I Know Love

Dear Reader,

Delays in airports. It happens. Sometimes the unexpected happens. The fog settles in and stays for longer than anticipated and you’re grounded.

Step back to the spring semester of 2012. Call it the Year of Departures. That’s when the back and forth started. A young poet, teacher, and dreamer who couldn’t make up her mind about what she wanted to be when she grew up, let alone where she wanted to be. She wanted to have it all. No rules. No set place. Just to exist in the drift.


I’ve written this sentiment before and I’ll more than likely write it again. The journey takes you to unexpected beautiful places. Sometimes you just have to look for it. Last month my journeys took me from North Carolina to Oregon to Washington to New Mexico, and back to Colorado for work outreach, poetry performances, and public speaking engagements. It can be exhausting and tiresome traveling all the time but I will say this – we have to train our eyes to see the beautiful in everything. I’ll relate this to my recent North Carolina trip, the flight left at 7 AM, which meant leaving our hotel at 4 AM to make sure we got there on time. Distance can be more than you bargain for. Near the airport, my assistant director and I filled the rental with gas and when I’m that-kind-of-tired sometimes I can’t help but ask myself “what am I doing here?” I looked up through my tired eyes to see the street the gas station we chose was on. Dedication.

Now imagine that. Refueling on Dedication. So poetic. So Simple. Truth. To me, these little things are signs, signal posts to show you that yes, you are right where you need to be. It’s the getting up early, the sometimes-dragging-yourself from gig to gig, place to place to serve your purpose. To do what you are called to do takes Dedication. It takes heart. It takes Love. Then begs the question: shouldn’t we also train our eyes to see / notice / know Love, when we see it?

To know love, I continue to exist in the drift.

It’s no secret Dear Reader, if you’ve ever read anything I’ve ever written or had a conversation with me, you know, above all things – I believe in love. I’ve moved for love many times. Moved for a job I loved, for people I love(d) or thought I did. Just like you I’m still living and learning and I’m finally at a point in my life where I feel like I’m started to get it right more than wrong.

In the Years of Departures, I’ve started to learn and embrace the idea that you know love when you see it.

I fly so often I get to observe all kinds of people. Waiting curbside for a cab or ride from the person picking you up you get to notice the comings and goings. The faces of people during the return or the departure tell you a lot about a person. People cry hugging goodbye to loved ones. Sometimes they linger long after the person has gone inside. They sit in their cars head on steering wheel lightly sobbing before picking their heads up and glancing in the rearview mirror to fix their makeup or wipe away the tears.

Long flights and longer drives on stretches of road that often don’t have many places to pull off can exercise your mind. On the stretch from Portland to Pendleton, OR we passed a truck carrying parts of a bridge. Something about that image. The truck. The bridge. The metaphor of taking something apart that was intended for connection somehow that reminded me of a dream I’d had the night before about someone I love(d). In the dream I was about to say “I love you,” but woke up just before I could say it.

Outside of the dream I thought I had said it through action, my actions of continuing the drift.

But, like I said – journeys don’t always go the way you planned them. Sometimes the fog settles in and maybe it’s so you can stay grounded. Perhaps sometimes you’re meant to connect with others who are grounded in the same way in the same place at the same time.

Let’s call the “not-working-out” portions of our lives Wounds of Passion. You try to make something work, you try to make a connection, but sometimes someone you couldn’t see took the bridge apart. Maybe it was even you who unconsciously broke it off piece by piece to be transported to another place intended to bridge another gap with someone else. Something you didn’t even see coming.

It is now the fall of 2014. This year has become the Year of Return. The back and forth continues though not as frequently between two places as much as it is traveling all over, to unexpected places. I am still the young poet, teacher, and dreamer who couldn’t make up her mind about so many things, but I know I am getting that much closer to something beautiful, to love. The Year of Return has been a rededication to teaching, to passion, to meeting people who are also dedicated to doing and sharing what they love. The Year of Return has been training my eyes to see/know love.

“Not everyone goes to poetry readings to find love. She did.” – bell hooks


I teach poetry to find love. Sharing the passion, being unafraid to show my own wounds of passion through poetry and storytelling I think helps others find love to. We learn to love ourselves through poetry & art. In teaching poetry, in performing poetry, I’ve been drifting even more than I originally intended. But I’m learning to see the world through different eyes. Eyes that help me know love when I see it.

