On Privilege

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I grew up in North Minneapolis. I attended Loring Elementary on 44th and Thomas. I spent summers at YMCA camp, swimming in Victory park with Hmong, black, Somali, and white kids. I always “saw” color. I remember being punched in the stomach in kindergarten by the class bully, Dante. He was twice my size and called me “dumb white girl”. I told on him and the principle called our parents in to discuss discipline.

Even then a part of me was learning. I knew that he had learned this compartmentalization from grown ups, just as I had learned to fear the large black woman who cornered my mother at the laundromat. Fear is unchecked covert racism.

I knew that as a small white child I held privilege. I knew because I didn’t fear the police. I was never taught how to be compliant, or submissive to them by adults. I was taught by example that they were my protectors.

In fifth grade we moved to the suburbs, and I found myself in a startling new world, just 30 minutes from my old neighborhood. I became one of 28 students; a class of all white faces. I had never played soccer, or any organized sport. I was behind in every subject except reading. The system was entirely structured around safety, and everywhere I went, I felt cocooned by a false sense of it. All of a sudden, I could ride my bike, without limits and parent-appointed restrictions. There was no “Bad Neighborhood”. In the winter of 3rd grade while at Loring, we studied and participated in Kwanza, instead of Christmas. My new classmates had never heard of Kwanza. My older sister had it worse I believe, though she never would speak of it to me then. She unfortunately entered the scrutinizing world of middle school, in a district where the median household income was 3 times that of our North Minneapolis demographic. She was tormented by white girls. Ostracized for dressing “ghetto”, wearing the wrong shoes, and loving basketball.

It takes humble unpacking of core beliefs to dismantle one’s self-image.

I, along with many other white people, have believed the lie we’ve told ourselves. I vote liberal. My mother raised us early on as a single parent with the bare minimum child support coming in. I received subsidized everything. I try to be a voice for marginalized people, whenever possible. So I thought that I was “good”. How could I be racist?

I am learning that I must unlearn so many false institutions of truth. Human race depends on classification as a survival technique. We observe and take action based on what feels “safe” and make choices through learned patterns.

It is up to us as an ever-evolving species to change behaviors that are not working. We are better. We need to act better.

I’m frustrated and sad for you. I’m so sorry that you are still fighting, and I am sorry for my complicit complacency.

There won’t be many chances to learn the same lessons. I fear that this reckoning is overdue and undervalued, even now. I will work to deprogram innate strategies of living and seeing this world. I will use my heart and awareness as a white woman to protect and defend the right for black people to feel the safeness that I have been privileged with.

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“Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.

Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.

Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgivable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.

– Rain
― Raymond Carver

I wake up with the sound of rain. Unusual here, and welcome in my half sleep state. I put on the same pair of soft pants as I wore the night before and boil water for coffee. The dog waits eagerly for his food, which I stir on the counter. 

I take my turmeric, drop cbd oil onto my tongue, and pour oat milk into the mug.

We are not talking much today, as of yesterday’s argument over a few scattered resentments.  I slept alone in the bed. 

I bring coffee to his work desk out of habit. Maybe out of the weariness of holding onto stubborn silence. I’m tired.

An old lover once told me that I live like I have lived a long life. This stuck with me, and echoes when I least expect or welcome it. 

I have let others perceptions shape my identity, and looking back like the rings of a tree, I can see where my inner drive seemed to gain control, or weathered a storm, or made a dramatic shift in perspective. These are painful , as is anything to look back on perhaps.

I live deeply, and it is important to me to do so. I notice the leaves tapping the window by the bed. I strive to choose words with care. I drive the streets that carry the mountain views. I cry often. I kiss the dog’s head with fullness. I make love with abandon, if I am seen and felt.

Maybe all of this is just to say that we are all children, unfinished and unsure but observant. It’s enough for now.

Do butterflies and bumble bees fight?

