“Messenger” by Mary Oliver

Thanks Odin for sharing.

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

~ “Messenger” by Mary Oliver, from Thirst

economic hope and the smell of mushrooms

i’m finally understanding the creative block i’ve been feeling since visiting my parents in arizona last month. it’s related to the tension between, on the one hand: the ongoing and active deprivation of hope from where you expect it and, on the other hand: a very steady certainty that there is so much good happening in the world right now.

the mainstream news outlets’ lights and cameras are narrowed to a point, highlighting so much going on, but it all just looks so hopeless. the new supreme court justice being treated with such disrespect. the contrast of growing wildfires with bumper stickers on massive pick-up trucks: “trump 2024, save america.” this media spotlight reinforces a complete lack of vision for the future, let alone suggesting movement toward anything else than what we already know. and then there are the random distractions like will smith punching chris rock. (and then all the memes on social media, and then all of the people giving their opinions about it, and then news outlets pitting them against each other!)

the tension between all of this garbage and the absolute knowing i have that there are SO many amazing leaders, projects, groups doing such great work. “work,” though, is too narrow of a word to describe what i mean: it’s not sitting at a desk, it’s not something you clock into. it has to do with opening up worldviews, creating and repairing cultures, seeing each other in fuller ways. and i can feel it. i’m remembering this shortened version of a quote used as the motto of the US Social Forum by Arundhati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” the longer quote has to do with imperialism and capitalism:

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

― Arundhati Roy, War Talk (2003)

but what does she say after that?? (adding reading that book to my library’s waitlist right now!)

so what i feel compelled to do is write into each of these things that are happening. to show them as an interconnected movement, a thriving ecosystem complete with several kinds of functioning parts – composers, pollinators, whatever other parts there are (ha!)

not to overwhelm us even more, but to let people know what is happening. not just to give us hope, but also to showcase the variety of what we could get more involved in. maybe for each section that could be a little part: how to get involved locally – what it takes, what you need. (and maybe those could connect later to parts of the personal work, thinking specifically about decolonial projects.)

like i want to inspire and excite people by sharing this sense of knowing i have – of how much is happening! so we can stop looking at where the lights and cameras are pointed and see all of what else there is. we get to be ecologists, to look into all of the parts that are happening, get our hands dirty in the soil, smell fresh air. but like… economically.

redwoods in “muir woods” on Coast Miwok land

really when was the last time you felt invigorated economically? i mean something similar to those feelings you get in a healthy forest: filling your lungs up with the dense humidity of a lush, damp forest; taking in the honey-like notes of pine sap; the slight decomposing sense of mushrooms’ presence; hearing bird chirps far up in the canopy; your movement silenced by pine needles underfoot.

i can say for sure that i have a visceral feeling when i pay my taxes. maybe that would be akin to the choking smell of coming across a dead animal in the forest. but i mean, when was the last time i felt something good in my body because of my relationship to economics?

i used to have that feeling, the slight tingling feeling: “yes, i’m saving the world,” kind of thing happen at farmers markets, or purchasing at my community food co-op (of which i was a member). i remember that feeling when seeing visionary art (favianna rodriguez comes to mind) that invites my true self into economics (not just an outstretched hand with dollar bills). hearing gopal from movement generation speak about their visions for the future. i definitely felt a lot while i was organizing for occupy on my university campus (not as an undergrad, i’m not that young!). and i felt new sensations like a folding of time from past to future while i was supporting the sogorea te’ land trust in “oakland” “california:” that the way these leaders were thinking was connecting their 5,000+ year old traditions through colonial rupture to a future that continues and preserves what is sacred.

how can we imagine more into this? (one way is to listen to this short episode of the light ahead) what feelings can we hope for, economically? what do we already know in our bodies (not necessarily just the physical ones, but also ancestral, spiritual, etc) that can guide us?

so i guess my creative block is letting up – i’ve got a list and a diagram of the ecological parts of next economies drawn up and am excited to start writing about each of them, sharing examples and ways we can support and/or participate in them. i imagine navigating this landscape like butterflies in migration – moving from the death and decay of capitalism, through decomposition (smelling the mushrooms!), through healing together, to creating next economies that support our “soft animal bodies” (as mary oliver might say).

in the meantime, if you liked the content of this post, you might be interested in this session, happening next week:

Reflections on writing one essay

i’ve been in the process of reworking an essay (with very necessary help from my book midwife) that has taken months of re-relating to the initial topic, shifting it, finding new ground, and then losing it. it’s been frustrating that i’ve been writing this essay since august (3+ months now) and i still don’t have a final draft. but the process has been very enlightening and is helping me move more into the space of the book i’ve been working on for a little over a year now. here’s some reflection on the process so far:

if writing the essay was a transformation from what i thought was logically needed (i.e. following BIPOC leadership) to something more spiritual, deeper and more wide-spreading (e.g. seeing the unseen worlds where our post-capitalist dreams live), maybe that’s what i’m feeling about the book, too: an opening to this other level, of moving beyond logic. moving beyond the frames of logic we’ve been given toward something that is more human.

