Category Archives: Light

You get these ideas in your head

Lately, I am attuned to the words people use. I am a writer, so this is nothing new. What’s changed is the filter through which I listen, a feminist one. Did I already lose you? Do you have an aversion to that word, feminist? I did. Sort of. Before.

“You’ve changed,” my husband said recently, referring to that dirty word, feminism, and all its connotations, the ones I initially rejected because I didn’t want to be defined by them. I haven’t changed, I thought, and maybe even said. But the truth is, I have. I am a feminist now (I credit Donald Trump for this), and I wasn’t before. I was asleep. Hibernating.

“I have a problem with radical feminism,” a friend told me last year when she was trying to figure out whether or not she could be yoked to me (hint: she couldn’t). “I do too,” I said, thinking about how much I like people in general, men included. As the words left my mouth, I realized I had no idea what the radical part meant. Did radical feminists hate men? Eschew pretty dresses and make-up? High heels? Did they focus on not looking like a woman simply to make a point?

Think about that for a moment. What does that mean, exactly, to look like a woman? Like which woman? The one in the magazine who is airbrushed? The one with an attractive WHR (Waist-Hip Ratio)? Why do we think, for example, that some women look masculine? I’ve already lost you, haven’t I? If you’re not a feminist, you’re rolling your eyes and saying, See, that’s the problem with feminists, they don’t want to be women. I think my husband feels this way, that there is a way to be a woman and a way to be something else entirely. One of my favorite feminists wouldn’t give up her heels to save her life. Another one wouldn’t be caught dead in them.

I’ve changed. Yes, I have. I’m more aware, more attuned. Here is one definition of radical feminist, for example, from Wikipedia:

Radical feminists locate the root cause of women’s oppression in patriarchal gender relations, as opposed to legal systems (as in liberal feminism) or class conflict (as in anarchist feminismsocialist feminism, and Marxist feminism).

I’ve changed because my mind creates its own Wiki page:

Radical feminists human beings (anyone who no longer wishes to be repressed or defined by—and this includes some men—the still strong roots of patriarchy, white male patriarchy in particular) locate the root causes of women’s oppression their oppression in patriarchal gender relationships, as opposed to legal systems (as in liberal feminism) or class conflict (as in anarchist feminismsocialist feminism, and Marxist feminism). and reject them by pushing back, often at great cost (I’ve already lost one friend, and may lose my marriage).

This is how I think, how I grow, how I change the way I filter what I hear. You get these ideas in your head, he says, and I’m already thinking about the judgment in the phrase. He doesn’t finish the sentence before I get an idea in my head: He doesn’t get it.

I’ve changed because I’m saying to myself: I don’t get it, either, but I want to. I want to understand oppression in all its gender-based and racial-based forms. I want to understand, for example, the ways I walk through this world as a privileged white person, and how that blinds me to certain truths, like the fact that racial prejudice is alive and well. I. Don’t. Experience. That. Ever. This means I can know it exists, but I can’t qualitate or quantify it appropriately unless I listen and learn, stay open to the stories and let them break open my heart.

Recently I was told, by more than one person, that using the phrase white privilege is the problem. I was told it is a divisive phrase, which at first I rejected. But it is, isn’t it? A divisive phrase? It should be; that’s its power.

Divisive—tending to cause disagreement or hostility between people.

I am struck by a missing word: violence. Divisive doesn’t have to include violence, but it does have to include discomfort. Change does not happen when people are comfortable. It happens when they are not. Change rises when something is terribly wrong. But let me be clear: Divisiveness does not cause violence, people do.

“Do you have dreams?” a man asked me yesterday, as we both stared at the departing sun.

I’d been walking on the beach, deep in thought, when a young man tripped on the outcropping of rocks he’d been standing on.

“I saw nothing,” I said, and we laughed and launched into the conversation that had led to his question: Do you have dreams?

I answered him then volleyed back the question: “How about you, do you have dreams?”

He paused. Looked thoughtful, and finally said, “I do, but they’re too deep to talk about.”

It wasn’t an uncomfortable moment, but an honest one, and I didn’t press him. Our conversation migrated, like he had from Argentina, back to the sunset and what we might look like if the sun were observing us. 

Too deep to talk about resonates with me this morning. My too-deep dreams for women festered at a very early age. The first one was for my gay sister (16 years my senior), who couldn’t come out in her lifetime. Next was for me, pregnant and married at 16, desperately trying to live up to the expectations of being a stay-at-home mom and being told I had no right to have dreams of my own. Recently, these deep-seated dreams are for my teenagers, three of them young women who have been watching me become a feminist.

I’ve changed, it’s true. Some of the metamorphosis is internal, still swirling—I have deep and private dreams too. But some is external, like the fact that I am no longer comfortable being identified as Mrs. Britton Swingler, even though I love my husband. Years of ignorance kept me from realizing that my history as a Mrs. had always been rooted in a man’s ownership of a woman, and the more obvious one that a man is never identified, in name, as being married.

I suppose I do get these ideas in my head, but I’m grateful for them. These ideas are how I grow, and how I evaluate pain, loss, and regret in particular. These ideas are how I refine my dreams, reject the ones that were never mine in the first place, and embrace the ones still deeply held.

Black as soot

The sun pushed its radiance upon her through the purposely darkened blinds; always that rogue, penetrating shaft slipping through a lazy crack. So she rose, reluctantly and despite a weight that felt as heavy as three elephants, not because she wanted to but because she had promised him she would.

