resist

Things are bad. Things have been bad for much longer than I’ve been alive, although I’ve only been aware of them for the past twenty years or so. You see where I grew up, the status quo was to be raised the way most of us were here in the US of A. With a kind of forward-looking blind patriotism. We ignore the atrocities of the past, and wave our flags and thank god and country for our freedom.

I am not implying that I don’t feel lucky to be raised in a place where I have the freedom to express myself, and more or less move freely in society.

The trouble is, that this does not apply to everyone.

We are a nation that committed genocide on the indigenous of our declared homeland.

We are a nation that was built on the free labor of millions of African slaves, a debt that has never been repaid (look up 40 acres and a mule).

We are a nation that has a vast expanse of fertile land that we exploit growing commodities that are not geared for human consumption, dumping countless chemical pesticides, digging pipelines, building unnecessary structures. The list could go on for much much longer. All of this while so many go hungry, homeless and desolate. All of this while we deprive those seeking a better life of basic human necessities and lock them in cages.

We wonder in awe how so many could have stood by during slavery, the holocaust, yet what are we doing now? We have been rendered disconnected and helpless. We are connected through memes and photos of our children, but we are not connecting in real time.

What if we could see each other in person? Imagine how energized you would feel if you saw your sentiments reflected everywhere you looked. So I have a challenge — we’ve all seen the signs — Hate has no home here, black lives matter, etc. Those are great, but it’s kind of like signing a petition without writing a personalization. What if we all took 10 minutes to make our own sign, and challenge one or two or ten friends to do the same. Whatever feels right to us on whatever our own personal platform is. Our house, our car, our bike, our backpack.

Maybe if we get over the discomfort, or the tackiness or whatever is stopping us, and commit to sharing, we can start to reveal where we all are, start to connect, and turn this world around.

Because we have to. Fascism thrives in silence. And our silence is deafening.

 

why I am not a crunchy mama.

My life has changed a lot externally in the past 5 or 6 years. In the fall of 2013 my partner and I moved from northern Vermont to the greater Boston area to grow food closer to a market of people who might like to buy it.

In Vermont we had an amazing community of like-minded people working on farms, making art and generally living a simple life. We didn’t have kids, although some of our friends did. We rented rooms in shared houses with backyard chickens. We sat around fires and sometimes people sang too many Gillian Welch songs. I worked alternately on small farms, in the service industry and in the school system. Before that is a whole other story involving freight trains, bikes, worn boots and spending the winters in warm places and never signing a lease. More on this later.

So sometime around late 2013, early 2014 all that changed. We packed up a u-haul and drove to Berkley, Massachusetts. A town I thought was actually Beverly until we visited to check out a land situation in the summer of 2013. We signed a 5 year lease for a farmhouse, old florist shop and just over 10 acres. The rent was easily twice as much as either of us had ever considered spending, but it was a FARM. We had a budget and a business plan and we were confident we could make the small farm dream come true.

We knew something was wrong when we arrived and the 10 sheep we were promised (and written in the lease) would be gone, were still there. Two of them were rams, the other 8 were bred ewes. After a year of moving paddocks for someone else’s sheep (because they only left them one large and seemingly nutrition lacking round bale), no small number of lambs and several conversations with both local and state animal welfare officials, we talked to a family friend who is a lawyer and got out of our lease. Probably not more on this later, this is a chapter best left closed.

Although we had a reasonably successful first season on the farm (we grew vegetables, went to markets and had a CSA), we couldn’t find another piece of land nearby and so we were faced with the decision of what to do. Go back to Vermont and work on other peoples farms? Something else?

We decided to try the (not so) big city and moved a little south to Providence, Rhode Island. We got married. We both got jobs, not on farms, although food related. (More on “My husband the butcher” later). We had too many bourbon smashes one night and had a kid. We stayed for almost the first year of his life in our 550 square foot apartment, walking to the coffee shop, to the community garden, downtown.

We missed growing, but we were still in fiscal recovery from years farming (eg. when I was 28 I worked for $600/month plus farm food and lodging, meanwhile my student loan payment was $250/month). So the three of us moved in with my mother-in-law for almost a year, saved some money and paid off the last of our farm/farmworker debt.

Buying is cheaper than renting in the Boston area where you’d be hard pressed to find a two-bedroom apartment for under 2 grand. So we bought a house through the USDA rural redevelopment mortgage program.  It’s essentially like the VA loan (no down-payment) but you don’t have to be a vet, and there are geographic restrictions. Seriously, check it out if you have no savings but want to buy a house. We found a place with just under a 1/2 acre with a south-facing lawn. We bought it for this — a place to grow food. We planted a garden, some raspberries and a couple hazelnut trees. We got some baby chicks and had ourselves another baby human.

