[Please note this post is different from usual in that it's structured to serve as an example of what a more long-form writing endeavor might be like. My emergent intention is to publish topically relevant think pieces in this basic writing style at a password blog or (my first preference by several miles) as a pdf I send out to a bcc mailing list of interested readers. My main writerly objective is to evoke a self-guided look at existing thoughts/assumptions and a deepened practice of self-exploration that's focused in large part on topics relevant to societal and cultural cause and effect.
In my experiences and observation that level of introspection isn't best served or nurtured in the transient immediacy of the blogging format. And so "the conversation" that's both so beloved and collectively defined in community blogging terms often serves as only a shorthand version of actively absorbing more personally relevant layers of whatever is most current within the electronic zeitgeist on any given day, whoever else is or isn't part of that given day's dialogue, etc. and so forth.
Also note for the next little piece of going forward I'm going to take a short intermission from write-blogging here because it's that part of the growing season where I need ten arms and as many extra hours in the day to get even half of my to-do list properly managed. That means I'll primarily post photo-heavy postcards from the garden. I do plan to go on blogging as usual (whatever that means ...) on my creativity blog. Will link to such posts here as and when they occur.]
I see this sign twice every week. Once when I'm driving to pick up our bread order and then again on the way home. Every time I see it I get the same kind of heart swelling fierce LOVE sort of tears in my eyes. Sometimes they spill over. A lot of times they shimmer right on the edge of falling for a couple of hours.
The sign is enormous. It's painted on both sides. The house in which I must presume some person or persons is responsible for painting the words twice over and sinking the sign into the ground is surrounded by other houses that have equally large and imperative messages to share. On the same road on any given day there are somewhere between 5 and 8 Gadsden flags. Every single one of them is at least twice as large as this enormous sign that you cannot possibly miss no matter how much you don't want to see it.
In addition to everybody wanting to make it damn clear you'd best no tread on them personally (nearly all of the flags have been consumed from the NRA. Those are bigger flags by half and I'm told the yellow background is phosphorescent and fairly Area 51-ish in glow level after dark) a person or persons has taken it upon themselves to make it clear there is something beyond M-E that should not be tread on. For any reason whatsoever and yet here we are.
Before J became re-employed we both rode to get the breads. We'd see the sign and say in soft loving tones look there it is. J always asked if I wanted a picture. I always said no. A part of me was afraid if I got out to take a picture any one or more of the adjacent neighbors might take offense in ways that led to irrevocable problems. And then I'd think T has enough of them right now without winding up adding any dead or maimed parents to the list.
Just like that I'd think it. Every single week. And know without needing to parse a single fragment of my knowing that it was a thought best kept to myself.
When I took this picture the safest place to park on the curving local artery had a house directly flush with the road and virtually no dooryard. I was frightened. You never know. I've been chased by a belligerent guy cradling a rifle just for examining a magnificient cluster of coltsfoot blooms at the base of his driveway. Who knows what might go on when I bop on over across the street to take pictures of the BLM sign. Or how it all might intensify when/if they have a squinty eyed overt realization I'm not completely white.
As I've mentioned on my creativity blog I've begun to organize a few topics of meaning to me where I feel I might have something relevant and ultimately nourishing to contribute in a writing sense. I won't be writing about this topic or a few others on this blog anymore in order to get myself moving more seriously. Instead I'll share whatever I'm coming up with on a schedule unknown so for now I'll just say from time to time.
To that end the most significant place I feel it's relevant and timely to focus is writing a lot more candidly and contextually about what it's like to live - not just not-white while living in white-land for the last quarter century - but doing it in the very heart of a gaslit dogwhistling portion of a state that has since its inception nurtured historical movements of great renown in relation to both social reform and racial justice. Massachusetts is in other contexts one of the most classically latte liberal states of our dis-union that I can name.
One reason I need to write about it is because I've found myself struggling to have sustained serious conversation with other progressive and stalwartly liberal thinkers who live to my east and west in our fair commonwealth. They do not want to believe this undeniably gorgeous place where I live which is full of equally undeniably swell people has a correlational equal and undeniable underbelly. But it's undeniable to me, at least. That's because I haven't lived in the projectively subjective version of reality that most of my most loving and caring white friends inhabit. To wit:
'But why do you dwell on these things when you're usually so positive? Why do you keep telling me? I'm from the North!"
