This post has taken over one year and no fewer than eight attempts at a draft.
Rather than equivocate as to why, I'm just here to say a few things
then go about my winter.
Of course there's pictures, because this world is so beautiful sometimes.
I wrote the piece below over two days in mid-to-late November 2016.
We Are Family
Originally published in Tidal Echoes, UAS Literary and Art Journal, 2017
Three of anything feels like a closed loop to me. Complete.
I’ve just finished my third full year back at home, and am now barreling into the fourth. You could almost take that as a sign I have made peace with my decision.
You would be wrong.
I wondered how long it would take for our new President’s catchphrase to be lobbed in my direction.
Grab her by the -
It took three days.
Alaska has the highest rate of sexual violence in the country. I don’t know why I was surprised when we gave our votes to a predator.
You’re standing at the bar, enjoying the music.
He pulls up on a stool right next to you, a little too close,
sitting to make himself comfortable.
“Your stool’s on my toe.”
He doesn’t look. “No, it’s not.”
The pain’s getting worse.
“Hey, this is really hurting.”
“What’s your problem? Nothing’s wrong.”
You try to wiggle free.
“Seriously, it’s on my foot. Can’t you just look and see?”
“You’re distracting me. We’re both here for the music, right?”
He scoots forward, scraping flesh from bone. Your whole foot’s throbbing now. Even bleeding. You’ve asked.
Nicely, then not.
He won’t look.
So you shove him off the stool.
Cursing, he picks himself up off the floor. “What’s your problem?”
You sit on the stool.
You turn to the music.
Mangled toes dance to the beat.
He steps in blood on his way out.
It was my third time hiking the mountain. He pointed out the lemon in the hemlock, the spice in the spruce. It’s a shame we can’t find a way to get this flavor into food, he said, but the bitterness always comes through. It’s what they need to survive, but it doesn’t really transfer well.
When I have children, I want them to have at least five people they would call parents. I want their trans uncles and aunties and parents of any color to be as safe as I am wherever I live.* When we have our first queer President I want to be in the crowd on inauguration day with my family. When we have our second non-white President I want her to scream - just once, unless she needs to do it again - at the top of her lungs into the nearest microphone for as long as she has breath. I want her heart to be an ocean and her spine to be granite. I want the accessibility ramps to be lined with tasteful flower garlands.
I tell people I give my heart to others without asking for automatic exclusivity, only a chance, and a piece of their heart in return.
I say this hoping for understanding, sometimes I even find some.
When tell you I love you I mean it.
When I told you goodbye I meant it.
Over 500 people in my hometown gave their vote to a man who has white nationalists celebrating and CNN hosting guests who ask, “Are Jews people?” with sincerity.
I don’t believe they all knew what they were doing, but I think now they’re afraid to make waves.
Which means they haven’t heard the storm forecast.
This is their town and they know it.
I grab the exposed roots and pull myself up, shaking legs finding strength against the rock.
This is my town too.
Lumbering to the top, the wisps of cloud shield us from the town. The mountains of the Coast Range declare themselves against the stark blue sky. The ledge behind us drops to a winterscape, a valley of ice where the sun doesn’t reach right now. Won’t until spring.
I watch the light bring the mountaintops to life.
The wind pushes Petersburg into view, declaring itself against the frozen muskeg and glimmering water.
I love this town.
And I don’t know how I can ever forgive it.
* After a year, this is the only asterisk I feel compelled to add to the piece and I come to it with the gravity of Jupiter. Creative writing leaves room for hyperbole but here I need to be clear - if I could I would find every physical copy of this journal to rewrite this sentence in a way that explicitly leaves room for love beyond the confines of a binary. Gender is made up but the boxes we've built for it is real, and I think the sooner we learn to live that way the sooner we can all be free.
You wouldn't know it from this page, but I spent my winter writing. Mostly for the Capital City Weekly; each word in bold below is a link to a piece I wrote for pay.
What a novelty!
I spent my summer writing love letters.
There's another timeline behind all those pieces.
I wear black the majority of the holiday season and put my heart in someone else's hands because I need help with this journey. We share the load now-with laughter along the way-and I've found the truth I was searching for.
With another organizer we host a Women's March solidarity event in Petersburg. More attend than I thought to dream.
We hear that a member of our federal delegation is coming to the island and not planning on hosting any public events.
He calls one with less than twelve hours notice, we gather >40 people to say hello.
We hike to Raven's Roost cabin for the night and I find "White Power" carved into the table among the marks of lovers and renegades and heroes.
I take a picture before erasing it from existence.
One weekend I go to turn off the radio, muttering "Nope."
A visitor asks me if anything's happened?
I have to tell her that white supremacists gathered in Virginia with torches and flags, and blood had been spilled in the fight against American fascism.
She wandered through the store a few more minutes with an ashen look on her face, purchased her items and left.
Two young men entered the store, standing at the new book display.
The big one with the beard and camo jacket
asks if I had "The Art of the Deal" in stock?
I say no, but I'm happy to special order and he'd get 10% off.
Other than that I have "The Art of War", by Sun Tzu.
"I'm good," he says, laughing to his friend
as they turned around and left.
I've kept up my email newsletter the best I can,
but I've felt more or less speechless the last few months.
I was afraid my despair and rage were contagious,
and there's enough of that around.
But I've put those away for now, the best I can,
thanks to therapy and a bit of self-medicating and compartmentalization.
I'm doing the best I can.
I hope you are too.
Together we might be enough.
Now if you'll excuse me.
I'm off to write some love letters.
In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.