Which pretty much brings me to now. So here I am, a leftist (not a liberal mind you), former farmer, living with two kids, a 9-5 job and 2 kids, living in the burbs (of New Bedford, which is not quite the burbs but pretty much the burbs). I should mention here that I also identify as queer, and am gender-fluid but mostly agender/androdgynous (In college I used to call it post-gender). Because I’m female, and our culture allows this in the realm of normal for females, most people just see me as a regular woman who doesn’t shave or wear dresses that much. I’ve been out since 1999 and this doesn’t bother me much, I’ve had a lot of time to process my identity. I don’t make a point of correcting anyone, because there is a lot of misunderstanding around non-binary and I don’t want to draw attention away from others who see it as more of a central part of their identity. I’m also married to a cismale (and back in the 90s we called them bio boys), which adds to the confusion.

So the point is here I am looking for like-minded parent friends, looking like a slightly tomboyish green democrat Mom. And this is how I found the crunchy Moms. This is a thing you see, on the internet. This is what I look like, externally. A crunchy Mama. I’ve spent about a year trying to find some community in this place. There are certainly some of these folks that I’m sure I would identify with a be great friends with, but overall, I have found these crunchy mama platforms to be:

1. Extremely judgemental — someone recently called vaccination “child abuse”. This and other divisions is so against everything that I believe in, which is promoting justice,  creating community, respecting others, interdependence and valuing diversity. (et al.)

2. Consumer driven — often these spaces talk about the best “natural” or “organic” thing to buy for your child. Our family is always buying things for the kids. We don’t buy much. Partially because we don’t have much do-re-mi but mostly because we think consumerism and global capitalism is going to destroy the planet and our souls. We buy second hand first because it is gentler on the planet and second because it is gentler on our wallets.

3. Does not inherently value local economies — If we’re going to fix this shit, it’s going to come from the people. I understand ordering from Amazon and grocery delivery is cheaper sometimes (spoiler alert, it’s really not most of the time, more on this later too), but if we do not invest our capital in local economies, ESPECIALLY food economies things are going to get a whole lot worse.

So I guess my point is, I’m not a crunchy mama. I’m also not perfect and sometimes I get deliveries from Target and do many many other that do not coincide with my values. This is not to say I have the answers, maybe it’s really a question. Who else is out there feeling these feelings, living these contradictions ?

This is just to say, if you’re ever in the New Bedford area with some small children, look me up. I’ll be the one planting seeds in the backyard. Stop on by, I’ll fix you some tea.

 

 

slowing down

If you follow this, you know I write in blocks. I write a lot. And then I don’t. I don’t remember who said it, but one writer said he was always writing but he doesn’t always write DOWN. Well, shit. If we afford ourselves that privilege, I am ALWAYS writing. I always have something I’m mulling over, that I want to get down, something I jot down as a reminder. Mostly though life takes over. Mostly lately those thoughts don’t go out in the air, or the world,they just get absorbed into me. Occasionally they pop back up, but in general, they just become an evolved part of how I view and exist in the world.

The point now, if there is one, is that this is very alienating. This is very lonely. This is where my being is being put into words so that I can understand them, but my subconscious self is the only one who is interacting with that being. Not even my cognizant self. Even I never fully understand what I am talking about, because I no longer have TIME. And I don’t think I’m the only one. I think I historically have given outlets to these words, these images, these movements, this art of being.

We as a society are time poor, and even though I’ve spent the better part of my adult life railing against this notion, I somehow ended up here. Without time for contemplation, for self, for others. I am productive, and the wage work I do is intentional and important, but it does not give me space to exist.

So what to do? Here we are again, back in 11th grade, talking to a friend, asking ourselves why we work. To buy gas to put in the car to get to work. The answers are different now, but the notion behind them are not. My three year old told me a couple months ago that I had to go to work to get the money to live in our house. It’s not that he’s wrong, but I don’t want him to be right.

So I’m working on slowing down. Figuring out a way to backtrack to the self who had time (but not 2 kids), space (but not a place to grow my own food) and not much else. This may mean I get fired, even though I am linked to a worker-owner cooperative. Because this means being vocal about what a liberated economy looks like. This means challenging everything we have internalized about capitalism.

I believe in collective and community power. I believe in economic justice. This includes racial justice. This includes reparations. I don’t have all the answers, so for now I’m just starting with this one. I’m going to give my self more time, and I’m going to get back to digging all these words out of my subconscious. Then maybe we can get back to the business of setting things right.

