Gathering My Tribe

A new year has begun, and I am slowly finding my way back into a routine. For the past five years, I have been allowing my body to dictate the day. If I woke up feeling sluggish or fighting some new pain or fatigue, I knew that I would live the day as far away from the page as possible. Some days, I didn’t even want to run to quilts or crochet, as I usually do, to seek artistic refuge, to rock-a-bye baby myself back to the land of poems. I just did what was required of me as a planet citizen. I worked, I cooked meals, I responded when spoken to … I learned to exist as necessary.


Sweetie and I entertained the notion of moving away from North Carolina. We thought a new city would give me the boost I need to crawl out of the lull that has wrapped me in its bosom and offered me warm milk. The city we settled on is a lively artsy city in Pennsylvania that also has a lot of eateries and opportunities for him as a chef. As fate would have it, that move couldn’t happen … not right now, anyway. So we settled back into the idea of staying in the home state and tried to figure out how to grow more roots here.


One of the things I’ve been extremely careful about is letting too many voices into my space/head as I return to the sacred processes that churn my art. There are days when all I want is silence. But I also have had to own the fact that this practice is quite beneficial in reverse. I have to be careful not to let the good voices in my head/space slip away.


On an iconic level, I realize there are key arts figures I can’t get enough of, really: Romare Bearden, John Coltrane, Gregory Hines,James Baldwin, Frida Kahlo, Rilke, Muriel Rukeyser, Audre Lorde,Gwendolyn Brooks, Adrienne Kennedy, Alice Childress, Suzan-Lori Parks. Through their lives and their works, they have taught me things about possibility and art that I would not have known otherwise.


But there are those other folks I can touch in real life and in real time that also help me remember what is possible. These are people I crave in my circle. They are — through their own dazzling artistic approaches, unyielding support or deep mutual admiration — the members of my tribe. No matter what unfolds in my world, they are right there to keep me engaged in my craft and my calling: Jaki Shelton Green, Jodi Barnes, Collin Kelley, Karen Davis, Deborah Grayson, Samantha Thornhill, Jessica Care Moore, Addae Moon,Cecilia Woloch. It doesn’t matter how much time passes between our conversations, we pick up where we left off last, as if no time has passed at all. They always seem to anchor me and make me hold myself accountable.


I promised myself that 2013 would be a year of showing up. I want to surround myself in muse dust and meet the challenges of my art head-on, whether I’m afraid or not. No matter what happens when I appear as the lead creative in my own life, I am committed to the process and the journey. And I know my tribe will continue to rally in the distance and up close — as long as I …


Show Up

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