i had a flash upon waking this morning about butterflies and river currents and mushrooms and the worry behind “how would mom see this book” or how would it compare, to say, what my partner is reading now – an academic treatise on the end of capitalism (which he often reads to fall asleep, btw). and how my book doesn’t really respond to that. it doesn’t respond to the last book my partner read either, a chronicling of capitalist thought and practice. i think this is because my ideas are no longer caught in the call and response cycle, precisely because we need to move out of it and into a different kind of relationship to what we know as economy. at this point it’s about our psyches, not just about “mental health” (in a western psychological sense) and how we relate with the world. there’s so much anxiety right now. and so many people also yelling “REST.”

i just paused and read some tweets from @storyofwealth on instagram, which is a pretty good account. the tweets were about how taxing the rich is futile (because if we the people don’t have control over where that money goes, what’s the point anyway). true AND i’m not sure that it gets us into a different paradigm. which is what we need: to be able to see other paradigms, not just this one. this feels like having to swim past the breaking waves near the shore to get to a deep calm: there’s a lot within these dominating systems that try and keep us only able to see what they tell us and nothing beyond that.

so this opening feels like an invitation into magic, into the unseen, into the worlds that are around us but we can’t yet feel or live into. they’re there nonetheless. (could this be faith?)

the feeling of “void”ness or “emptiness” outside of capitalism/colonialism/dominating systems is also part of those systems, not a part of the other(ed) realities. the idea that there’s nothing outside the gender binary is a lie…because outside of it there are billions of genders. though it may feel confusing at first stepping outside, perhaps those are the first steps toward our authentic, real, liberated selves.

i sense that’s how it will be (and is) when we step out of capitalism. though it feels like we’re stepping off a cliff, maybe we realize we have wings. maybe these are the first steps toward true freedom: returning to interconnectedness, collaboration, harmony. through practicing repair, trust, returns. through feeling reckoning, grief, and also joy, love, wholeness.

i’m still in this tension with SPEAKING IN A WAY THAT IS LEGITIMATE. speaking in a way where my argument is logical, rational, and follows the rules of dominating culture. (perhaps my role is one of codeswitcher.) i’m pretty (ok, very) sure that that is just part of staying stuck in the same paradigm. AND WE KNOW IT’S WRONG. we know the dominating paradigm is killing many of us, killing the planet and (literally) life as we know it. why do i need to respond to that? i feel like that has to be a point or two up front in the book: as simple as a bulleted list of the harms of capitalism, citing other authors who’ve already done that legwork, just to make the point that we know it’s wrong.

but we can’t stop there.

because we know there were and are civilizations that have lasted in sustainable, harmonious relationship with the planet for millennia.

the difficult part for me is that what i’m trying to say DOES feel illogical. it FEELS all the ways that these dominating systems de-legitimize all the rest: too “airy,” (pun intended!) fluffy, “woo,” not real, not possible, not at scale so therefore irrelevant. it doesn’t play within the rules of logic. and my well-trained brain, educated within this system, says that this means i’m wrong. this is how i get stuck.

but then i remember Alok (a non-binary poet, fashion icon, and visionary) saying how they don’t want to be legitimized by that system. that’s not part of what they seek as it has nothing to do with their freedom. i appreciate the clarity.

this has to do with my fascination with the absurd: those things we can see and may be able to understand, but then label them illogical and “wildly unreasonable” (per the dictionary definition). if those who determine what is reasonable and what is not are those who decide to drill in the arctic, to create borders to justify their xenophobia, to give guns to kids to shoot other kids in school, those deciding that “justice” is white murderers going free, et cetera ad nauseum. if those are the people deciding what is reasonable, then very clearly this kind of “reason” should have no bearing on where we’re going. (let alone limit our possibilities!)

we can’t wait for legitimization from within dominating systems. (i should really write what i mean by dominating systems if i haven’t already.) it will never come. this would only wear us down and burn us out.

so instead i want to move toward freedom, toward liberation. this move might initially feel uncomfortable. we’ll have to learn how to move not just on our own but in connection with others – relearn how to flow together in community. i guess i believe we can. maybe that’s my FAITH.

this could be such an exciting time in human history. where we oppressors right that which we’ve acknowledged we’ve done wrong. where we can learn from all the diversity of ways we live in relationship with the planet. where we can make decisions with our whole selves: heart, body, mind, and not just a logical part conditioned by rules that aren’t grounded in anything. can you see this? can you start dreaming into this space?