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I begin to write a letter. I stop and choose to write about here instead. It is past dusk. the glaring sun and dry heat of today in the desert has cooled, and I am sitting by the window, watching the sky turn periwinkle. The moth symphony has begun and soon the swirling bats will join the chorus. I can hear their echoes honing in the night now.

There is now a family of 7 living in a small nest tucked into the mala madre near front walkway, between the prayer flags and the wind chimes. The soft spring wind rocks them to sleep, I like to imagine. I have been selectively engaging my mind and body lately. It seems that this is the only way that I know how to reckon with the reality of each day.

I went out this morning and arrived at the store before it filled with quiet faces. The first thing I put into the cart was a bouquet of chamomile. It is hard to be lonely. People don’t often say this out loud, and I am realizing the parts of myself that are blooming. I don’t understand this enough, and yet it it the lesson that trails me throughout each year. It lingers, perhaps, because I have yet to fully learn it.

A friend tells me it is alright to be familiar with codependency in oneself. That we all carry a certain type. Maybe there is a goodness in realizing that we can sleep comfortably in the bed of our own colors. Even if it’s not the reality we had painted. Maybe that is what true self-respect could look like.

Turning the Soil

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“Because of this, I try to remember the girl I was a few years back and what she thought about her life and her choices. I pay her respect, and acknowledge how much we grow, especially and because of the decisions we once made. I tell her don’t worry, I’ll take care of you next time.

It becomes clear to me how absurd I was in thinking I could go forward by going backward. How much we have changed and how nothing stays the same… I too have been holding myself hostage. I too have to lay down my promises and get on with things”

Erin Belair

It begins as a memory that jolts itself awake at three am and seeps in under the adobe walls like a snake and wraps its tight coils around the head until I am are transported to a time when I was a wretched beastly little thing and did or said something to hurt. But I lie in bed in this new spring year and twist the actions and events over, chewing cud, unable to reverse and unable to sleep.

It is a line that comes in the morning bath, and while I spit out the charcoal toothpaste and the black mint splatters the mirror and for the second time that day the thought runs away, down the drain.

So I arrange a work space outside in the shade on a dusty green yoga mat and wait for the words to come, summoning them with music and time travel.

Why do memories brings sadness when the present brings a new sense of good? This is no way to live, I am told. To sit along the tide line, forever in limbo of reverse and present.

It leaves no room for forward.

I wish to hold joy in each day without carrying the weight of years ago into each choice and new moment.

Is there place to let them sit and sing themselves to sleep?

May Moons & Scorpio Spirits

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I dreamt I was a pillar underneath a great table and my power was small but infinite. So was every other leg, and I felt a serene peace flow over me, knowing that I did not need to be anything greater or less than what I was holding up and made of.

Today is the day of animal guides, I am told

So I listen.

I see the mother bird watching me carefully but fully, perched atop her five eggs

I barbarously dig up a curled worm from our raised garden bed and I watch it unfurl in the sun.

She flys to a tall tree branch in the yard and I drop it into her nest. I tell her hello, and that she is safe. She comes down while I hide and she eats it. I wonder if this is a kindness. I think it depends on the chosen perspective.

I sign my name to a petition for justice over a death and I donate some of this government money to a cause that I feel rage and privilege and sadness over.

I wonder about the word “Justice”.

Later I park at the trailhead to Sun Mountain, the only car there today. A woman pulls up wearing medical scrubs and wonders aloud about a lost bandana mask she purchased at a plaza gift shop that is dear to her. We don’t find it together. I begin the hike and notice a giant lizard scurrying ahead then dip under the shade of a desert bloom. I see a bluebird fly over the path ahead. I feel Ryker’s tired sweet soul while we rest on the summit, sharing water and watching the wind blow over the wide world. He sees me and I see him. We drive onward and bask in the yard and I sing badly on the ukulele. I sauté vegetables for Eric and we smile and eat in silence, him absorbed with a deadline and me with the moon.

