Catastrophic Events, Reverberating Impacts and Serendipity Ripples

On December 5th, I was decorating the sanctuary space at Shared Ground in preparation for the first ever Fractal Praxis Mass, to take place December 7th. In doing so, I was also browsing for music that might fit into the mass. And for the first time I listened to this song, Mo Ghile Mear.

The Fractal Praxis mass did not happen two days later. Because in that time, my dog became severely ill. After two trips to the emergency vet, I learned she had a bacterial infection that was causing her organs severe distress. I promptly brought her to the low-cost hospital run by the amazing folks at Planned Pethood. I was forced to release my visions and hopes for the Fractal Praxis mass for the time being, even though I had toiled night and day to get everything ready in time.

The sermon was all about Resilience and disturbance, and Truth and beauty. About how disturbance creates resilience by surfacing unintegrated truth, and how grappling with truth produces beauty.

On Monday December 19, I learned that a beloved being, a brilliant light of a person, the warmest of hearts and the shiniest of minds, who brightened the lives of everyone she met with her presence, was tragically and suddenly taken from us. She was riding her bike home. And was struck and killed by a vehicle.

For several years, years ago, I considered her my best friend. Truth be told, she was a lot of people's best friend. She was best friend material. Her name was Ainslie O'Neil.

I cannot express to you all the memories I have accumulated over the years indelibly imprinted with Ainslie's unforgettable presence. She was without comparison. I was fortunate to organize alongside her, facilitate alongside her, learn and teach alongside her, dance and cook and hike and snowshoe and show-go and clothes-swap and share vulnerably and yurt-trip in her gracious presence. She made me feel seen, loved, desired, and like I really belonged, before and beyond almost anyone else did here in Denver. I will cherish these memories like precious gems. As I adored her. And all of us did. To lose her this way is horrifying. She deserved to live the longest, fullest, richest life of any of us.

Monday we grieved. Hard and long and together. Hours of tears and tissues and wails. Stacks of coconut water. Candles lit. Photographs gripped. Drums and ukeleles played. Blankets wrapped around selves. Hugs and hugs and hands on holding while grief wracked our bodies. Swaying and swirling in a circle around a yoga mat altar for Ainslie in the middle of the space where she practiced with us.

Yesterday evening, I was again preparing the sanctuary space for an event: tonight's Winter Solstice community ritual space. Today, that event will go on, unlike last time. Late last night after that, I saw that a friend had texted a song on a shared chat in memorium of Ainslie. He described the song as being written from the point of view of the earth grieving. "That some lives are so powerful and strong even the earth itself mourns their passing."

I began listening, and about 30 seconds in, I realized it was the same exact song I had heard for the first time 2 weeks ago, standing in the sanctuary, saturating in its sounds.

And both times, invariably, I would be weeping. Weeping well.

This time, murmuring "How could it be?" under my breath.

How could it be. This wonderful and weird entanglement of time. The sacred net braiding together one another. Of our distress, shared and sensed, unspoken, even before the scope of the mess and horror is known. Of our intuitions—not knowing the significance of one thing until another thing happens. Of the strange resonances (if not patterns) that write themselves into our lives like cosmic waves, synchronicities, emanating from the wonder at the center of the centerless universe.

It is centerless because it is all entangled with itself, with one another. Though some people, some connections, may feel like the center of our own worlds.

via Gfycat

The ripple of almost losing my dog, then suddenly losing Ainslie. The ripple of having to abruptly release both of my first two signature offerings, the pilots of Fractal Praxis mass and Fractal Praxis purge church, in the same month, both times due to sudden illness and sudden loss, following years of incubating these offerings. The matching of one big loss with another loss, in the form of chosen relationship—letting go of what doesn't serve when the capacity gap is pressed into apparentness by a sudden crisis. Bless how grief surfaces what really matters, and lets other things suddenly burn off whose time it is to die, too.

I think about the affinity of shape here. A vehicle driving fast hit Ainslie with such impact that her life was so cruelly and quickly cut short.

The impact didn't stop there. How could it? The impact carries on through waves of space and time, rippling as collateral damage to all the beings who comprised Ainslie and who Ainslie comprised. It swells and reverberates, setting off chain reactions of impact, impact, impact, the blow not even losing power as it moves through, throughout the network of family, loved ones, friends, community, who held her so close. People are struck over and over upon receiving the news. Like waves the impact spreads and disseminates into a wide pool of disturbance.

We feel the crushing hurt in our own chests.

We feel the weight of this new reality bearing heavy upon our bones, bending low our shoulders in sobs of grief.

We feel how unacceptable this new reality is to integrate, just as it was to Ainslie's own beloved body.

We feel parts of ourselves must die, are dying... the parts that were so sure and so glad that we would get to see this radiant being of a person in person again.

Matching the troughs of these sad impacts, there are crests. The tidal surges of community love and caring and checking-in and coming-together and hugging and eye-gazing that have wrapped around and encompassed me twice now in quick succession: first, with my dog's illness, and now, for the loss of Ainslie.

Yesterday, my dog Duffy came home from the hospital, almost fully recovered. Pieces being picked up over here, even as they fall apart more over there. I am grateful to embrace her tender warm body, even as she seems rightfully clueless about why the rest of us seem to be in such distress.

Disturbances are, by definition, disorganizing. In the wake of disturbance, all the pieces are fragmented, shattered, often scattered by the blow. Here are some notes on what's still standing, and what is swept aside into unrecognizability, in this moment.

The Yule community ritual space at Shared Ground will go on tonight. Please come if you would like to be held in this moment. There will also be an invitation to access the dedicated altar space for Ainslie in the adjacent room.

Purge Church, set to occur on Friday, December 30th, is officially postponed. Although such a space would have been amazing to channel deep raw rage and grief for Ainslie, it coincides with the date the family has chosen for a memorial service. Instead, the following night, at the New Year's Eve party at Shared Ground, we will have an honorary dance party for Ainslie.

Even as I write such a line, I burst out crying. Because this shouldn't be true. It shouldn't be true that Ainslie won't be there dancing, smiling, grooving, moving and hugging right alongside us that night. As one of my friends said, "this is a very non-consensual reality" we're now inhabiting.

A world has ended. A world with Ainslie in it. And that feels so wrong. All of our worlds are crashing down right now, and being reorganized.

Life is resilient. Most of the time, because it must be.

I may not try to pick up the pieces just yet. I may just let them rest where they lie. Or see what the winds and tides of time make with them.

Perhaps I will rest on all Fractal Praxis work, videos and newsletters, too, until the dawning of a new year.

When the onslaughts come without spacing, one on top of the other, loss and hardship and loss and confusion and strain like a layer cake of pain... when there is no time for integration, we must protect ourselves. We must be careful not to let ourselves become too fragmented, too disorganized.  Too much disorganization of our intrinsic order, our aliveness, is the very definition of what we call "death."

Tend yourself. Hold yourself well. Pick up the pieces when and if you're able. Repair them if you choose and if you're able. More importantly, when you're able, hold others. In their brokenness, in their breaking down. Before the pieces are back together, hold one another from falling apart any further. We need each other.

Raw, humble, and hollowed/hallowed,