dreaming and hoping and faith. opening past containments that no longer serve us: twisted rules of logic, borders, binaries, fragmenting our selves into parts that are “right” and “wrong,” fragmenting nature into value and waste. this opening as not a one-time event but a repeated, fraught attempt to wrestle past them. it is a wrestling that builds muscles. we persist because we know we need what’s on the other side. we need each other. we need a planet that is healthy. we need joy instead of anxiety, celebration and dance instead of burnout. we need dirty fingernails instead of keyboard-trained hands (hold on while i go plant some tomatoes). we need relationships to our selves based in health and “prevention” instead of treating symptoms. we need communal structures that support all of these things – and in some ways, we have ideas as to what they are: universal basic income, healthcare, labor rights, democracy and shared governance, cooperatives, decolonization of land, reparations for all that was stolen. though most of these ideas come from within the dominating system, they have underpinning values that can set us up and help us practice into what will support us more fully.

all of this accidental essay is to say: i think i am inviting us into being less legible, more illogical and perhaps even absurd as we move beyond these structures of “reason” that don’t serve us. i am inviting us into a place where we can radically imagine cultures grounded in care and connection, in wholeness and harmony. i am inviting us into shifting from seeing endings into seeing beginnings and continuations.

A Small Needful Fact (Ross Gay)

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

Ross Gay

Remixing as colonial practice

i’ve been attending Writers’ Hour almost every morning since mid-November. it is a supportive space to come to weekday mornings to “either do nothing or write. ” having this group and routine has encouraged me to have discipline around writing like never before in my life and has helped me write more than 100,000 words toward a book i’m working on. every morning, the hosts share an inspirational quote. generally they’re by other authors encouraging us to bloom into our writing and are a little snack to get us going. however, today’s quote landed differently for me: today’s “words of wisdom” came from james clear, author of a new york times bestseller, and i’ll share my responses.

“Italy is known for tomatoes. Thailand for chilies. Germany for sauerkraut.

But tomatoes originated in Peru. Thailand imported chilies from Central America. Sauerkraut started in China.

Everything is a remix—and the world is better for it. Share what you know. Learn from others.” – James Clear, as shared in Writers’ Hour, Apr 26, 2021

THIS SHIT PISSES ME OFF. how a lie can pass as truth. how these seemingly innocent, *white* lies serve to manipulate and eventually serve a violent, extractive, historically inaccurate status quo. anger bubbles from my chest through my throat and is transformed into rapid keystrokes.

first, tomatoes are from mexico. which is to say that indigenous people here on the land currently known as mexico cultivated an intentional, multi-generational relationship with this plant in these soils to produce what is now known as jitomate or tomato. these relationships are not ignorable or irrelevant. the existence of italian tomato sauce is due to thousands of years of human relationship with this plant — but not any humans, and not in any place. indigeneity matters. roots matter. that this work was done in a specific place by specific people matters. and to ignore that is to ignore the sacred, to ignore history, to erase relationship.

second, the reason these fruits arrived to italy was through a process of intended (and failed) genocide, a process that killed millions of people and affects their surviving descendants to this day. this pomodoro pasta dish is not free of its heritage of violence, rape, destruction, desecration. let us not forget that christopher colombus, one of the first people to set foot upon this land as a colonizer, was of italian descent. that next to his tomb in sevilla, spain, there is still a “treasure room,” full of stolen gold, locked away within the walls of the church.

finally, the construction of this lie is not only of direct and convenient benefit to its author (a man who gains his wealth from writing), but also serves to further justify appropriation en masse. appropriation, as i’ve come to understand it, is a cutting off from the roots. yoga practiced as exercise, a series of stretches completely disconnected from a deep spiritual tradition. indigenous community-made textiles stolen and sold to be marketed as fashion. your remixing is not inherently innocent, nor necessarily of benefit to the world. some remixings perpetuate harms that began on this landmass currently known as “america” (also an italian namesake) 500 years ago.

as a writer (and as a human), i am angry that “truth” seems to not mean anything anymore. that a few select people have been granted power by a fictional worldview and thus can proclaim lies as truth. some of these lies-masquerading-as-truths are deadly. that “truth” that indigenous people no longer exist supports continued exploitation of land and labor to fuel an ongoing colonial process of development. that “truth” that Black people are a threat maintains a population captive for 500 years, under penalty of death by simply driving, walking, even while sleeping.

so no, james clear, i will not remix. i will not mix and match where it serves me in convenience. i understand the power i have been granted by these oppressive systems that would allow me to cut the fruit from its root and i reject that power. instead, we must seek another way. we must seek a truth with roots. we must seek to return to our own roots and tend to them.