I am currently in collaboration with LOAM magazine as an artist- in- resident. The article below was written for and originally published by LOAM.
I write these words while the Eclipse is ongoing. I have not planned for this celestial event. I have not traveled out with my car into the world to stand in a field. Instead I stand in my yard and look up while a thick layer of fog casts out any glimpse I may have of the open sky. The world feels quieter and there is a flock of birds that call out again and again into the stillness, I wonder if they know. I can detect a subtle shift in the atmosphere and I feel truly alone for a moment.
I have not wanted to participate in the collective gathering of energy around the Eclipse and I do not fully know why. I do know that I am tired by the Eclipse posts in my feed and the repetitiveness that they represent. I do know that most days I feel angry and that at night an old type of fear has traveled its way into my bed. Before Charlottesville I was starting to lose my footing, post Charlottesville I can feel within my skin an under current of my old childhood temper. Flashes of red-hot, bursts through my bloodstream, the word ‘”fuck” comes out of my mouth frequently and I feel real hatred when I think of our current Presidents face. It’s the type of hatred that I so openly speak out against and that knowing makes me want to fall into myself and out from our mass channels of conversation. I don’t have something so pretty to contribute at the moment. I don’t have the energy to pick your spirits up. I want to tell you that there is a way forward, but I cannot be your guide.
I have been re-reading a letter I wrote to Adam, my boyfriend about my fear. This was in the month of December, and I had yet to arrive back in the states post our disastrous election results. I had woken up from a dream where I had spoken out at a rally in support of Trump. I said “we have to resist. Do not listen to his lies. Get up off the ground, go home, you do not have to be here.” In the dream I knew that part of doing this would put me and the people that I loved in danger. I could feel that our right to publicly speak out was slowly being taken away.
The night before writing this letter to Adam, I had watched what I would still consider the most impactful piece of media that I had taken in since the election. It was a video of Daryl Davis, the black man who is famous for befriending KKK members. A recent news article on him reads, ‘How One Man Convinced 200 Ku Klux Klan Members To Give Up Their Robes’. This video back in December was the first time that I ever heard of Daryl Davis and this mans story was a direct confrontation to everything that I had been taught. I was suddenly held accountable to my own ideas of hope and the strong boundaries that encased them. I realized I had never seen a black man standing next to KKK members, not counting a dead body swinging from a tree. I didn’t know this could be a possible reality and it felt as though a strong beam of light was shining down into my face. I felt like a hypocrite, hiding behind my fear of the perceived ‘other’. I quite literally had to raise my arm up and cover my face with my scarf from the friend that was watching this video with me. I felt ashamed as I started speaking out all of my fear. Childhood thoughts surfaced. Men in white robes are the images of my nightmares, I realized that this ingrained fear I have been carrying my whole life led to thoughts like, “These people are not human. These people are demons… these people.” I tell my friend, “I’ve only ever had two friends that were Republican. I have been raised in such an us, them mentality.” My world seems so small against the story of Daryl Davis. I am shaking inside to think about the possibility of really deconstructing these walls that I have been shaped by. I hear the stories of my family told to me at bedtime, about the one time my Indian father encountered a KKK member, how the man spoke hate into his long native hair. I am thoroughly saturated through by my mother’s plea for my safety, “Kailea the rules are different for you because you are brown. If the police stop you, you must comply. Please be safe!” I have been knowingly and unknowingly diligently building up walls of security over the past 26 years. There has always been the feeling to be small in moments of mass fear, to glide under the surface, to be an unnoticed face. This is our family’s way of survival.
I have never let these thoughts move out of my mouth into the air. I have never let them be fully realized and I feel foolish as they burst forward in my babbling. I am not brave. I am a human girl. I harbor prejudice that can be seen through the scarf that I hold over my face. When I finish talking, my friend hugs me and I cry. Suddenly there is space to think the words, “What is possible?” It had never fully occurred to me on such an embodied level that I could meet hate crimes with humanity. The idea of it grates against my insides; I take a breath and call it a night.
That was eight months ago. Eight long months in which we have been watching our government accelerate into its own inevitable collapse, taking a part of our society with it. Eight months of a continuing rise of white supremacists. Eight months of each of our own personal turmoil as we look for shelter in the echo chambers of our feeds. I know just as much as you that there will be no solace there, yet I can’t stop looking for it even as I can feel the sucking of our progressive views becoming smaller and smaller. I am not satisfied by anyone’s anger, least of all mine.
And then Charlottesville happens and it is like watching every one of my childhood nightmares come out of the night. I have been waking up from sleep and shaking Adam’s arm and speaking my fear into the dark while he tries to listen half asleep and tries to comfort while wrapping me in his arms. I lay there still awake unable to shake this feeling in my bones, it feels ancient this type of fear.
I have a personal strict protocol to not move forward fueled by hate, and so instead I have been stalled out. I know this is not what you want to hear. I am still moving, just in place. I put in my hours, check off my to-do’s and when I can, I walk up into the hills where you can hear the dry sounds of summer crack the long grasses in half. I find a bit of fuel in books just like I always have and I think everyday about how to tell the truth about the fact that I feel more and more uncomfortable in the left. How the spaces made to help POC and native people feel ‘safe’ make me furious. I feel I don’t belong anywhere. I am tired of being so careful with my words. I am tired of fitting myself into neatly crafted PC packages. I am yearning to be in conversation with people brave enough to say it wrong, brave enough to say, “I don’t know.” Our lack of exploration leads me nowhere. All of our right-ness is starting to sound very similar to everything that we say we stand against. I am starting to forget what it is we stand for. I miss hearing into the true words of people’s hearts.
Today is the day of the Eclipse. I have not read any of the horoscopes, and the fog of the North Bay blocked out my view of the sun. Instead I went and sat down in my own yard. It was not mystical, it was not deep, it was just me and my tomato plants, my half drunk cup of coffee going cold, the feeling of dry soil against my feet. I placed a prayer down for this emptiness that I feel in the form of a contained circle made of dried bachelor button petals. Dark purple, indigo, light pink, the colors tell the age of each flower, bleached lighter and lighter by days growing under the strength of the sun. Here we are as well, running around in our frantic pain while the sun ticks time, day after day. Putting ourselves to bed in the well-known fears of the past. Asking for something different while we practice all the same motions. Forgetting that we are more alike, than different, forgetting that we are rarely original in our thoughts about the world.
Rumi left us with the well-known lines, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” There are more words though that are part of this particular passage that are less known. They read, “When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.”
I am putting down my big ideas of making sense of any of this. Instead I am asking for the courage to live into a humble life; a life where there is space to speak my fears and to hear yours too, before we set them down.
The Eclipse is over now.
Once a week I work at Point Reyes Flowers. I started working at this farm because I was so aware that I needed a natural space to report to weekly. It's the place I go to in order to receive grounding and to clear my head. Within the rows of flowers I process through the anxiety I carry on the world. Out there it becomes just about the immediate needs of the plants. Weeding, watering, feeding, observing. Each week I learn something new. Sometimes it's the scientific name of a plant, or how a tedious hand task can teach me how to be patient and mothering again and again. I learn how to slow my gait, because there is no need to run around the garden. Working with flowers brightens my spirit even as I watch their blooms wilt or when I am instructed to pull a patch that has moved through its life span.
On Saturday I was filled again and again by watching how other people interacted with our booth. Flowers for homes, flowers for lovers, flowers for a bride, flowers just for the moment. A pause in our policies, a pause in our collective pain. For all of our stumbling and uncertainty, the natural world awaits our return.