During one of my writing workshops I gave the following prompts: I know pain… I know joy…. I know love…. I had my students concretize the abstraction. What images, people, sights, sounds, memories, or experiences help them know – pain, joy, and love. One student had written something about knowing love through a family member drinking, seeing the bottoms of bottles. This brought the student to tears reading it. It continues to create the same emotion in me. Working with youth and teaching them poetry has helped me understand more and more how important it is for each of us to know love even in moments of pain and joy. I see that love is inextricably tied to being seen.

I feel and see love more and more how art and passion and love for all of those things can help heal people. Music, poetry, art, writing…all are ways to help us see the world in a beautiful way and they are ways we can make ourselves seen. I’ve been very fortunate this year to cross paths multiple times with fellow performers and artists. One group of performers I have seen continually heal people and communities through their music.

One of my friends/colleagues asked me “what do you all talk about when you see them?” We talk about so many things. We laugh. We tease. We joke. We can get into really in depth conversations about life. I won’t divulge specifics in what we all talk about (that is a shared special place) but I will say, I think they’re teaching me even more about love in ways I cannot fully fathom just yet. Through their passion and love for what they do and who it is for, their understanding of the music/art/craft being about something more….all of that further inspires me to love what I am able to do as a poet and writer even more. They help me even better understand the responsibilities of handling and using the gifts we’ve been given. It is further training me to see Love and I will say that knowing them has helped me be a better teacher, leader, mentor, and director who serves the youth, students, and people I work with.

Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Today is about remembering and celebrating our continued resilience. I think about all of our ancestors and those before us who sacrificed their lives to make our living possible. I know love in that sacrifice. I know love in making sure we continue with our traditions and culture for those who will follow us. I know love through loving intensely & passionately.

I know it through continuing to exist in the drift, through struggling. Love is never easy. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, more than I’m happy to admit but that doesn’t stop me from putting myself out there to make love possible, and most importantly, to make doing what I love & living a life I love unapologetically possible.

I wish the same for you on your own journey to love and loving. So I’ll end with saying Dear Reader, I hope you know love when you see it.

I see you.

Be Someone’s North Star, Create Something Beautiful

Dear Reader,

There are some things we can never plan for. This we know. There are so many songs about time moving on with our without us, about love, about love being lost, about losing ourselves and maybe (if we’re lucky) finding a way back into love.

I’ve written this. I’ve written things like this so many times when I lay awake at night the lines transcribe themselves onto the nerves of my brain trying to rewire it not to grieve or need when all I want to do is move forward with time. I’ve written this in my dreams where I travel back in time trying to conjure sense into senseless acts, when I create alternate endings. But, thankfully I always wake up.

Time is meant to bend, a paper we fold in half onto itself such that the past ever so lightly kisses the present. We meet in the middle, somewhere in the soft indentations, the creases.

18 years ago I entered my first poetry contest. 18 years ago I wrote in response to Anne Frank’s Diary, a holocaust, and so began my path of writing into grief. I write it this way purposefully so I’ll type it again – I write into grief. Like singing, in order to do it well you practice, work to increase your range, and rather than sing at each note, you sing through them. At least this is the way I’ve learned it. And the way I’ve learned about grief and how to grieve and about and how to heal didn’t come from looking at it as if examining it from the periphery, no….grieving and the healing that follows only came by walking into it barefoot, skin exposed ready to step on all the jagged rocks, shards, and objects I needed in order to make it


Two weeks ago my mother had me clean out my closest, bins of clothes, trinkets, and memorabilia I kept from my childhood and college years. Things happen for a reason. In unpacking, unfolding clothes and papers that I’d written notes on I see time crossing over.


I found the poetry contest certificate. In a year where my path has taken me further and farther away from poetry a reminder; what has been in my bones, hidden deep in the marrow has always been writing to make sense of the world. Sometimes you just need to find it again.

IMG_20140819_135447559In those bins were other things I needed to find. 7 years ago, I was a “Poet Bound for Oxford” Everything was going how I had always planned it should until the unplanned happened. We lost a friend. Some lost a brother. Others a son or grandson. And I…well back then I thought I lost a friend, someone I loved, and I did lose and love him, but looking back through the lens of these 7 years I realize I also lost my naivety, my security in the world, my assuredness about things. I slipped, lost my footing.

