“We’re holding on by a tiny thread, and in this mystery our souls are fed…”
Last October my sweetie and I headed south on a trip to hang with friends, visit New Orleans, and perform at the Black Pot Music Festival in Louisiana. At a motel the first night on the road, Jason woke me up in the wee hours because he was in extreme pain. We packed up and drove back home, and had serious dental surgery a day or so later. After he recovered a bit, we went to Hot Springs to camp, to take a bit of the sting out of missing our trip.
Perhaps it was the harrowing scare of the surgery, or the awareness of the ephemeral nature of life that autumn necessarily brings – while camping we decided to film clips for a video for “Yellow Trees,” a song I wrote that we recorded for an album (Found a Reason) which was released in 2008. The lyrics muse on mortality, and include the line above. Somehow a year passed since that camping trip, and it was only as the leaves started changing again this October that we finally edited the video. Here it is:
In a recent conversation with musician Toshi Reagon about freedom fighting, human-rights activist Ruby Sales said, “love is freedom.” Words to embody that remind us what fuels the revolution. While the “Yellow Trees” video portrays a couple, the song is for all of the beloveds we treasure during what have always been days of uncertainty. We just have this transient moment, and our love. Love that transcends the limits those who fear freedom try to put on us.
These days feel even more uncertain than ever. Yet the nature of this uncertainty is different for those who are already living in the precarious places that systems of oppression put them in, as compared to folks who have been deeply comfortable with the comfort that comes with race and class privilege. I have been observing the particular ways those who are accustomed to comfort are being rattled by current events, with reactions that reflect a lack of attunement to the realities of those already in precarious places.
My hope is that the crises at hand can be an opportunity to expand awareness of the web we all are part of; that more of us can move past the fear of losing comfort in its current form, to understanding how it suffocates our souls and sabotages collective change.
Possible questions for reflection: What does my comfort entail? In what ways has attachment to comfort kept me from real revolutionary love? Can I release shame about my comfort in order to more honestly transform? How can I shed entitlements in order to contribute to a new paradigm? What am I doing for my neighbors as the sh*t goes down and more and more of us are pushed into precarious places? Where can I contribute to the centering community care and the end of our culture’s individualistic orientation? What does collective comfort require?
The end of October is a time when many say the veil is thin, when people around the world hold rituals to commune with ancestors. A conversation about my current level of comfort necessarily must include the stories of my ancestors as it pertains to the ways the system benefited them, the injustices they participated in, as well as the pain of the times they were not on top. In the current political climate, I’ve been thinking about the fact that the white supremacists who I am in opposition with are closer to my kin than the Black and Latinx leaders I am moving in active solidarity with. What is my responsibility to that connection?
As I’ve written before, ancestry and inherited trauma are a critical place for reflection and work for us white folks. My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem is a great resource for this. It becomes more and more clear to me that authentic ancestral healing must occur if white people are to be a part of collective liberation.
In addition to addressing our lineages, I believe in the power of creating art, at act which, like love, transcends the powers that seek to exploit, reaches beyond the capitalism that is killing us. Creative spaces are where we cultivate imagination and possibility.
Art for me is often in the form of music. Right before putting out the “Yellow Trees” video, Krekel and I released a new EP, Tucked Away, which we recorded at home in early spring, during the beginning of quarantine. It is on all the platforms, and if you buy downloads through our page on Bandcamp, 100% of proceeds will go to two great creative spaces for young artists of color – Word on the Street/La Voz de Los Jovenes and Delta House Jazz Band.
The first song on the recording, “Heal the Wound,” was written last October. I’ll close with the lyrics. May we expect solutions and be grateful when they arrive. Much love.
Heal the Wound
Foraging nuts from the ground
Flowers that still hang around
A harvest and a loaf of bread
Singing strange songs to the dead
Fire is calling the crone
Knife cutting into the bone
Releasing what just couldn’t stay
Finding the cure in the pain
Facing the dying light
Still holding on for the fight
Music to which we belong
Healing the wound with a song
A season of scattering leaves
Mist hovering in the trees
As the solutions arrive
I’m giving thanks to my guides
I’m giving thanks to my guides
I’m giving thanks