It also marks the 9th anniversary of the creation of my Sister-Healer community with three women who remind me every day why I am grateful I was born (again) this life in this place and time.
Earlier this week, they and my youngest godchild came to visit me from Chicago. It is a five-hour drive to see me, and they came for one night only. A long way, someone might say, just to stay a night, have some food, laugh, sing, heal, and pray. But, that was precisely the point: How far would you go to see family?
Their visit was specifically to mark the creation of us. This was the 9th year since our meeting, the number of change and transformation, the proper time for us to acknowledge all that had happened in these nine years and all that was to come in the next nine. We recommitted our lives and paths to serving the Creator, the Ancestors, the Orisas, and each other. Most importantly, we gave thanks to them all for bringing us through Life and preparing us for more of Life.
Me: I give thanks often for having the good sense to listen when my Ancestors speak.
I remember the day we came together. Trying to be the dutiful new priest, I was cleaning and preparing my ancestral shrine to commemorate my anniversary. The phone rang and I answered it because I had not yet started ritual.
"Girl, we're down here at the beach. Why don't you come and join us?"
I politely declined and explained why.
Trying to be the dutiful priests that they were, they understood and politely said "another time".
As soon as I hung up the phone, I heard a heavy voice say: "You fool. You better get on down to that beach. This can wait. Take care of what needs to be done".
So... trying to be the dutiful new priest, I called the women back and told them what bus I'd be on.
The rest is herstory. We left the beach, piled into a tiny Honda, and headed towards the nearest grocery store. We bought whatever we could get with whatever we had in our pockets at the moment and returned to my place to prepare a feast. We ate on the floor looking out the windows at Lake Michigan.
What needed to be done that day? I needed to remember the living to keep balance. At the time, I didn't know that these women were ancestral workers themselves. We knew each other as poets. And, I needed to understand that serving the ancestors didn't always mean sitting in front of my shrine, doing ritual, sequestering myself.
In fact, since 1999 I have learned that being the dutiful ancestral priest often means tending to and teaching the living. The day I received that phone call, it certainly meant accepting an invitation to community that would teach me just as much as tending to my shrine would do.
I have kept this lesson dear to my heart not only because that day I gained such love and support, but also because it has taught me to think outside of ritual for ways I can honor my ancestors. The truth is, almost everything we do is ritual, and even the most mundane activity can be made sacred.
For example, I love (an understatement if you know the truth) to dance. But sometimes when I dance, I remember my godmother. I remember that her 70th birthday party started one mid-afternoon in Brooklyn and ended the next day. She loved to dance and we all danced - right out the door at 2 a.m. What better way to honor this woman who taught me what it was to be an elegant, graceful Black woman than to "shake a tail feather" when I desire, how I desire?
Months ago, I had been given the message that I needed to do something big for my ancestors. So, I began planning days to clean, putting out my shrine, food to cook, time to pray. Then, the women said they were coming to visit. And I knew that "something big" meant once again opening up my living room to these beautiful, powerful, dutiful priests who were unafraid to shake more than a tail feather.
What else could I do but say yes, and remember that being a fool has its limitations.
Besides, every now and then we have to disrupt our own staid stories.