I lost my place. And yet I found myself throughout these 7 years so I wonder. Is it possible to be losing and finding yourself at the same time? Or does finding true self involve losing parts of yourself that need to be let go of?

IMG_20140813_233706247Since we’ve buried our friend I’ve been back to his home once for a memorial basketball tournament. His grandma gave me a jacket I found in those bins and just like that…the link between object and memory. Events I had tucked away in drawers in my mind came flying out.

Two weeks ago I found physical, tangible things, a pair of his sunglasses I’d held onto and pictures I need to return to his family. But during these 7 years I’ve also found the intangible, the barely explainable. Nearly one year ago I gave a TED talk about all of this… about how I hope to help others find healing by sharing my story. I believe in the power of stories to save lives.

This summer one of my students was experiencing grief around an event similar to mine. The hardest thing in my work is seeing my students cry, but as she described her situation and asked me how I dealt with similar emotions…it struck me, I knew the words to say because I’d been to similar places in my own grieving process. Somehow it all made sense to me because I was able to be there for her.

She needed my voice and words then just as much as I needed hers. We need our stories and we need our voices if anything to help us feel less alone in the world and to create connection.

Here it is.

I’d been wanting to write about these things, about suicide, about what I’ve learned and my impending trip back up to visit my friend’s grave, and how I am finally going to let go of things I’ve been holding on to for so long. I wanted to somehow tie it into what so many had experienced with the loss of Robin Williams. But, so much had already been said. With what happened we see how much one person can influence the lives of others and perhaps we can never fully know what another person on this earth is going through.

There are a lot of things I still don’t know. I am still young. I am still learning. But as a young poet writing you this letter dear Reader, I know that everything I’ve been through has made me the strong woman I am today. Working and interacting with the people I do today continually teaches me that words have the ability to harm but also uplift others. Words strung together into story have the power of creation within them. So let’s all harness that power. Create something beautiful. 

I’ll leave you with words from my friend Marlon’s essay that I am going to publish soon because I think it speaks to all of us. I hope his message (and mine) speaks to you. If you are ever in doubt, remember: 

“We need your voice, be someone’s north star. If not for someone else, do it for yourself. Because we are still inventing ways to tell your story, and adjectives, and endings. Stay with us.

I need you.”

Pharrell Respectful of Native Americans-Really? by Tanaya Winder, Maggie Hundley and Jennie Stockle

Dear Reader,


I know this isn’t front page news anymore, but the issues raised by musician Pharrell posing on the cover of Elle in a headdress still remain. Sure it gets twitter or FB or Native news networks media attention for a little while, but then it falls by the wayside until someone decides to do something stupid once again and tries to play it off by calling it honor. When does the cultural appropriation end?  So some of us get offended by these kinds of disrespectful acts; why does any of this matter?

I never studied Ethnic Studies and barely have the “academic” language to deconstruct the power structures and oppression embedded in what really happens when someone puts a headdress on their head or dresses up like an Indian for Halloween or at a sporting event where the mascot is an Indian. I studied writing, which I suppose in a way means I studied how to communicate and how to deconstruct some of that communication. I got a BA in English from Stanford and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico. At UNM I taught rhetoric. I relearned and taught my students how to employ persuasive techniques like ethos, pathos, and logos. I taught them to think about the intent and purpose of what they’re writing and how that should inform the choice of the form (essay, poem, proposal, memo, analysis, synthesis essay, etc) they were employing to serve that purpose. Equally important, I taught them to think about the audience (who they’re message, essay, writing) is intended for.

When I think of people at the themed Cowboys and Indians frat parties or people who wear headdresses at Coachella and now apparently on magazine covers, I can’t help but ask myself who do these people and editors think is the audience? Obviously, it isn’t us, Native Americans.

This is where my worry, anger, and the importance of why come in to play. In addition to writing, teaching as an adjunct professor, and running my own literary magazine, I also serve as the Director for an Upward Bound program that works specifically with youth from 8 different states, 22 different high schools, and more than a dozen reservations/rural areas. I love my job. I love working with youth. If you’ve followed these letters then you’ll know more about all of the reasons why I do what I do and love what I am blessed to do. But in my line of work there is also fear. I fear for the world we are sending our young Native youth into where their issues aren’t taken seriously and when the only people putting out images of Natives are non-ones putting out harmful stereotypical images that they know nothing about. To all of those people: Some things aren’t meant for you. Period.

