Arms

By Cristina Santamaría Graff

Dedicated to those whose lives were taken in a moment of anguish, confusion, and rage at Parkland High School on February 14, 2018.

In honor of surviving students who have armed themselves with fierce love to speak out against gun legislation that has set the stage for immense violence against humanity.

With love,

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Arms

My arms,

outstretched,

she runs into my embrace.

Trembling, her fists pound my back,

more like raindrops than hail, they are

expressions rather than deliverers of pain.

 

My arms,

They bring comfort to her unsettled heart,

POUND, Pound, pound…

“Shhhhhhh, quiet now. The gunfire is over.”

Her arms,

they shield her face,

hands cover her ears.

“I can hear the screaming,” she mouths.

 

My arms,

they carry notebooks and pens,

extra paper for José, a calculator for Bella.

Dry erase marker etchings line my forearms and fingertips,

once again forgetting to cap the tops.

 

My arms,

They dole out high-fives,

handshakes at the classroom door, Kleenex, wipes, stickers, fist bumps, and hugs.

My arms,

always moving,

to show, to demonstrate, to examine, to analyze, to assess, to teach.

 

Your arms,

full of fire and misplaced rage.

You project your despair on the innocent,

You know no other way.

Your arms aim and shoot,

the more the better – this is your plan.

 

Their arms,

in the air, on the floor, under the desks,

begging, pleading.

They are just arms, another target to shoot at.

 

Your arms,

AR-15s – powerful, mighty, righteous.

They become God.

You are the messenger, the deliverer of pain.

 

Your arms,

now hang nonchalantly at your side.

They buy you a drink at Subway.

 

Our arms.

Our truth.

What arms do we bear?

What arms us?

What do we choose to be armed with?

Are we bearers of fear?

Do we arm ourselves with love?

Can we bear our own truths, our own fears?

Can we bear the reality we are creating?

 

Our arms,

our minds, our hearts, our consciousness.

We have the right to bear TRUTH,

to confront the lies,

to stand up for each other,

to live and choose LOVE.

 

Our arms,

They can write new beginnings.

 

River

Lately, I have been very involved with my academic writing and it has been challenging for me to sit down and write for EduSpirit because, to be frank, my left-brain is pretty tapped. Writing poetry, however, is a completely different process. It is organic and free-flowing. It elicits the voice of my heart through images and scenes evoked through contemplation and reflection.

Tonight I wanted to capture the paradox of a river – stillness and movement occurring simultaneously. I was inspired by Steven D. Farmer’s “Earth Magic” cards which, I believe, were created to tap into our visceral, primal responses that reside within our right-brain.

As I have demonstrated through video blogs I have posted, I use cards to balance my left and right brain hemispheres. In my academic career I am engaged so heavily in analytical thinking that I sometimes feel that my creativity begins to atrophy. I need to find a way to bring my “selves” into harmonious balance and one way to accomplish this is by drawing, painting, and writing poetry.

I am at a point of my journey in which I fully realize and appreciate Maslow’s conceptualization of human self-actualization and the way in which we need to integrate and embrace mind, body, and spirit to live authentically and to be in greater harmony with our essence.

With much love as we enter into December,

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River

 

Your voice,

the force of a river – collides.

The speed, your movement  – you knocked the wind,

air leaves my body.

 

Your voice,

pierces thick fog.

I wince at the realization –

Have I been asleep this long?

 

Your voice,

makes my blood run fast,

like the Mississippi Delta – every capillary fills,

swollen and untamed.

Lungs expand,

BREATHE, Breathe, breathe.

I can’t catch my breath.

 

“I am here,” you say.

Eyes, ears, fingers … they search for you.

but the fog is heavy, the light dim.

Sleep threatens as night approaches,

Will I lose you again?

Fear engulfs me.

 

My love?

Are you still here?

 

I am alone.

Moonlight reflects in the flowing river.

It is as still as glass.

 

Then,

ripples lapping against the embankment,

the symphony of crickets behind the trees,

the smell of the earth supporting my body,

the flash of shooting stars,

the taste of sweet grass,

you speak to me.

My senses receive your stories.

 

I pass over into dreams,

the Earth, a sturdy cradle – rocking,  nudging.

She whispers, “Look.”

There you are.

A force of illuminated brilliance, meandering toward me.

 

You are the river,

free and unfettered.

I cannot contain you –

this thought – so frightening before,

now fills me with joy.

I take you in –

all of me, ALIVE.

 

You are the river.

The voice of my heart.

11:11

11-11

By: Cristina Santamaría Graff

 

I measure this moment by breath and blood,

the pause between inhale and exhale

the diastolic heartbeat.

 

My vitals pulse, squeeze, relax.

A guard dog, senses acute

my hacking up.

 

A door opens,

consciousness pricking,

momentum guides me through.

 

Who are you?

What are you?

Why are you?

 

Beings of light,

colors of the spectrum –

a new identification.

 

Energy is the language,

Love the vibration,

Empathy the understanding.

 

No more guessing.

I carry a thousand stars on my back,

their histories, my library.

 

I am the dream.

No more illusions,

I leave the door open.

 

If it were the falling leaves alone

If it were the falling leaves alone

By: Cristina Santamaría Graff

October 21, 2017

 

If it were the falling leaves alone

I would surrender to the Earth’s changing hues and landscape,

happily.

I would indulge completely.

Heaps of oranges, yellows, and reds,

a shuffleboard of color underneath my girls’ curious feet –

swish, swish, whoosh!

