To Consider 2012 by Deena Metzger

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A SECRET PASSAGEWAY – SHARON SIMONE RESPONDS TO DEENA METZGER’S BLOG

This Blog To Consider  2012 was first imagined so that I could share my ruminations on preparing to meet the challenge of 12/21/12 and to address the profoundly serious question of how we shall  live on behalf of life.  It was never meant to be a theoretical or abstract Blog.  The primary assumption is that we must shift and we must do it now and wholeheartedly.  My prayer was / is that it would contribute to making the differences that are essential if we and the planet are going to survive.  But perhaps, these ideas were in my mind when I first began the Blog Ruin and Beauty, to which that Sharon refers.

Sharon Simone  http://www.headwatersproductions.com/ has taken the need for profound change and action deep into her heart.  I am proud and grateful to present her essay and most ethical and life changing activity on behalf of the future.  May we all follow her lead in meeting the opportunity for transformation.  Thank you, Sharon.

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There are secret passageways to another vital life for this planet. You have to find yours and burrow through. You have a unique way waiting for you that belongs to you. It is the exact fulfillment of your life, experience, understanding, suffering and heart. As I have mine. Each of ours is distinct but aligned with each other’s. Restoring Creation is what will we do together…Spirit says there are hidden passageways to restore creation. But … entering them asks everything of me and of you.

~ Deena Metzger (Why Am I Writing a Blog, Ruin and Beauty Blog September 11, 2010)

On October 10, 2010, I posted a response (below) to this excerpt from the 9/11/2010 blog because I had just had an unexpected encounter with the Kern River and had an inkling about a possible passageway I might burrow through that involved chanting the names of rivers. I did not then understand what was happening in the encounter or how radically acknowledging the rivers in such a way would alter me. My understanding was and probably still is unfolding.

Driving home from Carmel, California near where my son was married in the woods this past weekend, I found myself overcome with the beauty of the landscape–earth and sky thrown open, gorgeous yellow grasses deepening to earth brown with the fading light. I could barely breathe as the sweep of my life across 66 years undulated before me and within me. A profound call, cry, longing to live the beauty and the sorrow sewn into the many years of kinship and landscape I am opened up. If I call out the names of the rivers of my childhood – Rio Grande, Arkansas, Gunnison, Platte, Colorado might I then know the exact passageway to crawl down to live?

I have been calling the names of the five rivers of my childhood for two years now in an effort to crawl down that secret passageway that belongs to me—the one that will show me what my part is in restoring this planet as December 21, 2012 fast approaches. And, there is a sixth river, the Kern that I have also been calling out to because it rooted itself in my solar plexus five years ago on a week’s solo retreat near Mt. Pinos. For that retreat I brought with me one piece of music. For months every time I listened to Emmy Lou Harris sing Kern River I wept; I wanted to understand why. A retreat was a good time to ask such a question. All week long I played the song over and over but I did not find out why I wept.

I had no idea the Kern River was located in California until driving home from my son’s wedding I saw a sign for Kern County. Lyrics from Kern River began running through me as the landscape overtook me. I wept profusely as we drove through this beautiful land. Although I did not see the river, I felt it running through me.

The Kern River is as insistent and fierce as the lore and history that surrounds it. Many who have not respected its ferocity have lost their lives to these waters. It’s not deep nor wide but it’s a mean piece of water my friend, the song goes.

Childhood was a mean piece of water for me and my six brothers and sisters—much of it like the Class 5 white water rapids of the Kern. The impact of a childhood of physical, sexual and emotional violence spilled over into many of my children and my siblings’ children. One of my own six children, Dorothy Ann, lost her life to heroin ten years ago tomorrow, but really to pain she could not surmount. My history is responsible for some of that pain.

I had not known that I am kin with the river and landscape—that we are inseparable, until I was overcome with a lifetime of tears riding through Kern County. A longing and call inscribed itself in me that day until I really knew that I am landscape and river. Sewn into me are beauty and sorrow longing to be known, expressed, and honored—that means the river story I am. The landscape story I am. I am not separate from the river and the land.