 

yeah, me too

I’ve told two men about my sexual assault. The first one cried when I told him. He was so upset that a person would do that to another person. Even then, in my head, I wasn’t really convinced it was all that bad. I mean, it wasn’t pinned down violent rape. So I was just exaggerating, right?

I was a freshman in college when I came home hammered to my dorm room. My roommate and her boyfriend, who was visiting from Boston, were in her bed and his friend was in mine. I told him, in my drunken state, that it was fine if he stayed there as long as he didn’t molest me. Those were the actual words I said, as long as you don’t molest me.

I woke up in the middle of the night and his hand was inside of me. I don’t remember his name, if I ever knew it. I think he had dark hair. I was half asleep. I pretended to be asleep. I don’t know if he thought he got away with it. Or what he told his friend.

I’ve never told any women either. No one has ever told me, directly, about their survival story. Maybe it’s because I know they know what it’s like being female. Maybe it’s because I’m ashamed. Maybe afraid.

I also am not sure if I’m sharing now because of the brave women who continue to come forward. Or because I’ve just had enough. Or because 14 days ago I birthed a baby girl and I’ll be damned before I let her have to deal with this shit.

So there are protagonists here. And there are lessons. I’m not going to tell you what to take from this, but I insist you take something.

If you haven’t been listening yet, listen now. Every woman has experienced some form of harassment, many have been assaulted, some have been violated beyond repair. Until we are all free to walk down the street at night without our keys artfully clenched in our fists, it’s far past time to do something. But it’s not too late.

I forget what it’s like to be free

I’ve fought these (imaginary) chains for as long as I’ve had my teeth.

But they are still very heavy, they are still very insistent. Very chatty chains.

Like my son now does, I tore off my shoes and socks and invited the bees, the glass.

Now his feet get cold and I wonder if it’s right to make sure they don’t.

It is February after all. It is New England.

I like socks, too.

I just don’t know when I started to depend on them.

There was a motto I used to live by:

“Boots must be taken off every day.”

Beckett I think.

I don’t have to tell myself that anymore.

I keep cracking the window because I feel unwell inside.

All those that once understood are far away or gone.

My hands are too clean.

I keep waiting for my pants to tear, so that I can patch them.

And they will.

And then I will teach you how to sew.

 

 

 

 

Get your money out of their grubby little hands

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I’m not usually so bossy. I generally go with the philosophy of stating my opinion and letting people decide for themselves.

This is going to be different. Here’s what to do.

  1. Decide what you believe in. Do you believe in the people’s right to clean water? Do you believe that we should make good on the deals we make? Do you believe no one should be forced from their home because someone else wants to make money off of the land it’s built on? If you said yes, that’s great. Move on to step 2.
  2. Make a list of all of your bank accounts. If ANY of them are not a local credit union, local savings bank or community bank, go to step 3.
  3. Find a local credit union or savings bank. Open an account. Go to step 4.
  4. Get ready to transfer all of your assets to your new local bank account.

Why do this? National banks are so convenient and secure. Credit unions are secure too, and in all of my experiences with small local banks I have had all of the conveniences of big banks with fewer fees. A lot of small banks and credit unions have networks so you can use ATMs without penalties. With direct and mobile deposit, most banking is accessible remotely. The convenience of going to a branch when you’re on vacation is really a non-issue these days.

But really, why do this? Because big banks are using YOUR MONEY to fund projects that you as a person would never agree with. Community banks and credit unions put that money back into your community.

Ok, so why now? I believe in the power of organizing. Right now, some of the biggest of the big banks are funding the Dakota Access Pipeline.

financing-the-dapl

The DAPL is unethically driving through sovereign lands that were granted to the Sioux in 1868 through the Treaty of Fort Laramie. As a united people we can send a big message that our money is not to be used to destroy the environment and attack indigenous peoples, American citizens, or any individual.

Let’s take back our world from the 1%. We have always had the power. Let’s use it.

 

In hiding

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I shouldn’t be surprised. I know. I’m a hoper though, a dreamer, a believer. So when our mainstream news fails to report some of the biggest stories about our civil liberties, I get disappointed. And, as the holder of a Journalism degree I get downright pissed.

It started with the NPR report this morning about the Mexican immigrant shot dead in Washington state. This morning. Not when it happened. But that’s small time.

What about the news out of Chicago that police are holding US citizens illegally in a warehouse and using torture techniques, that at least once has led to death. No booking, no phone call.