I get to travel quite often performing poetry and serving as a motivational speaker. In some of my workshops I’ll do prompts where we name fears. At least once every workshop a young person writes “White People” as his or her fear. This never fails. This never fails to break my heart. I can understand part of the reasons why.

As I said before I don’t have an academic background in these areas. Unlike some of my friends and colleagues, I do not have a PhD in Education or Ethnic Studies. What I know about all of these subjects comes from experience. My experiences teaching Ethnic Studies at UNM, working with & education not only college students but our Native youth, and my own lived experiences as a woman of color all inform my worldview. So while I may not have the same language to talk about what happens when Pharrell puts on a headdress, I do know in my gut that it is wrong.

I know that I want my future children and all of the youth I work with to feel empowered. I know that this empowerment wont’ come from seeing headdresses on non-natives at Coachella or on magazine covers. It won’t come from seeing numerous Pocahotties on Halloween. I know it wont’ come from me writing this blog. I know it won’t come from us in the way we think it will. Empowerment comes from within and I know we need to be focused on creating a world where that empowerment & growth can exist for our youth to succeed and survive with pride in this ever-changing world.

So when things like Pharrell wearing a headdress come up I am driven to words. I am compelled to write. Thanks to the Twitter world and Social Media I was able to connect with some really amazing people. At the time of the Pharrell incident I virtually met Maggie Hundley and Jennie Stockle. Together we compiled the following blog initially published on Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry 


Pharrell’s Apology:

(a poem by Tanaya Winder using 23 song titles of Pharrell’s songs)

Call that an apology?

You must be frontin’Maybe that kind of apology flies when you’re Just A Cloud Away from Ignorance. When you put some commercialized version of Indigeneity on your head check The MessageThe Game Has Changed from where people who blindly culturally appropriate just get away with it. Sad thing is it ain’t Brand New; people have been dehumanizing us for years. We’ve strengthened our numbers and whenever this happens we rally. We write, organize, and fight to advocate for truth and we Know Who You Are – someone trying to monopolize our culture by commercializing us with your Show You How To Hustle mentality thinking you’ve got that Swagger International personality. I’m halfway done so Stay With Me – the Number 1 thing to remember is that we are real. We exist. We are more than just some ancient relics or a Gust of Wind. We are still Hunter and gatherer; we carry resilience in one fist and truth in the other. So Come Get It Bae and give – respect. Can I Have It Like That? I think we’ve earned just that. To be respected. Don’t appropriate something you know nothing about. A feather is a badge of honor, each represents an act of bravery.  So when you think  You Can Do It Too just because you want to don’t expect us to be Happy or Smile because you’re wrong. And when we ask you to Take It Off your headHow Does It Feel? I can only hope that you and everyone else who tries to ‘play indian’ by putting on a costume looks in the media mirror and thinks two words: Despicable Me.

So if that’s your apology, naw, go ahead and Keep It Playa. This Young Girl only has 7 words left for you – I’ve got my culture Where’s Yours At?

Pharrell Williams apologized for his ELLE magazine cover with him in a Native American head dress saying, “I respect and honor every kind of race, background and culture. I am genuinely sorry.” It is not the first time apologetic people or businesses whose actions disrespect Native Americans say they respect everyone. Some think they actually respect money and ego more. Doing something controversial to make headlines and add to name recognition is the easy way fulfill the old adage, “all press is good press.”

Despicable-is a great word for what is happening with this Native headdress wearing/mocking trend, and ironic in the Pharrell incident considering his current big hit Happy is featured in the Hollywood blockbusterDespicable Me 2. The actions of these people and companies attack Native American culture and innocent families. Native American culture has been so overtly exploited that people in this country can’t see real human beings-real Native Americans anymore, just perverse mockeries of our people and culture. It is so ubiquitous and harmful that it is having real psychologically negative impacts on Native students.

Persons, like Pharrell, and businesses, like ELLE, are exposing innocent Native children to bullying, scapegoating, and culturally hostile environments by the actions they make popular and get money from doing. Native American families are turning off the radios to his music and vowing to never buy ELLE. They should realize any moral compass that excludes Native Americans will taint anything they touch. Many people in the broader public may one day have no use for such profiteering by monopolizing how Native Americans are portrayed in mainstream by excluding open Indigenous people.