Me too but that's an increasingly irrelevant detail.
For me hearing that any time I've tried to bring up things more complicated and baked-in beyond which side of the mason dixon line informed a person's internalized coding I've had a fractional scintilla of an idea of what it might conceivably feel and remain encoded as 'being' for at least a few of the black people heretofore consigned to going through their life, day after year, hearing 'well-meaning' white friends or total strangers who just want to make clear their personal bona fides vigorously assert
"Just so you know I've always been completely colorblind."
I mean people say that to me as a [woefully unexplored culturally or genetically] Hispanic person and/but all too frequently with the implicit context of black-white relations specifically. In the spirit of beginning in the manner I intend to continue - I have to be honest enough to own the fact that once I hear it I start relatively swiftly down the road of considering them unreachable to or by anything but their own self-hype. Luckily though I do stop just short of creating an actual judgement out of a reactive conclusion. You have to when you're bi-racial. Or I should say that's how I have had to be.
I used to say or at the very least think all kinds of things when somebody - generally without the slightest indication of encouragement or personal interest on my part - ran that one by me. Now I simply say/think not relevant and keep moving with our larger conversation for the ultimate sake of our collective heart & soul.
This is not what I was planning as my first topic. I assumed I would begin with the topic of cannabis as a multi-purpose healing agent but apparently that's veering off as the vehicle of choice for fictionland ventures of these times. hence I"m going to start writing (but "well", hopefully - instead of the loosey goosey way I write here but maybe not. we'll see. Maybe I'll just be working out how to do the loosey goosey thing really well) about what it's like in this part of the state. And how that's becoming interwoven with my own deepening understanding and self-education where this particular part of America's bedrock inhumanity of dehumanizing Other is concerned.
From now on if you'd like to see what I'm thinking and feeling on the subject of race and all its relations that will be something you can read in this more long form style of communication but actively tightened-up and considered to befit the effort and time of both reading and writing. If you or somebody you know might like to read these perambulations to see if there's something there for you/them, drop me an e-mail and I'll build electronic readership from there and a couple of friends hitting their address books on my behalf. This will be informal and have free access with the gratitude offering option like everything else that I do. But I'm going to be wearing my established serious writer's hat gentled-down to the point where people don't have to feel like I'm driving us over rocks and dust in a go cart while screaming at the top of my lungs. Or otherwise unpleasantly diverted from, you know, the literal birds, bees, flowers, trees and so far safely un-mined and un-colonized moon up above.
At my ripening age I've finally figured out that most people don't read my words or anyone else's in order to be jolted awake in any way let alone at a relentless pace. That's a definite me-thing and a many other people-thing for sure, but most people, I've come to realize, need somewhere to rest and reflect at their own pace and with the benefit of private rather than social consideration.
My realization came while I was harvesting a mother stock from the amazingly soft, light, gentle essence bowl above. Earlier that day I went out to the field presuming I'd update the SL repertory's meadowsweet essence. It was early morning and the whole eastern side of the field and garden glowed. I noticed through the fence a particular glow of St. Johnswort's light when the rising sun first kisses the solar yellow petals. Once the eight flowers were in the bowl I looked back into the garden from the other side of the fence. Queen Anne's lace had just begun to open fully around the edges of the meadowsweet. I took a single flower, one careful section at a time so I wouldn't have to touch it as I would have if I'd taken the flower whole. This time, last year's illuminated bowl within a bowl became the contents of a bowl within created by meadowsweet. The eighth St Johnswort flower is nestled between both former and current bowl.
Before this cumulative act of co-creation I was in an intensely safe and illuminated protective caul. That was a beautiful experience but I was not feeling particularly beautiful in the experiential backwash sense. Specifically because of the deeply significant and utterly mandatory BLM movement and how, even within a moment of awakening that clearly took a lot of effort and determination to sustain, white people determined to rouse themselves were all too frequently making the moment about how they felt about this, that, or the other aspect of the rousing process.
