Today I honor the memory of my great-great grandmother, Mary Roth Rhodes, who was born on this day in 1863 in Würtemberg, Germany, the daughter of Dora + Gottlieb Roth.
14 years ago, in July 2003, she became a beacon, a catalyst and a guide for me on a pathway of reclamation, transformation and healing. Not only from the trauma of living in Brooklyn through 9/11 and numbing out in the aftermath. But for examining, understanding, compiling, and righting/re-writing a family’s history where men don’t survive and women carry on, in spite of profound loss and because of profound love for those left behind. For seeing clearly generational patterns that created heart aches and breaks, too many what-ifs and if-onlys. For parsing hope, bravery, fortitude and tenderness from this seemingly meager inheritance. For committing to build a new legacy upon her foundation of mother-wisdom.
With help from my sister Tamara, who followed the leads I’d dug up in NYC libraries and picked up those threads in the National Archives in D.C., we learned of her journey from her native country to NYC, with a friend, at the age of 17 and eventually on to Hamilton, Ontario where she would marry my great-great grandfather Wesley, a former slave and Civil War veteran.
Because of her, I decided to leave New York after 9 years. My only vision: to begin anew as she had the courage to do, to live simply and to be engaged in community. Because of her, I returned home. Because of her, I eventually decided to stay. (Not necessarily an easy or simple choice after living away from home since the age of 14.) Because of her, I recognized that the true gift and power of researching our past was in the opportunity to rebuild and nurture connections bolstered by this new understanding of all the stuff we were made of — in blood and spirit.
Aware of suffering and injustice,
I, [tara scott], am working to create
a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world.
I promise, for the benefit of all,
to practice self-care, mindfulness, healing, and joy.
I vow to not burn out.
Burnout and self-sacrifice, the paradigm of the lone hero who takes nothing for herself and gives everything to others, injure all of us who are trying to bring the dharma into everyday lay life through communities of transformative well-being, where the exchange of self for other is re-envisioned as the care of self in service to the community. The longer we live, the healthier we are; the happier we feel, the more we can gain the experience and wisdom needed to contribute toward a collective reimagining of relationships, education, work, and play.
he wakes whistling, thrilled by the zipping wind
he conjures and reshapes into sharps and flats
snaps a crisp unpatterned rhythm
with supple-skinned thumb and middle finger
(wiped dry between refrains)
flickering his wrist for triumphant emphasis
mutters a play-by-play commentary
to an imagined audience of rapt gamers
punctuated with shrieks, chides, wails and groans
jigs an exuberant popiscle-sugared dance
wagging his pineapple-cherry coated tongue
scuttling erratically to a giggle-inflected beat
oh! mustn’t leave out the slapping bum finale and encore
drills up and down 14 stairs,
thunderous heel-stomping laps
and cushioned drop-and-rolls,
parkouring over and around the furniture
a streak of joy unleashed
bumps and bangs precede whimpers and squealed tears
beckoning empathetic triage,
strokes of comfort and mild caution to remember,
in all this play, that his body is growing and does not yet know
the new dimensions marking where it ends and external objects begin
hides, hushed and stockstill in a closet
awkwardly wedged behind the vacuum and laundry basket
clamping back unruly titters, lodged between throat and strained cheeks
crackling with anticipation to jumpscare an absent parent now returned
tucks into the curve of torso reserved
for bedtime storytelling and goodnight prayer songs
mommy-kissed lids and curled lashes
shelter sleep-craved eyes,
burning from the effort to see through
one minute more of the darkening day
a puff of minted air,
humming ‘love you too’
before sliding into blessed dreams
his guttery trill, gum-soled and sticky with wizened contempt
is instantly corroded by the viral ozone of tropospheric memes
earwormed into polyphonic cackles
relentlessly pursuing you — tubing through folded gray matter —
until the voice of God, remixed as a call for intercession,
is you finished or is you done?
you pitch a prayer for completion
petition mightily for all ordained wonders to be finished
from spark generated to diligence sustained
make a way out of no way,
leaving behind tattered limp-tired tropes
overused and out-of-season ideas
scratch-deep grooves committed to sameness, repeating the repeats
a good and proper farewell to stuck and fused people
prolapsed yet yanked back by histories tangled and cursed But [then] the Lord says, “Forget the things that happened in the past.
Do not keep on thinking about them.
I am about to do something new.
It is beginning to happen even now.
Don’t you see it coming? I am going to make a way for you to go through the desert. I will make streams of water in the dry and empty land.”*
in the etheric gap you become unapologetically i and make…
fueled on and centered by love, the emboldened claim to lift up:
what i value what i wish to protect what i wish to lead with
this way ’round, loudly and assuredly a discerning heart supple-strong, free, open and clear