Soundtrack: Algo Está Cambiando – Bomba Estéreo
Quote: “Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is that when change comes, it cracks everything open.” – Dorothy Allison
Mood: Cloudy, with a chance of rain.
There were many reasons not to go. It was a long, holiday weekend. There were obligations to family. Financial responsibilities to prioritize. And a plethora of BBQ’s and hangouts to attend with friends.
But I chose me this past weekend. I attended the 4th Annual Sankofa Sisterhood Writing Retreat.
The theme – Strengthening Your Writer’s Core. The keynote – Vanessa Mártir.
If you are new to my writing, you may not know who Vanessa is or what she means to me.
I took her Writing Our Lives class in the Fall of 2016 and it revolutionized my writing. It was like I awoke from a ten year coma and I fell in love with stories all over again. In 2017, I participated in the #52essays2017 writing challenge she created.
I am no stranger to Vanessa’s work and so I knew to expect to get my soul and my heart pulled out of my chest during her workshop.
She started by hanging chart paper on the window walls of the wooden cabin upstate.
The sunflowers on her maxi skirt danced about as she made her way to each of us right before lunch, “Start thinking about what it means to be in your body and write it down when you get a chance.”
Most of us reclaimed our time and ignored her requests until minutes before the workshop started. I think we all knew what was coming.
I won’t get into too many details about this workshop or any of the other workshops that followed. Mariposa Fernandez facilitated two workshops on poetry and performance. Alicia Santos introduced a workshop where we danced through scenes we were working on. Ysanet Batista of Woke Foods fed and nurtured our bodies with delicious, plant-based foods in between it all.
Just know that the work was real ya’ll. And that (shameless plug) you should follow the work of each of these amazing human beings.
What I will share in more detail, it felt when I slowed down and took the time to be present in my body for the rest of the weekend.
There was a sharp and pulsing pain in my throat. It swelled and served as just as much of a constant reminder as the mosquito bites I collected across the weekend.
When I took the time to listen, my body reminded me that I am still healing. That I have so much more to say that I haven’t yet said. I am not just bleeding through the pen. I am hemorrhaging through my pores, my organs and every tiny cell inside my body. And there are moments where this healing process is an agonizing pain that makes me feel like I am right back at the start of my trauma.
Monday morning, before we left, I took a hike by myself into the forest. I paid careful attention to the way the stones felt underneath my sneakers and the shift that took place when I stepped onto moss or moist dirt.
I noticed the shagbark hickory trees and how the bark was peeling off in large, flat curing plates. I spotted the large holes in trees and heard a woodpecker at work in the distance. And I was surrounded by the sound of rain, the pitter-patter of water hitting leaves.
Except there was no rain. I thought it had to be magic.
I spent today trying to understand the scientific phenomenon behind the sound of rain when there is no water falling from the sky. As it turns out, it was not magic.
You ready for this?
It was tiny, hard pieces of shit.
Caterpillar shit, to be specific.
The activity that sounds like rain happens to be a vast amount of waste product falling from the very hungry caterpillars which cannot stop eating and therefore cannot stop pooping.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of caterpillars of various sizes and colors were inching and moving all over the forest. Crawling, creeping, hunting. More importantly, preparing for a transformation.
Can you imagine what kind of work they are putting in to replicate the sound of falling rain with tiny, hard waste pellets? Can you fathom the congregation of butterflies that will rise up from this mass?