After I set out the bowl I went to sit in another part of the garden. I wasn't happy with my thornier feelings and thoughts. When I'm trying to grow and heal in ways that stick I reverse the order of how those two are often paired because for me as a cancer that's the order they're always going to present themselves and become most dysfunctional if I insist on trying to reverse the order in which I deal with them.
(all these thinky psycho-logical analytic flowers-in-a-bowl stream of consciousness pieces are going to start to accumulate in their own pdf, too. When that grows as clear to me as the way I intend to approach and grow along with the race relations topic has I'll post to that affect and you can let me know if you'd like to read them. Otherwise I'm considering a very considered objection to how many of these posts are appearing in this space. Going forward I'll simply continue posting the bowl pics as part of my visual roving reviews)
the other thing I'm considering developing separate from this blog is a blog which is kind of the book equivalent of jude's original Threadcrumbs blog for sharing personally meaningful samples from her collection. The pandemic/isolation factor of the past winter and spring has put me back in nuanced daily touch with my existing book collection. There have been entire months worth of time in which a pile of botanical encyclopedias sat by my dining room chair like a faithful companion. Which of course they are. For awhile I had out all my aromatherapy books and then I organized my widely dispersed collection of graphic arts compendiums. I looked at books I used to peruse on a daily basis but hadn't opened in years.
I was happy. Because I love books in general and primarily the books I've decided to live with. To buy instead of saving or attaining something many others would find more necessary or appealing. When I was younger I always pictured an entire wall full lovingly collected books and from there trails of piles of additional books winding off into whatever sunset awaited me. Never really thought about a home or where it might be located but I always clearly pictured a wall of books with piles moving outward the way plants expand turf in a garden.
The pandemic showed me the obvious. Something I "knew" without seeing the wealth of what I'd collected for the point in my life when I was still sharp but unable to get out and around as I'd like. I live my disembodied dream now. I've also recently allowed myself to lightly amplify my collection about as much as I care to at the moment. Also on that separate blog I see myself passing along books that I've read and they were great but I don't wish to keep moving forward. This is something I was going to do a lot more locally and the fact that I haven't been able to do it at all has driven me even deeper into my book collection because why not winnow more extensively when you've absolutely no way of actually jettisoning the books from your environment.
Many of the books I'm uncovering I'm probably going to offer with a price tag of sorts. But some I just want to pass on. And only to places with states that are more open than closed for now. If you live in a currently closed state and have interest in a book nobody else is claiming I can hold it for you until the situation shifts where you are. If you are international and your country accepts US mail we'll have to do a barter because the money commerce is based on checks and money orders. Barter otherwise.
Below are some books I've selected to read over the next while. The writing voices/their overarching and underlying tones and topical contexts are varied enough that I can handle them back to back without feeling over-saturated within any particular thematic groove. That in no way means I'll read them in the order they appear below. That's just about groupings that make sense in my own mind thematically and as fulcrums for each other.
Since American racial inequality and injustice is the very taproot of American success and exceptionalism I'm accustomed to taking a wider frame to the nation's hegemonic culpability and bad juju/karma. After I'd decided which specific black-white/black perspective books I was going to read in my own first-step efforts to diversify my inner awareness and how it forms its automatic pictures I also picked up a non-fiction/fiction pair that speak to the wider issue of race and our nation's greed-waste-destruction continuum.
And additionally gathered another non-fiction/fictional pairing that are specifically African American in nature. A comment from grace at Dee's blog put the Wilkerson book on my radar. Toni Cade Bambara became known to me some time in the long gone past when I used to take the T to the main branch of the Boston public library and scoop up book after book from their new fiction stacks. Stacks. Stacks worth of new fiction after growing up in a town with a new shelf each for fiction and non that was switched out maybe twice a year or, in 'progressive' cycles of political appointee-ism once a season. When I went with J in the van on the rare nights he wasn't at a gig or practice (hence all the books...) I'd gather two armloads. When I was alone with a backpack I had to be more selective and discerning. I focused on authors, titles, and covers for the two armload method. To discern the worthiness of lugging something back home over my shoulder on the T I additionally relied on randomly scanned snippets of paragraphs and which books had the highest ratio of snippets that appealed to me.
