Hearts in Talons

I know there are owls here. I’m looking into the tops of the evergreens; no self-respecting owl would roost in the bare deciduous trees this time of year.


I’ve been looking for the large, I mean seriously small-dog-sized-large–shape of a great horned owl. But a friend of mine said that she saw a little owl on Seattle University’s campus a couple weeks ago and I know that western screech owls are common here too.


There’s a snag by my altar boulder that has been pitted by woodpeckers and would be a perfect home for screech owl.


At any rate I just want to see them kill something.


Really, I’m that angry. I’m so so angry and I don’t know why.


I say this to my colleague on the way to a client meeting and she says she is angry too. Tells me a story about telling her neighbor’s mother-in-law that she is racist and her handyman that he is sexist. She uses more words than that. But she has the conversations. When that moment happens, that the person you know, or sort of know, or love, says something that makes the fist around your heart seize like a mouse in owl talons because you know it is wrong.


My old friend Liz and I had drinks a few weeks ago, and I told her about a circle I had facilitated a few days before.


It started with an allies circle, where I read a list of statements about the experience of being a woman. The statements started small:

·      I have had someone tell me to smile more.

·      I’ve been catcalled.

·      I’ve been complimented on my looks while the men in the room were complimented on their brains.


There were 25 people in the room, people from a department I’d been working with for more than a year to address gender disparities in the culture...That’s such jargon. Sexism. SEXISM. But when I look at the word, I want to go back to the jargon, to make room for the men to not be villains and I know at least part of that is the role I’ve been taught - to protect men -  but it’s also that I know that villainizing is a sure sign that you are still writing the same fucking story. And I know these men. I’ve seen them open their hearts over the past year, and seen them step up.


Speaking of stepping up, that’s how an allies’ circle works. The guide reads the statement, and everyone who feels that the statement is true for them steps in. And the other people stand, and offer their silent regard and support and witness.


We started with those small statements. And built to

·      I have been groped by a stranger.

·      I have been groped by a man I knew but it was so subtle that I didn’t know what to do.


Picture the women stepping in to the center of the circle and some of the men.


·      I’ve had a man make eye contact with my chest and not my eyes.

·      I’ve had a man make eye contact with my chest and not my eyes and said something to the effect of “my eyes are up here.”

·      I am regularly interrupted by men who interrupt other men much less.

·      I’ve experienced a man stepping up and offering support when I needed it.


Picture the women stepping in and the men witnessing


·      I have a friend or family member who has been abused or raped.

·      When a man walks behind me at night I am totally aware of exactly where he is, and what my escape routes are because I am afraid of being assaulted.


Picture almost all of the women stepping in.


But there was a moment that eclipsed all that… or maybe it was the result. A moment when a woman across from me explained so poignantly what it’s like to feel that, all of the time, and manage it, suppress it, keep it together. And the woman next to me connecting with her, like a laser, saying Yes. And somehow communicating the cost of that, every day, the cost of keeping all those dogs at bay.


How did I get here from owls?


Ah. Yes. I was telling my friend Liz about the allies’ circle. About how brave the women were, and how profoundly I loved the men who showed up for it.


I was going to tell you about the trick she taught me for speaking up, in those moments when someone you know, or hardly know, or love, says some racist or sexist shit.


But now, remembering the men, who watched and listened and didn’t let their shame eclipse their witnessing, I feel less angry. I feel less like watching owls kill things and more like flying... Remembering that allies circle, I remember that I love, and the fist is not quite so tight.


So I think I’ll stay on that. Hold these cards, hearts showing, in my talons for the night. And share that trick tomorrow.