Discover more from You've Got Mail (only Butch and platonic)
What kind of times are these?
"Because in times like these... it's necessary to talk about trees"
It’s raining outside. Big feelings of rain and I see bright green lushness out my window as I sit down to write. I made you an audio note to share the rain and a poem:
I moved from the East Bay of California (back) to Western Massachusetts five months ago. When I moved here, it was bitter cold. This weekend it was bright hot, and today a cool breeze predicated the rain.
I also started a new job twoish months ago, and in this job I have shifted from closely reading the daily ups and downs of the nightmare that is housing and homelessness in California, to closely reading the daily downs of the nightmare that is white nationalism and white supremacy in the U.S.
Here in the land of the Nipmuc homelands, I am grateful each day to the change of seasons, the growing plants, the tall trees, that give me strength to keep turning to face the brutal time we are in. In the voice memo, I share a paragraph from Adrienne Rich’s essay, Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying (1977).
Truthfulness, honor, is not something which springs ablaze of itself; it has to be created between people. This is true in political situations. The quality and depth of the politics evolving from a group depends in very large part on their understanding of honor. Much of what is narrowly termed 'politics' seems to rest on a longing for certainty even at the cost of honesty, for an analysis whic, once given, need not be reexamined.
In this particular political moment, and in my days spent looking at the extent to which lies and white rage (see, Prof. Carol Anderson) animate life outside the social-cultural circles I stay within, I am constantly needing to drop down inside myself, re-center, assess. What is happening? Then, I have to drop deeper to feel out where I find my own honesty about how I am feeling, how I am capable of responding, but also, to assess how honest I or others are being in our assessments or proposed solutions. Lately, I find myself turning to the trees that surround me, and think to myself “start here.”
I have Adrienne Rich’s What Kind of Times are These taped to my office wall.
I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.
And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.
- Adrienne Rich, What Kind of Times Are These
There are so many new dark mesh of the woods around me right now, and I feel the equilibrium around me re-balance as I pass ghost-ridden crossroads and think “I’ll get to you.” I get quiet with the leaf mold.
I believed the warnings that things were going to get worse. I made changes, I tried to prepare, am preparing. And part of that preparing is re-weaving relationships, now that I’ve implemented physical changes in where I am, how I spend my days, as the pandemic twists into whatever this phase is.
Last week, I deleted my FB account (finally). I am trying to be honest about how I am able and want to connect, and also pushing the edges to see if my truth changes. I am taking bits of political rhetoric and hot takes out and turning them over in my hand. I am trying to actively resist getting my news from social media, or engaging in serious discussions through transactional apps or sites.
But also, I know the strategic value of getting a message out, of breaking through what someone knew then, and what they could know. I know I have been changed over and over again by powerful testimony, writing, and clear proposals. It is complicated. And, if I’m being honest, I can feel that the future in front of me involves so much more of my time spent with trees, direct conversations, longer nuance, bravery, proximity, and generosity.
“It means that most of the time I am eager, longing for the possibility of telling you. That these possibilities may seem frightening, but not destructive, to me. That I feel strong enough to hear your tentative and groping words. That we both know we are trying, all the time, to extend the possibilities of truth between us. The possibility of life between us.” - Adrienne Rich, Women & Honesty
The possibility of life between us. To be wary and also to long. So many authors point us to a visionary kind of honesty that is required to face and transform the world - off hand, I’m thinking of Octavia Butler, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Danielle Saered, miriame kaba. What does honesty feel like to you right now?
Click here to hear Adrienne read What Kind of Times are These
Read the full essay: “Women & Honor: Some Notes on Lying” (1977)