I write a letter to Sully who has the virus. I put my heart in it, I hope. I write a letter to my sister. I receive a texted photo of my mother and her mother’s face, smiling up at me with the same blue eyes and cheeks and grin. I take an abnormal route to mail a letter and I see an older woman resting in the shade of a curb, I ask her if she is alright and if I can give her a ride. She accepts, we drive down the short road to her home. She calls me an angel.

I think about everything. I don’t always say or do the right “somethings”, but it feels alright sometimes.

On Here

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It’s a mezcal over fresh squeezed lime under the old moon.

It’s classic rock blasting from the neighbor’s day party through the thin air over the juniper fences into our kitchen and it’s Xmas colored chiles on breakfast burritos and it is the confusion of a left turn 2-lane option.

It is the flash of adobe swatches and it’s the Blood of Christ mountains watching over the cooling desert. It’s the highway Descansos with their tended blue and red and purple carnations.

It’s Frida’s gaze painted on quiet street corners with 400 year old trodden roads and the corn house still lighting the path of the Camino Real. It’s the estate sales signs each Saturday morning.

It is bolo ties and co-op greetings in the bulk aisle and it’s Diablo Canyon climbs and gingerly tweezing goat heads from the dog’s paw. It is local Instagram connections and long songs on long drives. It’s sticky ponderosa sap and pinyon chimney smoke. It is venomous creatures and prickly plants against the expansively soft colour palate.

It is always a flow of release and remember. Release and remember.

Release and remember.

On themes

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I recently found myself in front of a flat screen with the scrolling of ESPN 2 updates on it…flashes of faces in their early twenties, highly paid athletes speaking mumble from under a sweat-stained baseball cap into a giant microphone.

Underneath I read the stream of messages…”Bill Buckner dead at 69…ill-fated Red Sox player dies today”

I remember hearing of the ground ball that slid between his legs on the day that I was born. I remember curiously understanding very early that there was a link somehow between the Red Sox losing the World Series and myself.

I seem to aways be wanting to make sense of everything

I am constantly time traveling and I wonder where we all are if not here? 

One moment I am driving in a snowstorm of the Sangre De Cristo mountains, and the next I am scrambling to remember the old Pearl Jam lyrics and when I last sang them in the white Subaru driving through the Rabbit ears pass and arguing with him about whether they are Billy Joel or Eddie Vedder’s “Someday”. He always said we were singing a different “someday”, and lately this is one of the easiest things to understand of the past.

It’s strange how sometimes we seem to know what we will cling to, years later. How the moment seems to jump out in bold print and surround the entire memory, until it outlasts everything else

But I seem to never grasp the theme

I am beginning to fear that it is not my own will that is driving.

I remember reading sometime in my early teens that it is the most simple of truths that startle people the most.

Being in charge shakes me from the dreamlike reverie and I am beginning to understand how skillful I have become at being in the passenger seat of my own life

I stare at the house corners and wonder, if I dusted them, would I write better?

If I changed my jeans and cleared the table top of mail and ski maps and keys

There is a saying for everything, and I fear that if I keep listening to them all at once I will not hear my own voice

On my twenties

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I used to rub the warm dash and tell of the sweet spot

Every good car has

She likes it there no not there

laughing

Just get me a little further lovely little engines

If I play you the right songs

Scanning the radios on any state highway

While the wheels push through the ice 

How about a raspy voice to gain traction on those mountain roads

yes that’s it Lucero is working 

You weren’t ready for a ballad were you tough boy?

How many mountain tops have my headlights seen

How many passes have they driven over

enveloped inside the dark

of those west Americana nights

Gas stations cups of coffee

tired eyes seeing pink rabbits jump across the yellow and white lines 

Chewing cashews chewing tobacco chewing my hair if it’ll work

Just a few more miles please silent beggings

Those sweet old cars would always get me there 

Halfway somewhere

All the way home