Pharrell is such a big name, and he is so popular in the music and entertainment industry – he is a trendsetter. So, what has saddened many Native Americans is that appropriation displayed on the cover of ELLE, also internationally popular and trendsetting, is going to be emulated the world over. Pharrell and ELLE are telling the world it is “okay” to “play Indian”. They are endorsing wholesale erasure of Native voices and culture. Pharrell has planted a seed that will sprout more and more current and future appropriators, because he is so famous.

The nonapologies are harmful because they do nothing to get to the root of the problem and shift blame from the appropriator BACK to American Indians. Now it is on us to try and convince the world that we are worthy of better treatment because Pharrell, and Fallin, and Stefani, and Coyne, and Cyrus, and…the list goes on…”apologized”. Then the real issues get lost after this blame-shifting because then the hate comes out, the blood quantum stuff comes out, the “I’m part-Indian too and I don’t find it offensive” stuff comes out when we are defending our culture and children by trying to convince people THIS IS NOT OKAY AND NEVER WILL BE.

As people, mothers and teachers, involved with youth for years one mindset to maintain is “separate the person from the act”. If a kid makes a mistake it doesn’t make them a bad person, but the action was wrong, the choice to make the action wrong. If you apply the same line of thinking and separate Pharrell’s-Miley’s-Stefani’s mistaken choices from them as people, some people can say, yea perhaps they are not bad people. But, in their apologies they apologize for their mistake without getting to the heart of why. When kids make a mistake getting to the root of it …why was this behavior wrong or inappropriate? is very important. None of these stars/famous people take the time to get to the root of why their actions were inappropriate and offensive. Why not?-because with stardom comes privilege, the privilege to just get by doing whatever-the-heck-you-want half the time. But it is dangerous, more dangerous than they all even realize.

Tanaya Winder Personal story:

            I remember as a child watching Charlene Teter’s documentary about “In Whose Honor”.Coming from the rez I’d never seen anyone “dress up” as a Native American. I wasn’t even in the stadium where Teter’s saw people “playing Indian” and it still struck my core. My young girl self felt somehow “less than” human in that moment. Later, I went to attend Stanford University (a school whose former mascot was an Indian) and would still see people wearing Stanford Indian shirts.

Halloween was the worst. I’d never seen so many people dress up like “Indian Princesses” or the Pocahotties. I’d never seen this growing up on my reservation. We were a tri-ethnic community full of Latinos, Natives, and White people. Maybe it was that my community and peers knew better. Maybe it was because they knew we were real people. I thought at a world class institution that these “educated” people would know better. Now living in Boulder, Colorado, Halloween still involves numerous drunks dressing up as “Indians”. I take instances where people simply “put on a headdress” because they fell like it or who knows why they do that (I still can’t figure it out) as an act of dehumanization. It strips us of our identity when the action of them putting it on by placing feathers on their head makes it seem that anyone can become “Native” through dress up. And now it isn’t just the sports arena or the Halloween Holiday it’s making its way into music and the cover of magazines.

The entire act of cultural appropriation is much more harmful when people take things so lightly. When our culture is stripped and slapped onto some cover because it looks cool or would sell more. It goes back to questioning the action. What is the intent? If the intent is to honor us, not sell magazines, then-why not reflect more about how you think that would be honoring us Pharrell? People should think about how a child feels when they see someone who hasn’t earned the right to wear a headdress places one on their head. Think about people putting on a costume and saying “I’m Native”, and how that makes someone who is still young and developing and growing feels.

The odds are already stacked against us in this society. No matter what others say, the statistics prove otherwise. When we are condensed to a symbol, to a colorful feathered headdress, it reduces us to one image. We as Native people are many tribes, many images, and much, much more deserving than having to sit back and watch other people act from ignorance and not think about the consequences.

The following closing poem for Native American youth was a collaboration between Tanaya Winder [visit her website here!] and her twitter followers:

Dear Children,

When You See Someone Dressed Up “Native” On a Magazine Cover Remember These Things:


That being Native American is more than just what you wear.

