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I cannot call her Elder...

…a clear knowing, even as it seemed to threaten belonging in a circle community I’ve come to cherish. Surprising in its resolution, it was confirmed however. Both because “the way showed the way” and because my own sacred work resonated, with courage to simply stay…trusting…surrendering to Spirit as I have learned over the years.

It has taken me months to parse (some of) the significant storylines underneath and within my knowing and seeming refusal of her wisdom in not calling her elder. An early spiritual friendship, seeded in, then suffocated by, the Tibetan Buddhist sense of dangerous friend, to whom I did surrender. Protestant religious heritage becoming a Presbyterian Elder, largely white, serving its divine purposes but also suffocating in its own refusals. The now learned absence of shame within the expected (and wearying-wounded) tropes that would come my way with such a knowing.

In the collaboration-rupture between a white man and a Black woman, the expected tropes did emerge:

“Don’t you see your refusal of her is siding with the white man?”

“He was untrustworthy with me, so he is untrustworthy with all. Disregard of that is dishonest.”

“White women allow the partial truths of white men to remain.”

“White women resist surrendering to eldership.”

And these tropes are true enough to always need saying. I do not dispute any, even all, of these partial truths, as long as we stay connected long enough to see more…

...which comes with water at the fire.

  • Spirit’s decades of gifts in my life birthing a companionable way, a path of devotion in conscious love that roots in equanimity, belonging, trusting Spirit as Elder to send whomever and whatever our souls need, desired or not. I know the abuse of the human, grasping at elder.

  • Grown-ass leadership requiring the courage to stand in our own knowing inclusive of but also potentially divergent from the knowings of others, beloved and unknown, and yet

  • Honoring the Wisdom that comes in these/her streams, recognizable, palpable, necessary...

The Community Mama had collaboratively held the circle for three days. She eldered, and continued to elder her alumnae of the initiation journey. She taught us the ‘grief tunnel’ ritual, held within community song, blessing each one of us before we pushed through, and welcoming us with the community after we relinquished our bundles into the fire. The fire spoke and invited all of us in its mysteries…

Stunned, I received the word, the way forward for me, whispering a request into her ear: I cannot call you elder, but may I call you Mama? She laughed, showing me her smile. “I’ll take that!” as the community cheered and hugged me in return-welcome.

Then the community buzzed with who would bless her, how we would serve as her grief tunnel, each playing their part without much discussion. An elder white woman blessed her. The Community Mama/Elder pushed through the grief tunnel. And we surrounded her, all of us hugging her upon her return-welcome. She revealed as we closed the circle, “I never go through…I usually do my part the next day…”

A bit of companionable way breathed anew, smiling…

[photo credit: Libby Smith]

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