Spring 2024 Newsletter

 Best seat in the house. Monarch butterflies enjoying the sanctuary created by biodiversity and ecological messiness at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Dear R&A Community,

I have been compelled by dueling provocations this spring, inspired by the seasonal action tendencies of spring cleaning. In one direction, I find myself returning to Martha Beck’s idea of an “integrity cleanse”, a practice that emerged at a time in her life where she was hospitalized and felt that she had become physically ill due to the myriad of ways she was not living her life in sync with her authentic self. In desperation, she decided not to lie for an entire year, including to herself.

I don’t know what your reaction is to contemplating such an experiment, but it certainly gives me a rush of anxiety and curiosity to imagine this contract with myself. In conversation with Tim Ferris, Martha talks about the journey of that year and how she was frequently confronted with the reality that she was disconnected from her needs and wants, so in lieu of lying to herself, she also needed to have grace for the emptiness of not knowing. In practicing the new language of owning her “no’s” and setting boundaries, she also needed self-compassion for the clunkiness of telling her truth that was gradually replaced by more succinct, clarifying communication with more practice and time.

What does considering the challenge of an integrity cleanse bring up for you? Are you well on your way? Is there a relationship or context where you wish you could be more honest with yourself or with others? Is there a blankness in understanding your own needs where you wish you had more time to be curious to explore what you need?

On the other side of the spring cleaning continuum comes a TED talk called “Let it Grow Wild” from Rebecca McMacklin, who is one of the lead landscape architects for the Brooklyn Bridge Park. In the talk, she challenges our ideas of beauty and states that most gardens are “ecological deserts” and that in order to create outdoor spaces with biodiversity, we must “leave the leaves”, and embrace the mixture of bloom and decline.

McMacklin observes that “the more we can stop being tidy, the more wildness we can bring into our gardens and landscapes, the better habitat we provide,”. The result at Brooklyn Bridge Park is that biodiversity has returned and provided the conditions for butterfly and firefly sanctuaries. Even if you don’t have a garden, there might be a gentle suggestion here to be more in sync with the rhythms of nature and the seasons somewhere in your life, and to stop cleaning it up, letting the debris nourish the next cycle of growth and evolution.

Whatever you are deciding to purge or retain, to let go of or embrace, I hope you are taking some time to take in the beauty and pleasures of the world this spring. As poet and writer Hanif Abduraquib recently observed in reaction to seeing a dog joyously leaned out an open car window, watching the world go by in sunny Los Angeles:

“I think the rate at which we are asked to bear witness and consume things, not just the horrors of the world, but the actual pleasures of our worlds, too, it’s untenable. The horrors, of course, we all know that, but I want to focus on the pleasures. The velocity at which we are supposed to consume and process and spend time with our pleasures is unfair and asks us to surrender to the horrors more willingly. I’m very aware of the fact that the world is untenable for the level of pleasure that I require for my survival.”

A hope for more time for cleanses, making messes and pleasure in all forms this spring.

Warmly,

Courtney

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