Two images from Inauguration Day stay with me:
1. Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, idle in the dark after a busy inauguration day. They listen. They look. They attend. They stand quiet, seeing the lined-with-lights reflecting pool and the Lincoln Memorial. They embody stillness in the midst of political and cultural change.
2. President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden at night on a White House balcony at their new home, his arm around her shoulder, watching the fireworks after their long day. They speak only in whispers.
I think, “these people know how to land. They know how to center and recenter.”
As my Dad would say, they know how to feel their sand. Sand, as in an hourglass. The nervous system can key up and twitch, when our focus, our energy, sits in the top of the hourglass, in the head, brain spinning around. And then—if we choose—we let the swirl drop through the body, drip down the spine, past the heart, into the feet. The sense of sand passing through us eases mind, body and spirit as we touch down. In the biggest day of our lives, (as in stepping into the presidency and vice presidency, the oldest president, the first woman, black, Asian), in this time of history and herstory, we too can let the sand in our inner hourglass settle.
To see those four steady ones in such hush, I feel sand in my body, as if saying, “Ahhhh. Deep exhale. Rest before what comes next, ground before and as you lift. Feel that part of you, heavy and solid on the earth before and as you ascend, like that clown bop bag you punched in your youth. They’d pop up, burst upright and adjust in position.”
These four people have sand, like an hourglass, like a bop bag. We too need sand so we don’t lose our knack for bouncing back. We need sand as our base, to hold us, to serve as ballast even as the body moves, even as we get punched around.
Sand. That part of us that can root us, can bring us up after we’re down . A moment of “Here I am.” We let our sand trickle from our hot heads, releasing the shoulders from the ears, slowing hurried heartbeats, calming churning stomachs. Then we get up and face even those who have punched us. But first slowing down helps us manage overwhelm, helps us come back to here and now. Sand provides a pause, a return to the body, a way to stop before we say what we might later regret, a way to feel, a moment to refocus, to come into balance and stability.
When I now see those photos of Doug Emhoff, Kamala Harris, President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, their faces still in the evening after the day’s smiles, tears and fist pumps, I feel my hourglass sand descend to the soles of my feet. I feel, “Shhhh. Be present for this moment.” And then, like the President and Vice President after so many falls, I feel my inner bop bag right itself. That’s one way we rise up.
Inauguration moments pass. Peak moments pass. Moments of despair pass. Moments pass quickly. But our inner sand, a miraculous, almost medicinal substance, lives in us. We can choose to feel it travel through us and gather at our base. We can support ourselves with it, establish ourselves in it. Then we, too, can take our bops, hits and hurts, get back up and join the world again.