It has taken me a long while to get back to you. Just after I sent out my last letter, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis and people of every race, every age, every religion across the US and across the planet, poured out of their houses and apartments, out of sheltering in place orders into the streets to say “Enough is enough.”
Sheltering in place meant that we could not turn our faces away from what had happened. We could not distract ourselves with things to do and places to go. We had to look at George Floyd, and at the white police officer who so nonchalantly, so effortlessly it seemed, pressed his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck, nine long minutes, until he died.
Maybe it was the energy of billions of us across the planet all seeking to survive a pandemic that brought that image into clear focus, and with it the understanding that healing the systems and effects of colonialism and white supremacy is crucial if we are to heal our collective hearts and bodies, and repair our relationships to one another and to our Mother Earth.
When I finally began writing to you again, the sky outside my windows was ashen. Fires were burning through old forests, neighborhoods, and communities up and down the West Coast here in the US, and in particular Northern California, where I live. Uprisings were still moving through communities and city streets. Last week I woke to a CNN morning news report that said white supremacy is the most “persistent and lethal threat to the US, according to Department of Homeland Security documents,” and today NPR says 200,000 people have died in America from Covid-19, and that the group most fatally affected are Black men.
Just yesterday in a conversation with a young Bahamian scholar, I said, disease hits those who are most vulnerable, those who already feel they are not loved by the people they would call their own. We were talking about gay men and the AIDS epidemic of the 80s and 90s. We were talking about Black men who are disproportionately affected by AIDS in queer communities. I was reminded of Toni Morrison’s character in Beloved – who says “In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it.” I was thinking about what it means to a person’s ability to survive in the world when he or she does not feel loved, by the people they would call their own. By a country they would call their own.
I am thinking about what it means to feel loved. I am thinking about love that is not simply the love of one person for another, but something bigger. Something vaster. To walk down a street and feel that your body, your arms and your legs, your hands and your feet, your skin and your face and your eyes and your hair – that these are loved simply because you are… that these are loved by your community, by your government, by the social systems set in place to care for you, by the leaders and public servants working to support and protect you. I am thinking about what it means to feel loved in your town, your city, your country. That when you walk down the street, you feel right; when you walk down the street and the sun is shining on you just so, and you feel light and open and right because you exist, and there is no question about whether or not you belong, you do, you belong and you are right because the sun tells you so, the air touching your face tells you so, the rhythm of your blood tells you so – I am wondering what this kind of love means to a person’s ability to survive.
I learned some time ago that babies separated long term from their mothers will suffer, will ail, and even die. As infants we are unable to survive or thrive without the merging love of the mother-child bond. For us as infants, love is visceral, it is everything we experience – touch, food, sound, the gaze of the mother reflecting back to us love so that we begin to feel in a visceral way that we are loved. That maybe we are love. We begin to feel in our cells this quality of feeling that is love. I do not think it is simply poetic to say that this cellular experience of love strengthens us, grows us, protects us from dis-ease. Everything I have learned as a healer, as a traveler into the spirit realms for healing of myself and others tells me this. When we travel, we move through the portal of our hearts; when we heal, we use the green energy of the heart to ease pain, to draw out what is hard and mean and toxic. Love isn’t just a feeling, it’s a force for creation and survival and healing and re-generation. It’s what is there in the first beginning, when we are a flicker of utter joy, a spark of fierce love leaping out of the velvet black Void to become something. To say something. To sing something. To be someone.
Today, as I write you, more protests have broken out in response to the not guilty verdict in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. We are still here, in this hurting place, sheltering in place, as pandemic carries on. As climate catastrophe carries on. And what I know is that it is this love as force for creation and survival, healing and regeneration that we need now more than ever to do the work that needs to be done: the work of transforming white supremacy, particularly as white people, the work of transforming it inside ourselves and in the world; the work of transfiguring the matrix of colonialism that sleeps inside us, sits up inside us, stands up inside us like the armature of our existence, but it is not the only way to be and know and act on this earth – hundreds of thousands of years of human cultures and communities tell us this, Indigenous peoples and their resistance tell us this, our own rooting back to our ancestral landscapes – whether we forgot or were made to forget – tells us this.
We are living in a deeply liminal time; a dark time, a cocoon time, a dreamtime, a dying away time. Let us use it to transfigure the old ways of these times of empire and ownership and enslavement and separation from Earth and each other, and open to a new way of being; feel inside us the stirring of a new armature that is so teeming in the primordial essence of love, so infused with fierce, free, alive, joyfilled, ecstatic love of all life, it can and will generate a new world.
September 24, 2020