherently healing. But as a temporary village, it was a moment in space and time, not the reality most of us live in every day or would return to. And that truth is such a deep heartbreak for me – for all the villages and jungles lost to us and to my own people – for my own room “Sustenance” that literally disappeared overnight – echoing back to that first primordial abandonment, all to remind me eventually- that it’s all inside. This beauty and belonging are seeds we carry that can’t be lost - just waiting for the right conditions to sprout again into the blossoms of our basic sanity and at-one-ness with everything. Rites of Passage was a season in the garden of our ancestors remembered. And what a beautiful garden it was. But I wonder: Is it possible, in this time, for it to live beyond just one season? I don’t just mean a ritual house. I mean a way of life. A way of being, with Life.
It wasn’t until now that I finally had a breath to even begin to integrate what we had created together – all the beauty and all the learnings by trial and error in the process of the last 2.5 years. I finally had two weeks alone in a cabin by a pond – with no running water, no electricity, no WIFI, and no distractions except my own mind. I allowed my whole nervous system to begin to settle, and the message was simply “Come Home. Let your heart rest.” On my way there, I stopped by to see my dear friend Mama Lula Christopher and saw this quote on her wall by James Baldwin: “Perhaps home is not a place, but simply an irrevocable condition.” There, I also started reading the Belonging book by Toko Pa Turner, and proceeded to do a slow recap of my whole last 39 years till now over those 2 weeks, turning so many moments of love and pain, and so many mistakes over and over again in the hands of my mind like stones until they became a little softer and smoother. I did a lot of grieving and forgiving and realized that I needed months of this, not just 2 weeks. Being alone, truly for the first time in a while with my whole self, I caught a glimpse for how much I had changed. How much I had begun to truly learn what being home actually means, and what being of service does and doesn’t look and feel like, and what being a mother to oneself and others means.
Home for me will always be a chord of feelings: melancholy mixed with sweetness because life is so beautiful and so temporary. And as Toko Pa writes, my path is about offering belonging to everything in myself, and yet on the outside sometimes this means saying no - to people, to possibilities, to dreams.
Creating a home for 45 women and myself was a massive stretch for me; for all of us. It was an imperfect and exquisite experiment in learning Love and creating Home. By definition, initiation is a passage into a new way of being – a more expanded, more true way of being. Much in the way that being pregnant reveals to a mother how healthy or resourced she is or isn't, Rites of Passage revealed to many of us our own places of depletion or under-resourced-ness, along with the ways in which we were willing to be opened, or not. My own unresolved feelings of abandonment along with the accumulated stress and resentment of living without a real community, had its own impacts. Yet the house wasn’t a place for only our beauty to belong, but also our shadows. This was a hard learning, at least for me. It meant loving within me and also outside of me – all the ways that we may feel unseen, unappreciated or unknown. For so many of us, our childhood home was not a safe place, maybe not a place at all. We don’t know what family is, let alone a village. Myself along with all those other beautiful women – we made it up as we went along – making literal rooms for all the places in us that the colonized world at large, and also our families of origin - had discounted, ignored, or exiled. This was a place our souls could be at home in kinship. That’s why we loved it so much.
At the same time, the reality of village life is that it’s often messy, busy, and intense. For Western/ modern folks not acquainted with village life, and even for those of us who are – it can be overwhelming. And fast-track one-time villages (like Burning Man and Rites of Passage) are exhausting to create, even though they are breathtaking and immensely healing. I wish we had had a month, not just 10 days, and I know I’m not alone in that. Re-indigenizing our minds & hearts & relationships takes time, maybe lifetimes. As a collective, I think we all recognized through the rush and the push – how time allows for greater peace, and how profoundly we each needed that. We squeezed 20/20 Vision into 10 days, not because we wanted to, but because we weren’t able to give ourselves the time and space needed. Rites of Passage bloomed & lived within the larger context of our shared reality – of patriarchy, of capitalism, of grind culture – or what we call simply: “modern life”. After 39 years of close observation, I have concluded that this modern life just isn’t conducive to us being fully human, or sane. Still, Rites of Passage: 20/20 Vision showed us the potential for something far more whole. And, as a new friend recently said to me, and which I had been reflecting on myself – there’s no escape from this matrix – it’s everywhere and it’s inside of us. So after all this village-making and dismantling, these essential questions remain: How do I choose to be fully human & wholly sane? How will I nurture home & belonging in a long-term, sustainable way?
These past 3+ years has been a lot of letting go: living rootless with no fixed home, moving every few months, and surrendering a relationship in which I had confused dependency for belonging. Home was not a given for me, not a constant. It always felt like a big mystery inheritance that other people get to have and hold onto, but never me. For a while, I subconsciously believed that I had irretrievably fucked up my chance at having a home, and was being punished for all time by God or whatever we wish to call this tremendous unfathomable universe; that home would never be a place for me or a people. I have spent most of my life this way. Maybe, deep inside, on some level, most of us have. Then I realized what an unfriendly god that is. Not god at all. And that I get to choose... No one else will open the door back from our exile. We’re the ones.
The rootlessness of the past few years has been a blessing too, because it’s teaching me what home actually is beyond just a place. When so many of the women in Rites of Passage shared how “at home” they felt, and how much love permeated that space, I knew that that's one of the gifts of being an orphan (literal or otherwise). We want home so much, we carry it wherever we go without even knowing it.
Coming home isn’t linear. We may make the journey dozens of times in this life before we finally return home, and then even then, its just momentary, because we are always arriving and departing in these dream permutations of what it is to be here.
Life is spiralic, and I must follow the pattern. I have never had more clear and yet more mysterious directions. All I can do is follow one step and a time. I’m looking to land at home in a yet deeper way – home in the body, home with everything, every person – knowing that its fundamentally an inner thing reflected in outer environs. And even though home is not so much a place, but an irrevocable condition, as James Baldwin wrote, I’m looking to find the place where that friendly God wants me to be for a while. A little pocket in time & space. Nestled so I could nestle a little life within. I’m looking for a place where I can sit by a fire with tea and broth and write a book while gestating the next big offering. Some of us need to stay sane if humanity is going to survive. And I’m getting clearer on what’s required to embody sanity in myself, and a sense of belonging that could sustain me, and therefore those around me. I realized that perhaps the greatest act of service at this next juncture of my life, would be to receive. In creating sanctuary for myself, perhaps I could offer that to others. So I’m open to receiving all the support to realize a vision I have held for almost 20 years. My true sanity is ultimately the best and only thing I can legitimately offer the world. Without it, I’m lost. And what is it to be sane, but to be be truly at home?
Meanwhile for all of you who wanted to see the beauty and belonging we weaved in Rites of Passage: 20/20 Vision but were unable to, we are offering a "Virtual House Screening" - a filmed walk-through of the house on Friday November 5th at 8pm - on FB and on YouTube.
*Photo by Nicole Combeau