But should you see someone “Playing Native” with cultural appropriation wearing fake buckskin or a feathered headdress you tell them

You know what it means to wear a headdress when you think about sacrifice. The sacrifices our ancestors made to hold on to what was left, of our tribesmen who still fight overseas for our country

That each feather on a headdress was meant to represent an act of bravery; our own badge of honor.

You know honor. You know it enough to know that it doesn’t come from someone dressing up like you, pretending they can look like you by putting something fake and untrue on their heads.

Telling us they’re doing it out of honor or respect,

to honor you to respect you- how?

Your ancestors were true warriors who suffered to evade conquest and when pillagers try to rape and reap from our culture, Remember that we come from a long line of resilience embodied in your spirit.

The battle and the struggle continue.

Even if you struggle with the reflection in the mirror because the media never who look like you beautiful, Remember your are beautiful.

Remember that we don’t dress up for cultural vultures looking to claim something that wasn’t-isn’t-ain’t-ever-gonna-be-theirs, so if they tell you that you should “shut up” “bear it” or “focus on the REAL issues” like alcoholism, poverty, or apathy

Tell them you have “no apathy, hear”. We can focus on all of those issues but no one outside of our community hears. They’re too busy with their tomahawk chops and cheers wondering if the look hot in their feathers and skinny jeans. And before we can discuss the issues outside our walls we need to be taken seriously as modern human beings, not vague relics.

Remember that you are not a novelty. You are not meant to be fetishized or romantized or continuously commercialized.

Remember that you can be anything you want to be, maybe one day we’ll have the honor of representing ourselves and our own culture in movies or on the cover of a magazine.

So the next time you see someone “Playing Indian” or dressing up in something not intended for them you tell them.

That you forgive them for believing we are relics of the past, that we forgive them for not seeing us. Say something like that and then just walk away. These kind of battles can be fought on other days because

in your heart you know – truth.



Peace be the Journey and I just want to be….

Dear Reader,

I hope this letter finds you well. On my end, I am quite tired. While I still consider myself a young poet and endeavor to write to you on a more consistent basis it remains a difficult task. Life, as it is, continues to get in the way. I suppose we all use the “I forgot” or “I got too busy” as excuses now and again. I’m hoping to commit to carving out more time for goals, ambitions, and relationships that matter to me.

I will say though that peace is indeed in the journey. I’ve written about my frequent flights, but I am also very blessed in that I get to drive many places as well. A few weeks ago my journey took me to the west coast. I met a former student for a chat to catch up on how things were going. She’d told me about a recent loss her family had experienced, how it was like I said (in my TED talk) that you wonder what the last words you said to someone were. She knew hers.

I know this. Sometimes Life hits you right smack on top of the head so that you open your eyes just a little wider and you see…connections, unspoken ripples that you had no idea you created when you initially uttered your own truths.

I’d had no idea she watched my talk. No idea it contained words that she held onto and I continue to hold onto that moment where I was reminded of our power as people, as poets, as humans to weave our stories together with others. Perhaps this rope holds all of us up when we need to reach out to have someone (or something) to hold onto.

And then it continues. Was it already two weeks ago Dear Reader that I was able to open a concert for a young talented and truly inspiring Indigenous hip hop artist? I strongly believe in the power of words, in putting good wishes, thoughts, and prayers out into the universe. Faith is believing it will happen in its time and wow, was I honored, shocked, humbled, and grateful for that opportunity. For that connection. He’d said something to me in a conversation at dinner that he felt most alive when he was performing. The artist / dreamer / believer in me relates. I get it. It is the same with me. And shouldn’t it be that way with all of us? You feel most alive when sharing the gifts you’ve been given. Isn’t that honoring the life you’ve been given. I think so. I think the world would be a better place if we all found and practiced our passions.

The universe continues to unfold in the most beautiful ways. I see it everyday and sometimes, when I’m lucky, I run into it in unexpected places. But more on that soon, Dear Reader. I need some sleep and I suspect you do too.

with gratitude,


I Kissed a Stranger (and I liked it)

Dear Reader:

It was the kind of meet-cute you expect in romantic comedies, the kind that occurs in those old-school black-and-white films about an old-school-kind-of-love that we just don’t see anymore. Remember Casablanca when Humphrey Bogart’s character talks about meeting Ingrid Bergman’s, he says, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” But those meet-cute in-person meet-ups just don’t happen all too often and those kind of films just don’t get made anymore.

