All posts by moonwise

Jihan McDonald is a facilitator, counselor, writer and educator from Oakland, CA. Currently completing a Masters in Social Transformation, Jihan derives deep pleasure from the meaning of words, the reading of books, the dancing of feelings, and the naming of squirrels. Jihan greatly dislikes inequity & close-toed shoes.

Traveling With Questions

I met Questions on the way to Nirvana. It wasn’t planned; it seems to always be the way we run into each other. They were on the side of the road, relaxing, and as I approached they jumped up as if in surprise.

“What are you doing here?”

– Traveling.

“To where?”

– Can’t say I’m entirely sure but I’ve heard its down this road a bit, a place called Nirvana.

“Mind if I come with you?”

– Sure, why not; roads are always well traveled with good company.

And so we continued on together, step by step, along the journey. At first we didn’t talk, it was enough to know the other was there; sometimes presence is the greatest gift we can give. After a while though, Questions couldn’t help it.

“So how’d you hear about this Nirvana place anyway? Why did you decide to go that way? Have you ever heard of Distractions? I’ve heard its awesome over there, always something going on, what do you think about going there instead?”

I sighed. I had traveled with Questions before and knew their tendency to ramble on, and I can be impatient myself. I wasn’t in a rush though, I had no deadline for arrival so I humored Questions with answers, which I knew to be their favorite game.

– I think I first heard about it from the wind. When I was little I was always happiest out in the garden, or better said the backyard, I didn’t really get into gardening much. When my parents gave me a barrel to have my very own garden I decided to grow weeds in them, it seemed the most efficient way; if I just leave it there, eventually plants will grow, what’s the point of gardening again? No, I was into playing in the dirt. I would sit for hours on a pile of dirt, sometimes with a stick, mostly with just my hands digging, shaping, playing. Well anyways, on no particular day I heard this whisper that seemed to come from the wind, but also from inside of me too.

“You know your breath is just another way the wind travels right?”

– I do now, I didn’t then so I assumed it came from outside of me. Whatever, it was whispering to me, telling me things, stories about who I’d been and who I’d become, and what. And one of the things it talked about was Nirvana. I remember that I liked the sound of it, soft, pretty. Ever since then I’ve wanted to go there.

“Good story, but what about Distractions? Did the wind tell you about that place?”

-No, sadly the wind made no mention of Distractions, only Nirvana. But you know the wind, so flighty. I’ve been there though, to Distractions.

“How was it?”

– Busy. Not a terrible place but a terribly, terribly busy one. There’s a lot of people there too, a lot of people. Most of them are unhappy too. Its why they like it there; everyones so busy there’s no time to notice how miserable they are, they can hide in plain sight.

We didn’t talk for a while, each reflecting on what the other had shared. After a while, Questions piped up again.

“So that’s it then? The wind tells you about Nirvana and off you go?”

I laughed.

– Pretty much. Of course its a little more involved than that, but essentially, yes. I mean like any journey I had to prepare everything in order to go. First I had to find out what I’d need for the road, for example.


– To be honest, I’m a little worried about that actually. I asked around and not a lot ofpeople really know too much about Nirvana so its been hard to get a clear idea of what I need to get there. From what I could gather, one needs Persistance, Effort, Faith, and some good Guidance. The last one is especially difficult to come across.

“Well did you find it?”

– Well yes, and no, I think so anyways.


– Well, the wind actually. Strange as it may seem, due to its vagabonding and generally ephemeral nature the wind knows quite a lot about the world, its been to fairly every nook and cranny in it. If you can catch it and hold it long enough there’s really a lot to learn from it.

“So the wind gave you a map to Nirvana? Can I see it?”

-Not exactly; maps aren’t really the wind’s style. It prefers to leave signs, breadcrumbs to follow.

“Sounds rather nebulous don’t ya think?”

– Yup, sure do, and its the surest thing I’ve found. No one in Distractions was of any use. I even went to Illusions and through Doubt, can’t say I’m mad I went, all roads are good roads as long you are taking them somewhere, neither of them was really helpful though either.

“So I guess we’re not going to Distractions then?”

– NO, not if I can help it. But who knows where the next breadcrumb will be? You may luck out yet Questions.

To be Continued…

A Creation Story

Mystery met Creation and they fell in love.

Nothing was all there was and all they needed with no where to go.

They spent an eternity getting to know the other.

Mystery was enamored with Creation’s passion despite the existence of Nothing, Creation always seemed to find a way out of no way and made eternity an adventure.

Creation couldn’t get enough of Mystery’s soft curves; Creation felt them in the darkness and never once did it succeed in knowing where they ended.

