Annie Howard's biweekly-ish newsletter, with thoughts on cities, music, organizing, biking and more.

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Where we want to go is back to beauty

Where we want to go is back to beauty

Note: I am a little out of practice with the newsletter – there have been no shortage of things I could have written about in recent weeks, just a shortage of time and energy! That said, I've been writing a lot recently, and am excited for what is developing in the work right now. For today's post, I am sharing a lightly-edited version of my journal entry from April 17. That night, Elise and I went to the Olive Garden to celebrate what would have been their grandpa's 100th birthday, then saw the Magnetic Fields at Thalia Hall. It was a beautiful and life-affirming evening and I hope the following reflections are in some way hopeful or interesting to you, dear reader.

So much to say, never enough words, rarely the right ones. I know that no matter what, there is a finite time available on this plane, in this body. So rarely have I allowed myself to speculate on other bodies, other planes; to do so feels presumptuous, greedy, given the abundance I’ve felt here, in spite of it all. Nothing will deter me from wringing every last drop from this life. To be able to speculate on other lives, other souls bound together across generations, cities, shows how close we are meant to be. I am not here for this moment to be made to believe in my separateness, my specialness. I am here to send back that divine spark always alive within all of us, no matter the cruelties we bear upon ourselves and others in some futile quest to stand above it all. I hope to always throw myself into the pit, to trust that this body will collide in time with everything capable of remaking this vessel anew.

Every being has its anchors, those points that tether us to something concrete and real. I feel this body generate a certain loving friction next to Elise’s, knowing that these bonding moments exist in the memory of earlier frictions, hard and joyous, serene and surreal. We are so fortunate to be here, to have first come into contact nearly nine years ago at Bobby’s apartment; now, to be watching the Magnetic Fields and their 69 Love Songs, together once more under Bobby’s watchful gaze. We are so lucky to get to live on a planet once inhabited by Peter Hujar and David Wojnarowicz, who told his friend Zoe Leonard: “Zoe, these are so beautiful, and that’s what we’re fighting for. We’re being angry and complaining because we have to, but where want to go is back to beauty. If you let go of that, we don’t have anywhere to go.”

We return to beauty every chance we get, not out of greed or some unhealthy desire to hoard its life-giving properties to ourselves, but so we may better turn outwards and radiate that generosity back into the world, each act of love a gift that is meant to build upon itself.

I have so often struggled with the singular word love. Its all-consuming maw has been so degraded in our unloving world, separating us from our birthright and selling back a version of love cheapened and degraded by money, patriarchy, violence, power. To know of other languages with far richer vocabularies that can tease out love’s finer distinctions fills m with courage; I know I am not alone in seeking love’s expansive properties, its ability to shapeshift and fill the quiet spaces with an openhearted compassion.

But Elise is right: there is no shame in feeling a singular love between us all, something we need not segment off in degrees or gradients that may deny the true connectedness of all beings. We may all return to this wellspring at any time – no matter how despairing I felt just four hours ago, fretting over egoic separations and the firm denial of justice, I am restored in this instant to that deeper reality, one not willing to disappear entirely. Its presence may be mercurial, but no matter what, I believe this to be true: in whatever time we are given, we are both blessed and duty-bound to propagate love, in and for ourselves, with and for others, so that this energy may persist long after it’s time to say goodbye.

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