Nowadays people meet online. I’ve even heard about relationships starting by someone ‘liking’ or ‘favoriting’ someone’s pictures on instagram. There’s nothing wrong with that. We are all (at some level) looking for love.

But what places are we looking for love in and where? It seems like the search used to be more than a simple click on someone’s profile, pic, or scrolling through image after image in the latest dating app. Is it now old school to remember when it seemed like finding love was more of an act of fate, a conscious effort to engage in conversation in the moment? Say you missed your bus, the one you took every day for the past 10 years to work, but that day… that day you overslept spilled coffee on your shirt had to change and were forced to take the next one. The only seat on that bus was next to someone you couldn’t help but converse with as if you felt compelled by a greater force to engage in a conversation with that person. Immediately you connect with someone you would’ve never met if it hadn’t been for being late. Enter Fate.

Perhaps these two examples of an online and in-person meeting aren’t all that different. After all, the online relationship usually leads to meeting in person. We adapt to the times; we evolve in love. But oh Dear Reader, I long(ed) for those old school acts of love & fate.

Nearly two weeks ago I kissed a stranger.

Two weeks prior, I’d been reading and teaching about love. My students read theory and essays from bell hooks. Students were most moved by bell’s essay “The Practice of Love.” They’d never read or learned that love existed in this way, as a means of humanizing or creating social change. Love existed in the “ing” in the act. It was process. They responded that the media seeks to primarily promote a hallmark version of love signed, sealed, and delivered with messages of lust / physicality / materialistic and a selfish emotional side of love. LOVE is so much more. Love is a vehicle for change. Love promotes self-care, self-worth, self-love. Love for others. Love is all encompassing.

I choose to teach “The Practice of Love” because love is (and should be) just that, a practice. It takes work. You make mistakes. You learn from them. You grow. You employ and practice it daily because it doesn’t just come to you. Commitment. Acknowledgement of the time and effort needed to put into it. It is ironic and beautiful and crazy and crazy-beautiful that in my own practice of love, I encountered it in a most unexpected place – up in the air.

I hopped on a plane to Boston to participate in an event called Rise-Up: A Celebration. I was flying to support a friend who put together the event out of love for community, health, and self. I was flying out of and for love.

I fly all the time. Lately, I fly more than one person should. On this flight in particular I thought I definitely wasn’t looking my best. My wild curly hair. No make-up. Probably bags under my eyes from lack of sleep. I always sit next to the window. I like to watch the ascent, descent, watch the ground as we jerk in the landing. Falling asleep leaning against the window posed a likely possibility. A not-so-nice lady sat in the aisle. Frustrated, she angrily threw her items into the middle seat complaining about no overhead space. I hoped someone would sit between us. I didn’t need the negative energy. As the plane began to fill up in true Southwest fashion, the middle seats were all that was left.

I looked up to see one of the most handsome and beautiful men I’ve ever seen. I smiled, blushed, and then looked away. To my surprise he sat between the not-so-nice lady and myself. In my true fashion Dear Reader, I fell asleep. Thankfully I woke up during the free beverage service. Not-so-nice lady went to the restroom at which point I thanked the handsome & beautiful man for sitting between us. Connection.

From the moment our mouths opened we never stopped talking the entire 2.5 hours flight. It was one of the most invigorating conversations I’ve ever had. I won’t go into details about the conversation but I will say it made me believe in love. It – him – the situation – the stories & beliefs shared – all of it. I thought like Cinderella “so this is love,” at least part of it in that energy exchange that I’ve only had once before in my lifetime. It was a moment of soul. In that moment I felt compelled to rest my head on his shoulder. He grabbed my hand and we existed like that into the descent. As he walked me to my gate carrying my luggage like a gentleman, we both agreed. Best.Plane.Ride.Ever. We hugged each other and I looked up at him. “Don’t look at me like that…it makes me want to kiss you,” as he stared into my eyes. I still can’t believe I responded, “Maybe I want you to.” And he did. We gently kissed twice before he left me smiling at my gate.

