Commitment

Many large organizations and businesses have released statements of solidarity in recent weeks. Others have remained conspicuously silent. I’ve also witnessed a frequent challenge to such supportive statements, along the lines of “yes, I hear your white words. But what are you doing, specifically, to remedy wrongs and support our Black communities?”

In other words, is this performative allyship while #Black Lives Matter is trending?

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Balance Due

Support with your money or your action, support Black voices, support with your bodies and your hearts and your votes and your anti-racism work. We’re all needed in this movement. Be imperfect, be awkward, be messy, be scared, be willing, be courageous.

I’m with you.

Black Health Matters

I’ve committed to centering BIPOC and especially Black voices, now and ongoing, but I’m briefly pausing to forward on this digital storytelling video I just discovered by University of Washington public health students, which discusses the health inequities inherent in our country’s response (or lack of response) to those with COVID-19, especially within our communities of color. This information is directly relevant to the racial justice issues many of us have been discussing in recent days. The video was shared by University of Washington School of Nursing Professor Josephine Ensign, who presented at a Narrative Medicine conference I attended several years ago and is doing impressive work in our local communities.

As a healthcare professional and as the mother of a Black daughter, I find the statistics on Black maternal health and existing health inequities within the Black community deeply disturbing. I continue to educate myself and I have a long way to go, but I appreciate resources like this to guide me in my efforts to support policy and systemic change.

Today’s letter to my white friends

Today, in the midst of other responsibilities, I’ve been struggling to write this post because I felt compelled to continue speaking up. However, I find that a clear pattern is emerging – what I think I’m going to say, and what I try to say, and what I ultimately end up saying, are often quite different.

Instead, I’m going to share the second half of what I did write because I do believe it’s helpful and might serve as guidance for others.

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On Gratitude

I’m a lover of Sun magazine; their collection of poetry and prose continues to astound me. In one of this month’s essays, a series of letters exchanged between Ross Gay and Noah Davis touched me deeply with their expression of intimate, loving masculinity. I recommend you check it out, especially since Sun removed their paywall temporarily and all of these great pieces are free to read (although do subscribe, if you haven’t already!).

I’ve seen a few of Ross Gay‘s poems circulating lately, so here’s an excerpt from Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, which calls out to be savored and taken into your bones:

“…thank you/the ancestor who loved you/before she knew you/by smuggling seeds into her braid for the long/journey, who loved you/before he knew you by putting/a walnut tree in the ground, who loved you/before she knew you by not slaughtering/the land…”

Just like Gay’s essay, my heart ached the entire time I read it. You can find the poem in its entirely on the PoetryFoundation.org website.

Mindfulness in nature – savoring color

I adore the color purple. Put me in a full-bloom field of lavender come July and I’m giddy with happiness. I’m continually impressed but not surprised by what we’ve learned in the field of therapeutic horticulture about the many health benefits available through our interactions with plants.

Savoring nature is especially important because it’s helpful to intentionally seek out positive experiences to balance out the more difficult parts of our day. But savoring isn’t about clinging to pleasure, or surrounding ourselves with things that make us feel good 24/7 (as if that were possible). Savoring is a useful tool, one of a number of mindfulness-based practices that ground us in our body, combat stressors, and boost mind/body health.

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green spaces belong to everyone

Black Birders Week: May 31, 2020 through June 5, 2020. Follow on Twitter and Instagram.

“We should be out here. The birds belong to all of us,” he said. “The birds don’t care what color you are.” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/27/nyregion/amy-cooper-christian-central-park-video.html

“This is a story beyond one person, a story beyond that park. It is a story writ large of who owns spaces, who has privileges to those spaces,” says author and black birder Drew Lanham. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/may/31/being-black-while-in-nature-youre-an-endangered-species

“We are a coalition of social media influencers – bloggers, athletes, activists, and entrepreneurs – who share the goal of promoting diversity in outdoor spaces where people of color, LGBTQ+, and other diverse identities have historically been underrepresented. We are passionate about promoting equity and access to the outdoors for all, that includes being body positive and celebrating people of all skill levels and abilities.” https://www.diversifyoutdoors.com/

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the earth is a living thing

Some days I need poetry just as much as I need the garden. I’ve read a little of Lucille Clifton but in a new book I recently ordered – “Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry,” edited by Camille Dungy, a whole new world of words has opened.

The following poem is in this book and can also be found here.

the earth is a living thing

is a black shambling bear

ruffling its wild back and tossing

mountains into the sea

is a black hawk circling

the burying ground circling the bones

picked clean and discarded

is a fish black blind in the belly of water

is a diamond blind in the black belly of coal

is a black and living thing

is a favorite child

of the universe

feel her rolling her hand

in its kinky hair

feel her brushing it clean

Lucille Clifton (1936 – 2010)

A local therapeutic garden

This Memorial Day weekend I visited the Portland Memory Garden, a therapeutic garden designed for individuals experiencing memory disorders (and their caregivers), although the park is open to the general public as well. On the day that I visited, I noted that both elderly community members and very young children were enjoying the space, with their families. I chose to pause my recording at times (and to skip several sections) in order to respect the privacy of those present.

As you gaze upon the garden’s imagery, notice where your eyes are drawn. Which aspects do you find most pleasing? Quite predictably, my eyes went immediately to the vibrant purple of the Oregon irises in their sunny raised bed. Did you observe any changes in your body between the beginning of the video, and its end? Is this a space you might like to visit – and why? Read More

Why we’re here

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry (hear the poet read this poem)