Recently, I read Barry Lopez’s Crossing Open Ground (1989). He suggests who we become is intimately shaped by the exterior landscape: the interior landscape responds to the character and subtlety of an exterior landscape; the shape of the individual mind is (as) affected by land as it is by genes, (p.65) The rivers of my childhood, then, have shaped me. I am not separate from the rivers or the land. Some of you know this. I didn’t.

It is right, then, to call the rivers for direction.

Colorado, Rio Grande, Arkansas, Platte, Gunnison, Kern—an incantation, a call, a cry from my heart that I might find the exact passageway to burrow through on behalf of restoration and healing of our home, this planet Earth, all of us, land, river, beings of every kind. I dared to believe when I felt the Kern River and land in that valley begin to flow contiguously in me—began to believe that the rivers actually might know the way. This is new to me—this way of thinking or imagining. It shouldn’t be.

Deena, your letter/blog called forth this possibility. I heard. I hoped. I made a commitment to calling the rivers.

I have kept to calling the rivers. Yet, as you said in this first Ruin and Beauty blog entry in on why you are writing the 2012 letters—entering the passageway asks everything of us. Somewhere you even said that bearing witness is no longer enough. Action is required. Now, I know this to be true. A few months ago the call to the rivers deepened and I knew I had to go to them, meet them one by one starting with the Kern.

In September of this year I was to be away for a month teaching in a masters Social Justice program in Detroit. It wasn’t practical or even sensible to go to the Kern River before I left and yet I felt the nearing of the passageway that December 21, 2012 represents. I felt urgent. So, I went to the Kern for two days and nights as an offering and commitment on behalf of the possibilities of this critical time. I am a woman who has never gone to sit with a river until now.

I met the river, sat with the river and listened. I did not know until the middle of my teaching weekend what burrowing through this passage, this journey to the Kern River, had unleashed in me or how changed I had been until I made a startling decision after hearing one of my students tell a story.

The young woman prefaced her story by saying that one of the texts for the weekend course, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train (2002) by Howard Zinn was difficult for her to even open let alone read because a white man was “about to narrate my people’s struggle for freedom. I always have trouble when a white person narrates this story, our story.”

I, Sharon,am a white woman who is teaching this content area with a cohort of students that is 90% Black and female. This is the typical demographic in this masters in Social Justice Program. The young woman held my feet to the fire—through what she described next about her recent undergraduate degree program—a Women’s Study and Gender Studies program in which all her professors were white feminists. She astutely commented on how she felt as a Black woman having white feminist theories presented to her as if these could directly be applied to her. She wondered how white feminist theory came to represent all feminist theory. She wondered when Black Feminist theory would ever be sanctioned by the Academy. She meant: When will Black feminist scholarship ever be sanctioned with teaching positions at colleges and universities? She raised her voice and feelings to the Women’s Studies Department at her undergraduate school. One course, taught by a Black woman feminist was added to the curriculum and she took the course and was thrilled for all the reasons she should have been. This young woman reached me deeply.

After she told her story I heard a voice inside me say: It is time for you to stand down. I understood that it was time for me to make way for a Black scholar-activist to teach the four courses I teach each year in the program. The job no longer belongs to me. As long as I hold this position, a legitimately trained and experienced Black scholar-activist will be outside the Academy. But my young Black female student desperately needs to see a Black scholar activist standing before her—a professor who has broken through the color lines in the Academy— has lived a particular struggle for freedom—is a role model—so this young Black woman can hope for true freedom for herself.

I helped found this pioneering program in the country right after 9/11, in fact as a response to 9/11. I am proud of this. However, now, the moral and ethical action for me to take is to stand down. That’s a military term. It’s the right term for one whose lineage and privilege flows from white power relations in this country. Standing down has enormous implications for me as a white person who came of age in Detroit while the city burned in the late sixties. I have always longed to know what a white person could do besides understand our privilege. The answer to this for me right now in this moment as December 21, 2012 approaches is to yield power, position and some measure of financial security.

I resigned from teaching in this program the day after we finished the course. I said to the Dean and Program Director that I could best serve the young student who reached me so deeply, the Social Justice program, the college that shaped me as a young woman, and even the city of Detroit—a city with an indomitable spirit that I love—by standing down. I asked that a Black scholar-activist be hired in my place. That is in process already.

