Soon after the birth of my son, I developed a hashtag, which has started to gain some traction among my friends: #ThisIsTheBeginningOfAnEssay. It was an acknowledgement that my energy to write an extended essay is truncated by the energy needed for mothering and partnering. I have been collecting snippets through Facebook especially, using the hashtag personally, to help me search and look back at all the starts for an essay collection. In essence, they form their own extended essay on (revolutionary) mothering. What I have found interesting is how this desire to lend a focused eye to literary expansion in the form of the essay is a unifying practice, one that is sought by so many, and so many have their energies split. How do we prepare the slide and focus a metaphorical microscope on one aspect of the human experience? How do we cultivate right relationship with the natural world through cultivating an internal and external, an intermingling wonder? I’m interested in those questions.
I’m interested in many questions honestly.
I recently completed – or I think I completed – an essay of over 4000 words on a mothering relationship with one of my aunts. How was I able to complete the lyric essay, which has roiling and rolling in my mind for weeks? I wrote it at Smoke Farms, an hour north of Seattle, while at the Till Residency as a workshop leader. I had to leave home to be surrounded by green overgrowths, twining limbs mossed over and slicked by a slippery rain. I had to walk to the Night River (tributary of the Stillaguamish River) by night after walking through an art installation set in the midst of a tunnel of tall grass. I had to be allergic to the grass and be city-girl nervous about fresh bear skat. I had to be away from my partner and child and immersed in a collective of generous and dedicated writers and artists. I had to also be in grief.
While here, I learned that a dear friend had died suddenly. I had not seen him in a long while, but had followed his posts on Facebook, as you do. He had found a new position. He seemed to be happy in it, though his marriage had recently ended and their home had to be sold. So many changes in life.
I learned of his passage through a work email.
He was brilliant, light in vibration, a man with the embrace of warmth itself, a man with an immense capacity for care and tenderness. He was brave in the face of injustice, helping people to face a problem and collaboratively work to counter it.
In all that I have done here, I have thought of him. When I learned of his death, I went to a dinner at Till, told a new friend of what I had happened, and said, “I’m ok,” before cracking into weeping, “I’m not ok. I’m not ok.” I said over and over. It was the night before I was supposed to be leading a workshop on ancestor, walking as an ancestor, creating a legacy of joy.
All the night I thought of my friend, who walked as an ancestor when he walked among us, how earlier that afternoon, I had seen what I considered a solstice snow, a pollen flurry riding on the wind, visible only when looking into background dark spaces, though fluffy as fat winter snowflakes. I remember thinking about what spirits traveled on that wind. My friend walked as an ancestor to joy. My friend might have already been flying to offer us wonder in a solstice pollen shower.
I have been thinking of him, writing about him, trying to cultivate a boldness and a joy at facing the problem with others in his memory. I dedicated my workshop to him, a workshop that saw people play with a laughter that filled the barn workshop space. I knew he would have been proud, that I had called his name in action and he had come to walk among us, big and jaunty.
#ThisIsTheBeginningOfEssay Or #ThisIsTheEssay #reiddavis #presente. Though I am one of many in mourning, I do so with a sweetness in my mouth.
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