I used to think that I would be more viable and worthy as a person if I were a “Person of Color”. I used to believe the voices of angry people who projected their pain onto my skin. I used to believe I owed them something. I used to believe I was in some way fundamentally different from them, as if I were not as magical or worthy or wild as my fellow humans. I’ve decided to stop believing those voices, to exit the new cult of race-hatred that tells me I have “fragility” if I dissent. Now I know that Whiteness reflects light and color: some people get angry at that, aren’t comfortable with the mirror of my being, can’t handle how many different shades of paint are needed to paint the color of my impossible skin. The truth reflects their insecurities and false narratives back at them. The truth reflects your love and friendship and creaturely kinship as we co-create a future together. Your Browness is enough. My Whiteness is enough.
I wonder in my mind how I can engage with these political and cultural movements in a way that is both respectful for others but also protective of my own boundaries. At the end of the long day, after the energy of the shouting and marching crowd has dissipated, there are individual people, friends I have loved, who pass through inward turmoil and suffering which are inextricably tied into the fervor of these movements and their commitment thereto. And I see my frustration and weakness in the face of the human-animal suffering of every person who feels they are marginalized or under the boot-heels of tyrants, because they carry rare magic and silence in the face of what angers them is impossible, and I know I am one of them, and in their suffering I face my ineptitude.
The following letter I recently wrote to a mentor and friend of mine. He leads an animal tracking course which I am currently a student in. For a number of years I have been very close with the community of friends connected through the nature school in western Washington state that offers this course. For the school year of 2012-13, I was a student in an immersive program for adults offered by this school, lasting nine months, which was largely a beautiful, meaningful, yet complexly emotionally-charged experience for me, as it is for many students. This experience gives context to this and other writings of mine.
This friend and mentor to which I write has been someone I have loved greatly, in the sense of a brotherly platonic love of friends. He has been a great mentor, inspiration and comfort at difficult points in my life, and I care for him greatly. However, I found the need to write this letter to him not only in response to his asking me a certain question, but because I am getting a strong sense of the need to speak up more about alarmingly far-leftist political and cultural trends I am witnessing in this community of which we are a part.
His question to me was this: why, when a fellow female student of mine spoke of her gratitude for women being in our tracking course (a field of study which has been traditionally predominately male), I added my own outspoken gratitude that several men were there with us, too. She is grateful for having women around, I am grateful for having men around. Our teacher, to whom I write, wanted to know if I truly felt such gratitude for the company of male peers, or if my expression of gratitude was merely reflexive, to “balance” the previous gratitude expressed for women.
This letter, along with others posted here on my website, serve as a catalogue of the profound political paradigm shift which I am currently undergoing. It is an experience of both relief and anxiety. Relief, because I see now what I was blind to before. Anxiety, because I know, with heartache, I am risking all my friendships in these left-wing communities. But I will not remain silent.
Names have been removed to protect the privacy of all.
Thank you for checking in, Friend. Always great to hear from you!
Last night I dreamt I was a traveller in a strange land. I was at first with an old friend, Aaron, but we were not ourselves. We were walking through an old industrial part of a city, where there were brick buildings from over a century ago. They had metal ladders trailing upwards beside them. Looking out west, over a field in this city, the sun was rapidly setting amidst red and yellow clouds. But most notably there were large cylinders, part of a large factory refinery of some kind. These large cylinders were like the water or milk towers we see. I asked, exclaiming out loud, “Where is that music coming from?” A haunting symphonic melody floated out over the landscape from the refinery’s source, like from a music box.
Aaron said, “That’s the Wind Bellows making the music. Whenever the wind blows, it powers the large arms of the machinery, by the power of immense bellows, and there is also a music maker inside it, so that every note of this ghostly music is created by the particular wind as the motion of the factory functions.”
Rapidly the sun set behind red clouds, and all became darkness, and the sound of the music quieted to silence. In such darkness we knew it was time to seek shelter for the night.
We came to a tavern, an inn of some kind. We were all set at long tables in preparation for dinner, when an army of assassins burst in. They demanded to know who were the Jews, and I was one of them. They said, it was my choice, they either take me, or the whole inn is killed. I went willingly to save my friends, but I had a plan, so I was not frightened. In this plan I escaped without my shoes, or bag or anything else except the blue “blouse” and skirt I was wearing, and I walked into a bright white city at noon day. The sidewalks were clean and easy to walk barefoot on, and I knew I had come into San Francisco. But it was the 1950’s. I knew I had to get to the other side of the city where they were waiting for me, and as I travelled on foot across the city, the decades went forward, so that I was now in the late 1970’s thereabouts. People were dressed in the styles of that time. This is all I remember.
Cooking alone on a hotplate,
sound of a Spanish guitar plucking notes
from some other time and place
in Mediterranea, over songs of gentle want
she boils cures for broken hearts
from Dandelion, Laurel and Nettle,
one with a sting and once with spice,
and another sweet to cure-all.
This is Spring and much is scarce but weeds,
though she knows their names and secret uses
with a smile, the way the leaves and flowers
soak slowly until steam rises
reminds her what determination
with a spritz of fragrance is required
to taste the feast beyond famine.
Hot jewels of blooming stars, fair Orion
and the Dippers lend their love overhead
while she brews Springtime satisfaction.
Summer’s almost here.
My friend J: Last night I dreamt of angels at play in the high mountain forests of the Sierra Nevadas, as you and I had spoke of them while we walked there in the groves of light. Now, I can’t think of angels as separate from birds. And the conversations between them and us are sustaining the whole world. May light pour into all of you, always.