Offer Your Gifts

Where you are is your garden. Plant the seeds that please you here. Draw your sense of purpose from the soil and trees, the rocks and clouds, the murmuring frogs and hopping squirrels.

Do not leave yourself. If there is any genius that lives within the brittle net of your flesh, it is the porous material of your mind, which flits between wave and particle. You are composed of stuff that is very much bound to the elements and to this earth that holds you, upon which your bare feet feel strange and temporary.

I know you have traveled many miles to get here, and still you are not content. For you, life is a hole in the darkened sky that bleeds forth its news of a better world. You believe your autonomy is at risk when you train your attention upon this unruly body and its impending death. You are invincible when you dream and unwell when you linger in the cube-shaped rooms that mold your day to their exacting measurements.

But your gift is not in some distant afterlife that glimmers behind the rumbling clouds. It is on this rich and damaged Earth, where history creates a mountain of skulls whose memories bore through their dark and empty sockets.

Your gift to share is your song of resilience, which lives at the undisturbed core of you and is stirred to life when your senses are agitated by your needs and your vital response to them.

There is a simple joy you will experience in your own bones, which hold the detritus of your ancestors’ flickering songs and visions, when you allow yourself to stumble. When you let yourself wallow in the fascinating mess and mystery of your existence. When you taste the base and acrid reality of your hunger. When, without judgment or the wish for elsewhere, you watch the leaves shrivel off their branches, only to burgeon once more in the spring. When you lose all hope because rebirth is an abstraction your desperate hands cannot comprehend. When you welcome the astonishment that extends like an open palm from your protected heart as you witness green spiraling from the frost. As you contemplate the presence of things in their infancy brushing up against the dry, cracked lips of the dead living and the living dead. As you join the throbbing pulse of your joy and sorrow to the Sun of the changing land and watch it glow brighter as it balloons above the horizon and fills your shoulders with renewed determination.

I’m Nirmala Nataraj, a New York–based writer, editor, book midwife, theater artist, and mythmaker.

As someone who has woven in and out of a number of different word realms—nonprofit communications, advertising, theatre, publishing, and community arts, to name a few—I know that liberation is possible through the stories we choose to tell. As a first-generation South Asian American, I myself exist in the liminal spaces between cultures, art forms, and languages—and it is this multiplicity of narratives that informs my personal and professional approach.

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