Their union birthed Life, which grew to embody the best of both. Drawing from Nothing, Life manifested Being and found the void a consummate kiln. Using what Creation had taught it in infancy, Life crafted Energy and molded it into Matter of all conceivable and inconceivable forms.

Matter, infused with Mystery from the touch of Creation, was kaleidoscopic in its joyful dance and utterly narcissistic in its attraction towards itself.

Generations of converging matter, all carrying both Mystery and Creation, both the Life and the Nothing-ness of their ancestry, blossomed into Time.

Matter became too dense to dance and changing paths from choreography to design began to manifest bodies to move in ever more intricate patterns.

Dimensions expanded and embraced their great-grandmother Nothing, transforming into containers for Consciousness.

Universes sprouted from Dimensions; Galaxies and Planets too, all knowing move, move, move and twirl, twirl, twirl to shine brilliantly reflecting the intelligence of their design.

Imitation being the most sincere form of flattery, these bodies beget more Beings and related them one to all the others so they might be infinitely held.

Nothing never left and stayed beside them, ensuring there would be space for all their explorations.

This is just a story;

a series of impulses traversing the grey area inside a cranium where there are no answers, only paradoxes, paradigms, and riddles;

a cognitive fabric to filter light into the qi-hole of the third eye and unlock the lineage of Life.

Remember your Mystery.

I cannot tell you what you will discover when you do;

it would mean I knew,

and if I knew I’d have no story to tell you.

One Way to Live a Life

Take 1 part jaded heart,

a handfull of fears and

1/2 an ass. Combine.

Stir with silver spoon

until mixture clings.

Set aside.

In another container

mix 1 ocean of tears,

3 sides to every story,

4 seasons for completion,

and 7 years for regeneration.

When thoroughly blended

this will look like maturity.

Pour over combination of heart,

fear and ass. Stir frequently to

maintain texture. You’ll know

its ready when it has the consistency

of self-definition.

Cover and chill;

will remain fresh for eternity.

Serve warm and garnish with

mistakes as suites your taste.


What Does Dignity Mean To You?


Dignity is the process
of walking through the world with
wounds and scars around your shoulders
like a cloak; it is the claiming &
the telling of your narrative, the story
that gives rhythm to your walk. Dignity
is the tears you shed from your tender
heartedness & the help you refuse when
you know it will be of no assistance,
when this becomes the air you breathe
you live in Dignity. It is the choosing
of your environment to suit you like
a Sunday hat & the friends you keep
that help you stay fly; knowing something
someone else does not & no humility about
the work you put into being in that position.
Somewhat frightening, it is only by choice
that you become lover, friend, accomplice,
ally or enemy.

Sidewalk Stories, An Excerpt of Life In New Orleans & Dignity In Process

I waited on the corner unsure if I was in the right place. A young family of three- a mother, a daughter and an observant baby- waited next to me; all of them had beautiful eyes. I balanced the camera tripod between my legs and let my head swivel attentively towards Canal, careful not to let my doubt of place show in my face lest it invite the bad luck of naive travelers.

“You take pictures?” It was definitely as much a question as a statement from the young mother as she readjusted the baby in her arms and the purse caught in her elbow.

As I looked at her I was suddenly caught in some form of past life nostalgia; I saw her humid perm donned by a wide rim hat, her upper body caught in an unseasonable jacket, her legs covered by dense skirt and her heels slightly elevated in clunkily curving boots all of another time period. In her reflection I looked little different, though I wore pleated pants and my arms carried no baby but the complicated mechanisms of a daguerrotype.

“I do.” I blinked and suddenly felt the weight of my backpack against the bare skin my new locally purchased sundress exposed, and the stick of my soles against the flat sandals on my feet.

Her black t-shirt soaked up the sun and again I wondered why anyone in this city wears black in August.

“You do portraits?” this time the question complete.

I smiled, and perhaps, never said anything more honestly, “I do, and I wish I could take yours right now, but unfortunately I don’t have my camera with me; just the tripod.”

More than I wished to take her picture, I wished to show her the dignity of the space she occupied on the corner abreast the monument to Simon Bolivar.

“How much you charge for a portrait?” fully a question, but this one heavier, somehow laden with expectations.

“I wouldn’t charge you anything; I’m working on a project.”

“You should, you gotta make that money.”

I laughed, and sighed, “True story.” I didn’t want it to be but it was. “I’d still take your picture for free; you all have such beautiful eyes!”

The little girl with her had been moving towards me with the complete lack of subtlety special to small children. I smiled at her and she smiled back.