They’re probably terrorists, so it’s okay. It’s okay not to mention them in The New York Times or The Washington Post. At all.

Terrorists like a woman “who says she was shackled to a bench within Chicago’s secretive interrogation facility for 18 hours before being permitted access to a lawyer described the ordeal as being “held hostage’’ in the police compound that has been likened to a CIA black site,” according to an article in The Guardian.

The article also quoted another detainee as saying, “You are just kind of held hostage.” “The inability to see a lawyer is a drastic departure from what we consider our constitutional rights. Not being able to have that phone call, the lack of booking, makes it so that when you’re there, you understand that no one knows where you are.”

The role of the press as a government watchdog is staggeringly absent here. A Chicago Sun-Times article reports a police department denial, using the fact that “unlike other Chicago Police facilities over the years, no allegations of torture have been reported in the media in connection with Homan Square.”

Let me say that again.

No allegations of torture have been reported in the media.

This is exactly the point. And it evades the point. Torture is not reported. Let’s give the Chicago PD the benefit of the doubt that they’re not torturing anyone or handcuffing them to a bar behind bench for 17 hours.

Let’s say there’s no torture. Is that what we’ve come to? If there’s no waterboarding going on it’s okay to deny citizens their constitutional rights? It’s not torture, it’s just eroding civil liberties. No big deal.

Sigh.

 

I love black people

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So other than my personal, and pretty inconsequential drama, a lot’s happened out there in the big old world over the past year.

This post is intended to be lighthearted, but make no mistake that the issues are not that way in my brain, heart or opinion.

Since moving off the farm in November I’ve enjoyed my first “commute” in over a decade. I listen to NPR, the droll repetitive news source that jokes about its appeal to white people. I love it. The news, but mostly the special guests and other programs that are funny, poignant, current, whatever.

This morning in a lighthearted bit on NPR’s Morning Edition, listeners got movie and TV recommendations from Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil, the black power couple that combined are responsible for TV drama like The Game and Being Mary Jane and comedy film Jumping the Broom.

In a year that has brought such pain to communities of color and empathetic allies, their conversation was a subtle reminder that even though fewer people are hashtagging I can’t breathe these days, these issues are not going away.

Just this week three Muslims were shot dead in North Carolina. So was an unarmed Mexican immigrant crossing the street in Pasco, Washington. No one seems to care. Or else we just don’t know what we can do. Don’t believe we can change anything.

These cases come and go with little consequence. Maybe someone gets locked up, but the trend continues. The poor, the crazy, the tinted. It’s like there’s a resolution that’s been made. Someone noticed that we’re not doing anything.

Salim Akil mentions the conversation recounted by so many black parents. The conversation where the parent tells them not to run around in this affluent neighborhood. Someone may mistake this boy’s playing as running away in this affluent neighborhood. In his affluent neighborhood.

It’s a brief bit in an otherwise upbeat piece recommending things to watch. (See or listen to the the interview here). And I promised this was going to be lighthearted, so I’ll skip to the finale. Salim Akil talks about movies that are about being an American, yes an African-American, but in the end the movies are about growing up, living and being an American. Then he shares his hope that white people will watch these movies and say, “You know, I like these black people!”

I’m paraphrasing because I can’t remember the exact words, but that was the feeling. The host laughs, the guests laugh, but I don’t think it was as much of a joke as it was the truth. My momma always used to say that half of what’s said in jest is true. I’d say most is more like it.

The truth is, I do love black people. As a stereotype, this community is bold and truthful. They are community-based and richly steeped in their surroundings. They are expressive and honest, and no nonsense. As long as our society deals in stereotypes I may as well get these ones out. I wish I had half the character, class and grace required to live day to day as a person of color. I stand with you, and I’m not forgetting.

Where have you been?

It occurred to me that I may owe you readers a bit of an explanation for my rather lengthy absence. It will come in pockets. There’s a lot to tell. This is the short version.

In no particular order.

My now husband and I started a farm. I got married. We lost running water. Three times. We showed up to our leased land to find the two rams and twelve ewes that were supposed to be gone were not, in fact, gone. The twelve ewes some few months later yielded 18 lambs. The landowner threatened us after we contacted animal control (after an ewe expired and was left there for over 48 hours). We successfully ran a 65 member vegetable CSA and attended several local farmers markets. We still had no running water. Our friend let us watch his hound-dog for the summer. We got a lawyer, got out of the lease and closed our farm. Moved to Rhode Island. Decorated our new apartment with an assortment of sheep skulls and other bones.

In short.