Now if you know me, Dear Reader as I expect you must by now, you know that this is totally out of character for me. But in that moment I thought “maybe I met the man I’m going to marry” or at least a version of him. I felt in my gut that no matter how it ends, even if I never hear from him again, even if our connection was destined to last only those brief hours experiences like that happen once in a blue moon, experiences like that should end in a kiss. I’d also taught Chela Sandoval’s Methodology of the Oppressed in his chapter “Love as a Hermeneutics of Social Change” Sandoval writes: “the language of lovers can puncture through everyday narratives that tie us to social time and space…” I was existing in the drift.

Two weeks ago I kissed a person I’d only known a matter of hours. Two weeks ago I once again believed in the power of love(ing). A little more than a week ago TIME released a video “20 Strangers Were Asked to Kiss for the First Time and It Was Strangely Beautiful.” They wrote that a first kiss could be magical. I agree. I believe all connections are magic. Tonight during my most recent flight I watched two strangers across the aisle from me immediately engage in conversation. I drifted into sleep and woke in the descent just as the man said to the woman, “You know, I don’t even know your name. Hi, I’m ….” and she said “I’m …….nice to meet you.” It was nice to witness. Each day, whenever I log onto Facebook it asks me “what is your relationship status?” I don’t select an option. I never feel single or alone. I am always surrounded by love. Love is one’s existence, action, belief, hope. I believe in and aspire to incorporate love into my life daily.

It was fate – me flying to Boston to perform at an event, him looking for houses in the state I was flying from; him not knowing a single person there. It was just like a movie – a remake of An Affair to Remember. Of all seats in all the planes in all the airports in all the destinations in the world – he sat next to me.

The True Revolution: It Was All A Dream….

Dear Reader:

One of my favorite quotes is from a poem by Nikki Giovanni. She writes “and if ever I touched a life I hope that life knows that I know that touching was and still is and will always be the true revolution.” To me, this is truth. We are put on this earth to connect, empower, support, help, and love each other.

I hope your 2014 is starting out with life, energy, and light. In 2013 I actually got to meet Ms. Giovanni. I got to shake her hand and get her autograph on my collection of “Love Poems” It was a great year. 2013 was a big year for us all personally and professionally. One venture I’ve put a lot of time, energy, and heart into is a literary magazine I help run called As/Us: A Space for Women of the World. We publish writing by Indigenous women and women of color around the world. We also get to publish our male allies and women supporters in two issues a year.

I remember when it was just an idea we had, a dream. We dreamt of uniting voices by women of color to create community. Because of community, people sharing, supporting in person and by word of mouth we’ve managed to get the journal viewed in 129 countries around the world and counting. My neurotic self used to check our magazine FB page every day seeing if we could get over 200 likes….when I wasn’t looking somehow it is now over 700. I think the best things happen like what…when you’re not looking.

I remember as a young woman I used to search for meaning, for place, for belonging. I always felt like I never belonged. My mom always said that was a good thing because the seekers are the ones who go out searching; they are destined to find themselves out there and create change. I’ve been searching a lot time and I finally found myself in writing, in words, in art. I fell in love with poetry because it helped me make sense of things, the world, experiences, and myself.

Since then I’ve been blessed to make other writer/artist friends, but most of all, most importantly and what I hold most dear to my heart….our youth. I have been able to work with 100+ Native youth from over 8 different states, 13 different reservations and more. I find we are all searching for experiences, meaning, for love.

All of this matters because there are so many organizations and people who create spaces where people can come together for common causes. We do this with our magazine. We hope to continue to always provide a space for voices to share their experiences, to find each other, to find the words they’ve been searching for.

We’re on the last day of our Reach the Rez fundraiser that will help us get more issues of As/Us out into our communities, schools, and reservations. I’ve heard that when you walk through a door of opportunity you don’t shut it behind you, you hold it open for others to follow through. This is Us holding open the door to art, literature, creativity, and passion for those who will follow.

If you have already donated to our cause, purchased issues in the past, or helped us set up readings… I thank you from the bottom of my heart. If you have any funds to spare today please donate what you can http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/reach-the-rez-campaign If you don’t have funds today you can always support us at a later date by purchasing issues from us online or in person.
May we all find what we need in this life and help others find what they need to. Thank you for your journey. Dear Reader, I am glad our lives have crossed paths in this life. Thanks for continuing to live, dream, to be. It really was all a dream, a seed that was planted in our hearts that is beginning to come into fruition. I hope we always live our lives like that… as dreamers. “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…” I know you all are out there too.
with love
A Young Poet
visit with SUIT academy pic 2