“I can do this,” and she snapped her fingers. I started to snap with her and started oozing the honeyed charm I save for little persons in this world.

“That’s amazing! You must be very smart to be able to use your body like that.”

She danced in receipt of the praise and a few of the fluorescent red hot Cheeto crumbs that had been stubbornly adorning her cheek fell away.

“Do you know how to make a beat? I bet you’d be great at it because you’re already so good at snapping.”

She looked a little confused, and glanced back at her mother to make sure we were still in the realm of safe conversation. Her mother was engaged with the RTA helpline and trying to figure out if she was on the right corner. I began to do a simple pat-pat-clap with my hands against my thighs.

I intoned the pattern for her and she followed along until she felt profficient, then jogged over to her mother, “I can make a beat!” and she showed off her new skill.

“That’s nice baby, but we gotta go ‘cross the street; they changed up the bus and didn’t tell nobody.” I asked if she knew if that was true for my bus too, and she said, “Yes, come with me,” and so we set out together for Rampart St.

As in Oakland, New Orleans is undergoing gentrification and the signs are every where. The renaming of neighborhoods, the literal tearing out of the streets to lay new ones, easier ones for the feet of the new, desirable residents, to cross from one side of the tracks to the other, which she bemoaned as our cluster moved to the bus stop.

“I’ve got to get to her school for the back-to-school night, and now they done changed up the bus and made me late! They already changing everything, the least they could do is tell you what you need to know so you can still get around. Lord, I need a cigarette.”

We’d made it to the bus stop, an actual bus stop with benches, and sat down in the crowd of other people, mostly also black, who were waiting on public transportation. There was another little girl there that my newly minted beat machine started to play with.

“Lord, I just really need a cigarette, would you mind holding her for a second while I have a smoke? I try not to smoke around the baby.”

“I’d be glad to,” and I was as I accepted her load. Although I was nervous, I was also too surprised and too in love with the trust she was offering me to say no. The baby barely fussed as she was transferred into the crook of my arm. We took a minute to get used to each other, and once our breathing synced she fell right asleep.

I watched her and the street and my heart as it swooned.

Reading Between the Lines

I’m a words person. I always have been and I can’t imagine being anything else. I taught myself to read when I was 2 years old; as the youngest in my family I was livid to have everyone around me engaged in this thing I felt excluded from. I don’t remember what the first book was, in fact I don’t remember doing this. As far as my memory is concerned I was born reading. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve also been editing.

Excerpt from Paula Gidding’s, When and Where I Enter: Her life paralleled with Mary Church Terrell’s in many ways. The two women were born a year apart, and both were daughters of former slaves. Their fathers were sons of their masters, both were men who filled their daughters with racial pride- and the spirit of defiance. 

My Edits: Her life paralleled with Mary Church Terrell’s in many ways. The two women were born a year apart, and both were daughters of formerly enslaved people. Their fathers were sons of their slavers; both were men who filled their daughters with racial pride- and the spirit of defiance.

My first editing experience came from inside of my own brain. As I developed as a reader I was as constantly puzzled to find the absence of she/hers in what I was reading, as I was to find the lack of we,ours. Whenever someone was talking about people as a whole they always referenced men, and this made no sense to me. “Time waits for no man,” I’d read and then ask myself, “But I have a vagina, so will time wait for me?

The Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, …

My Edits: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among People, …

So as I read I would re-write the story I was being told; I would read-write what made sense to me. So whenever I encountered “man” holding space as an indicator of all human beings, I’d replace that word in my brain with “people”; I’d simply tell the truth.

As I continue to develop as a person, this skill becomes ever more necessary. The subtleties of erasure demand my intellectual vigilance. I still edit what I read internally, and it is exhausting to be in this process of constant re-affirmation of not only my existence and truth, but sanity. And I can’t stop, I won’t stop, because this clarity is actively a matter of life and death.

For when we are consuming media telling us that the White residents of New Orleans were resourceful survivors, while the Black ones opportunistic thieves securing food stuffs for their survival, we are dealing with the literal definitions, the constructs and parameters, of reality.

People often ask what they can do to become better allies, more resilient fighters, how to maintain their grasp on what’s real in the midst of so much gaslighting. This is one of my ways. For as it goes below so it goes above, and I’m not done. My editing has become more sophisticated as my understanding has; the edits I make today are not the same ones I made a decade, or two, ago. This is proper as the only sustainable truth is change and I push myself to be that, the change, for the world I believe deserves to exist.

My Edits: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all beings are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Well-Being. — That to secure these rights, Cooperations are instituted among Beings, …

Inner Inter-Activist Art