I would delight in their laughter,

bellies, arms, and legs spreading and closing like crabs

scurrying along the shoreline.

 

But Fall is melancholia,

personified in brilliance and demise.

 

It is the opening of a door,

like the sun’s evening rays spilling in between tree branches,

joyful and full of promise:

Upside down at four at Nibley park,

swinging.

The evening sun tickling my closed eyes with a prickling yellow glow.

The colors under my eyelids, dancing.

The pungent grass and oak cross-pollinating the air.

Mom is smiling, hugging her sweater, cheeks pink against the sun.

Her eyes bright.

 

Fall is this.

But more. 

 

The permanent closing sign of a beloved café,

where you met your lover in secret and scratched your initials surreptitiously

on the far, back table.

Your Grandfather calling you, “Peanut,” and handing you buttered toast as the

October light filled the breakfast room.

The heartbreak of a child realizing

a happy moment of life

has just passed,

never to repeat itself again.

 

I embrace Fall like the prodigal son,

the return, each year,

both painful and hopeful.

Never knowing, always guessing

what’s around the corner.

 

 

Using Healing Cards in a Grad/Undergraduate University Course

The last week has been emotionally brutal for me. You may imagine that by this statement something painful or terrible has occurred in my life, but this is not the case. Instead, the turmoil I’ve experienced is from tuning into the world more closely, reading many stories – in the news and in other various sources, and being critically aware of the inequities and violence I see around me. After the Manchester bombing and the violent stabbings that occurred in Portland, Oregon on the MAX transit system, I felt my soul sink deep into a small, dark space.

The darkness incubated as my joy withdrew. I felt numb and closed in. As a mom and wife I could not retreat physically. I had to remain present even though, inside, my heart was screaming. I had to manage getting up in the morning and being there, as best I could, for my family. Luckily, their love and acceptance of me remained steady as I struggled with different emotions ranging from disbelief to anger to sadness to an unwilling acceptance.

I spent a great amount of time reflecting on the stabbing and thinking about what I would do if confronted by a similar situation. Would I have had the courage to stand up against pure hatred? Would I have placed my body between the perpetrator and those who were being attacked?

What does it mean to confront or face violence? How do we prepare ourselves to act in its presence?


I believe we need to have greater imagination in the ways we not only resist and confront violence, but also in the ways we reconceptualize the reality we want to experience. If we detest the ways people have been marginalized, hurt, violated, and oppressed, then we must go out of our way to show MORE LOVE – consciously, powerfully, and forcefully. I am not saying that we should not feel anger toward those who inflict hateful, brutal acts on others, but we should not allow this anger to fill up our hearts. We should transmute (the conscious act of converting one energy form to another) anger to a higher, more constructive energy. We should not give into energies that fuel more chaos, violence, and hatred. When we ignite only anger, we feed systems that depend on our individualized and collective separation, isolation, and marginalization. If we are focused on hate, then we are also blind to the possibilities of transmutation, reconciliation, and healing for ourselves and one another.

In this vein, in a somewhat impromptu manner, I decided to introduce an activity centered on healing and bringing peace into the world to the undergraduate and graduate students taking a special education course on “Collaboration and Consultation.” I introduced  Healing cards that students used to reflect upon the past week’s violent events. Through these reflections, they consciously transmuted violence (on a spiritual level) into peaceful and loving intention.

The following video is an excerpt from class. In the video, an explanation of how the cards can be used is explained and demonstrated. The Healing cards link will provide you with information about the artist, Pat Berberich, who created the cards as well as students’ reflective writings on the cards they chose.

With love and healing,

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Here are some examples of Pat Berberich’s healing cards and students’ responses of peaceful loving intention to counteract violence and aggression. For more examples click on the “healing cards” link above which will lead you to other students’ reflective work.

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A tempest.
A storm.
Swirling, chasing
The winds tearing up the roots of trees like the words spilling from your mouth tear up the roots of my heart.
Of my peace.
Of my calm.

Do you even know?
Do the words you spew forth leave you just as bitter as they taste when I say them to myself again later?
Or to you are they just empty threats?
Empty phrases spilling over from your own uprooted heart.
Just a continuing storm-front you’re passing on so someone else feels your pain.
Your fear.
Your terror at being so small they don’t see you
So you make sure everyone else is even smaller.

Breathe.
Step into the eye of the storm.
Embrace the calm, if only for a moment.
We see you.
I see you.
Tearing everyone and everything apart just so no one else can break it isn’t saving you.
Now you don’t have it either.

Your pain is real.
Your fear… it’s valid.
But you have to feel it to let it help you grow.
And in your growing, I promise it will shrink.
Let the love you so desperately crave show itself.
You ache for love so much it’s made you hate.
You spill the opposite of what you’re longing to be filled with.
So Open.
You can’t fill a closed vessel.
Open.
Your heart. Your mind. Your eyes.
So that the next time you open your mouth
Love is all you have left to fall out.

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DREAM

with your heart & your head

of a future with love

accompanying all words that are said

DREAM

of one people united

that care for the safety of all

a world undivided

DREAM

of healing for all…

spread the message, share the love

& change the world

Don’t Stall.

DREAM

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Every person has a story, whether it’s good or bad, everyone has something to say.  The question that needs to be asked, how or when your story will be told? When people are sitting around, how do you want them to tell your story? How do you want to be remembered? How long will your story be?

“Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.” – Octavia G. Butler