Spirit says there are hidden passageways to restore creation. But … entering them asks everything of me and of you.

I burrowed through a passageway by sitting with the Kern River before I left for Detroit. What I understand now, a month later, is that calling the rivers then sitting with the Kern River changed my consciousness. I knew what action I was being called to take. A young woman spoke truth to power. I have never been at peace about race relations since I lay on the floor in my apartment with my new husband in July of 1967 while bombs and guns went off outside during the Detroit rebellion and I understood grave injustices in power distribution were at work and had been for hundreds of years. My race was at the heart of this injustice. A limit had been reached. Until now, I had not known what would make way for peace between the races.

Kern, Colorado, Arkansas, Gunnison, Platte, Rio Grande—great gratitude for showing me this secret passageway. This shift gives me hope that there is another vital life for this planet.

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9 responses to “A SECRET PASSAGEWAY – SHARON SIMONE RESPONDS TO DEENA METZGER’S BLOG

  1. Nora Jamieson November 18, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Dear Sharon, Thank you for this. For me, this is a stunning story about living in the culture from what Deena calls 5th world mind. It is a healing of the cultural/spiritual alienation we suffer from. Who would have thought that the incantation of rivers and your act of devotion would bring you home to your particular offering on behalf of healing. We never know what will come when we follow that weird, (wyrd) call. The rivers spoke and you listened. What soul medicine. Thank you for the teaching. And blessings on your stepping down and stepping in. Nora

    • Sharon Simone November 19, 2012 at 5:06 am

      Nora, thank you for that astounding use of the term “wyrd.” I have never heard that term used but when I looked it up it means fate or destiny! Since I pray every single day that I might fulfill my destiny (become who I was created to become) and that that means EVERYTHING to me…to meet that call, this is just a wonderful message for me…that in listening and responding to the rivers I entered a different consciousness and THAT is the ground of my being. That I belong to the rivers now is wyrd! I love it. Sharon

  2. claytree November 18, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Hey Shar,
    Beautiful. I remember you playing that song while I was with you and talking about the rivers. I’m so glad you were able to get to the river you so wanted to sit with. Your story reminds me of restorative justice, South Africa, and so many small and large revolutionary times in history, and the power of the individual. As a young woman, I remember sitting in the park with Mohawk people during the Oka crisis in Quebec and how the power of the government of that time and the violence enacted by the government and the police in order to steal the sacred land to develop a gulf course for mostly white men, I remember how profoundly painful and eye opening those months were and my learning as a student in a program for women about violence at the time was also grappling with the issues of race and power and mostly white feminists teaching a diverse student population, as well as a diverse course about women/violence/war..etc., very similar to your own program in Detroit, but no one relinquished or would ‘stand down’ in order to open up the space for a more diverse reflection in the teaching staff. I’m so proud of you too for finding your way through to the river, for going out of your way even though you had lots on your plate, so that you could sit with the river before going to Detroit. So cool. May the world, and may all the powers that be who control and conquer, who violate and “keep down” instead of “standing down”, may a shift in consciousness occur very soon so that the planet, it’s animals, LGBT people, women and people of all races can live in harmony without being smothered by this white, heterosexual, religious and patriarchal system that has been used by colonizers for centuries, and may all people realize the power of an individual and the importance of standing down.

  3. Kjersten Gmeiner November 18, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    oh my god sharon how beautiful. Love to you and Deena for so relentlessly finding YOUR way of truth and beauty on behalf of all our relations. xo kjersten

  4. Becca November 18, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    So beautiful – and so beautifully told. Thank you, Sharon. I embrace you for helping to guide the way.

  5. zole November 18, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    YES ….”BURROWING”!

    Love from “Burrowing Owl Didgeridoo “, spawned at the Connecticut and White Rivers

  6. Joan Cliff November 18, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Sharon – you continue to inspire by speaking – living truth. Blessings, Joan

  7. mayah November 19, 2012 at 6:35 am

    Thank you Sharon. I am in tears. Blessings.

  8. Carrie Dinow November 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    I have finally had a chance to sit with and be with your writing. To let it in. So deeply moved by its beauty, your beauty.
    Love to you.
    Carrie

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