The automatic coffee maker had been a brilliant idea, a gift from her closest friend, the kind of friend who forces things upon you that you need but don’t really want; the kind of friend who refuses to leave you alone even when all you want to do is pull the covers up over your head and never emerge again – ever.

As she sipped the strong dark brew, she glanced out the window and noticed that someone had been tending the flowers her husband had planted for her last birthday. She was grateful for the help and knew that she should find the flowers beautiful and yet every single thing around her looked as black as soot, as black and desolate as her heart had felt since her reason for living had suddenly stopped breathing.

This piece is in response to Lillie McFerrin’s brain-child, “Five Sentence Fiction,” which can be found here:

Lillie McFerrin Writes

The word: “desolate”

Sandra

The middle, the center, the heart: where all things come into sharp focus; where all truths lie, even the unfathomably painful ones.

A family I love is dealing with heartbreaking truth, and I am struggling with what to offer up, besides the sadness I keep in check.

So if I may ask a little something of you?

If you feel so inclined, will you please leave your words of love and support for Sandra and her family- I know that so many of us have dealt with unearthly pain and loss–and may just have something that will add light to a situation with some of the darkest clouds I’ve seen in a while.

From my heart–from the center of me…thank you.

Sun god

My pulse rises as I pull into a spot at the curb, grab my camera, and scan the park for a place to capture the bursting sky. Another photographer and his lady offer me a prime bench seat. I sit down gratefully and begin to shoot, wondering if a Canonite would have been so generous with the real estate. I’ve heard about the rivalry between those who, like me, shoot with a Nikon, and those who prefer Canon–but have never experienced it.

I decide to play with exposure compensation, dialing it down in an attempt to capture the way the vibrant oranges are manipulating the grayish blue sea; casting shadows on the sailboats, whose skippers must surely be preparing to sacrifice their lives for the mere chance to party with the irresistible sun god.

A wave of peaceful satisfaction washes over me. Behind the lens, with an abundance of manual settings literally at my fingertips, I am participating in the way creativity mingles with reality, enjoying the unchoreographed dance of a spontaneous life.

 

 

 

Photograph is property of the author/photographer, Britton Minor

My jaded lens


Sometimes, when I get the feeling that I am missing something important yet intangible, I remind myself that my perceptions are jaded. Then I seek the broad path of seeing beyond, behind, inside of, below, outside of… differently. Herein lies the rub. How can I provide myself with an unbiased view of something “hard-wired” to be exactly that–biased? How can I change the DNA-fueled impressions I’ve made, been fed, massaged over years of mass media influence, denied, embraced, honed?

For example, how can I decide whether my faith is based on what I was taught, or on what I have come to believe “on my own?” Or how can I decide if my ideas about parenting have come from years of careful observation, natural instincts, intelligence, research and a heart for children, OR if I am wrong about many of the issues I fight (internally and externally) for and against?

Is there such a thing as “being neutral?” Can I be “fair” without also being “unfair? And don’t I consistently remind my children that life is not fair? How about “righteousness?” What does this mean? My way or the highway? The way the local church professes? The way my kids catch any inconsistency I unwittingly demonstrate, and call it out, expecting a resolution?

The lens with which I view my world is not rose-colored, it is cracked, dirty, and grimy. It is clear, reflective and beautiful. It is polarized and jaded. It is all I have. Pressing my eye to the viewfinder, I seek the perfect shot through a perfect lens. Click. I’ve got it! I pull the image up on a large screen to analyze the capture. The background is nicely blurred, the foreground is complementary and leads my eye directly to the subject. That’s when I see it–the perfect combination that suddenly has me taking great deep breaths. I study the shapes, the contours, the colors, the shadows and the light. The simple beauty of the virtual shot I have taken is stunning, but will only be fully appreciated by me. As I begin to flip through my life-album of best images, I realize that my most enlightened, powerful days are compositions made up of confidence, hard-knocks humility and the softest, most beautiful light I can imagine–that of gratitude.

photograph property of The Jaded Lens Photography

Light

I like the way it feels on the dark side of this wooden fence. I like the way no one knows I’m here. I like the way the sunlight bleeds through the cracks and shimmies underneath, as if trying to find some one, some thing. I like the way it has to stop, just shy of finding me here, hiding, exploring, watching, waiting for nothing but the right moment to emerge. It might take a while today. I need this.

The light-twinged darkness comforts me like a large bowl of mac and cheese would. And mac and cheese makes me sleepy like a large glass of red wine would. And so, I nap without snoring; asleep with my eyes open. I breathe deeply, evenly, like I would in yoga. And I sit here with the in and out in and out air flowing through my nostrils, taking me deep inside the chakra-colored world I am suddenly privy to.

I feel my heart open and see a strong shaft of sharp green light split it in two, simultaneously multiplying the pieces until there are many halves floating in green water, like thousands of lilies waiting for their frogs to sit on top and give them meaning, purpose. I wait…breathing, breathing, and hear and see nothing until one by one each heart-half finds a mate but not a match. The result is beautiful, and no longer only green. Rainbows of color grace each nearly solid heart, and where the chosen mate was not a perfect match, the light bleeds through the cracks and shimmies underneath looking for some one, some thing.

The moment has come, and I emerge from my safe place, prepared to face my stunningly beautiful life and the way it teaches me to use the darkness to fill in the holes with light…