I can't remember the name and scanning her catalog didn't help. But this book I was scanning made me want to sit right down on the floor and begin at the beginning. Not just for content but equally for architecture. She was doing something wild and inventive at the mechanical level and from what I've read about Salt Eaters the same factors are very much at play.
A re-read/new read pairing by women whose writing shows deeply through another pair of eyes. I chose to re-visit this particular ZNH collection because its landscape is so implicitly political and divided in nature. Was hoping for insights born of spontaneous correlative maps I might imagine concerning the now while I read about the then. The Sower will be my next morning book. This is what I read instead of looking at my phone before I'm out of bed. Since fibromyalgia's back in the mix my muscles benefit a lot from an extra twenty minutes or so before I actively start my body's day. And my soul and mind benefit a lot if I keep things strictly analog and self-selected. Books have always equaled stability as well as learning and imagining things other than my own landscape and experience. The books I'm sharing are not the only books I've gathered. But the full curation had to be re-calibrated to fit guestimates of available time and our collectively achieved light-bulb moment. My remaining to read before year's end cache as it stood was instructively white and past tense in that even newly released and lusted after non-fiction selections were about dead white people. It was appalling to swallow that particular bit of instruction.
When I shared it with J he pointed out this was most likely because I'd already read everything written by, for, and about non-white reality. He reminded me of a joke I'd made about this specific situation and how there was nothing left for me to do but break down and address the real victims in the room. They who need least need the loudest and so forth.
re-reading the nature writing anthology written by people of color and edited by a white woman. She addresses that fact right off the top. For me personally not in a convincing way but that's something I want to re-visit. See if anything can shift within my own portals of certainty. Picked up the novel on my birthday visit to Boston last year. Which wouldn't be complete without a slow perusal of the bargain tables at the Brookline Booksmith. I picked two previously unheard of novels one of which I devoured whole on the following day. This one I kept with the thought it was really more of an introspective wintertime read. The plot concerns a bi-racial male and his experiences in the 60's and 70's here in the US. Inadvertently shelved it in a pile behind a pile of previously read books on the shelf. So it remained unnoticed and forgotten until I was making my 2020 pile. That's what I read from and where my reading goals remained focused prior to the shutdown here in MA. For me that started three weeks earlier than the official version because that's when J started working from home.
After the first day and a half of that particular shift in lifestyle I re-tooled my book pile based on removing choices that were likely to evoke powerful emotions I would need to process in a way that was congruent with the shifting needs of our physical space and how it got used during the day. In other words: I had to monitor my bad moods. Not just their severity or frequency in terms of what I allowed to show of such things but also the pivotal ways a solid half of my reading focal trends reliably feed difficult emotions.
In the past that hadn't mattered. Such moods came as they did and that was the moment at hand. I walked or stomped through them occasionally talking to myself at vociferous length. If something got me torqued enough I wrote about my emotion-heavy impression in roughly scrawled longhand discursive paragraphs in which I actively titrated how much sarcasm/vented spleen I allowed myself and called that my personal growth proof of life for the hour at hand. Rinse lather repeat until it was too much of a physical burn and then I'd take a shower, pull my active thoughts up and back to matters of skin care, fresh clothes, and an emergent plan for moving on with more gratitude than guilt that I hold options and ability to re-set more or less successfully because I live such an incredibly and obviously white existence of the life is good enough for me to structure nearly all of my days as I please variety.
And then Now happened. And this novel is back in the pile. Most likely a morning book on the other side of The Sower or even before.
Pearl raised me to have a dining room table book. Ideally it would be my Bible until I pointed out her bible was by her bed and she had a bird guide at the table. After that I was allowed to branch out enough to read from The Saints and their Lives. It was basically my only table book because the saints (not to mention their lives) made no sense to me. That's where my mother swooped in to put the saints/lives dichotomy into historical context.
stories (many of them) for another writing module.
I unconsciously re-claimed the habit when we moved here. It began when I borrowed the left re-read from our town library. Within a few essays I knew I'd want a copy to keep and found a used volume at Powell's. I recall there being relevant essays to read in this volume but more to the point it's a perfect dining room table book. Feel as if the new-read collection of stories is likely to be the same.