Fire and Water

My parents are visiting. My mother has passed on to me her love of plants and her willingness to tend them, and yesterday we sawed down a winter-killed rhododendron, weeded out nightshade and pokeweed, transplanted a basil plant for her to take home, and set various ground-cover plants–thyme and something she likes but doesn’t know the name of, from her yard–into the ground. Last night and this morning, the rain poured down, incidentally watering them in.

This morning I read about the destruction–certainly present, possibly far-reaching–wrought by wildfires in Alaska and the continental west coast. If you read the article at that link, you will read of people unhoused and sickened, plants and animals burned, and projected release of carbon dioxide in the permafrost revealed and warmed by the fire and the absent ground cover.

Since white supremacist Dylan Roof murdered nine Black people in a historically Black church in Charleston, SC, other Black churches have burned, and people suspect arson by more white supremacists for at least three of the fires. Someone pointed out to me sharply this week that because I’m not Black, it’s not for me to reflect on Black experience, which is perfectly true–but it’s also not for me to ignore it. I’m a citizen of the country that tends toward these damages, a member of the category of people that tends to inflict them. The fire that sickens, the fire that chokes, the fire that is supposed to paralyze survivors with fear, the fire that comes from a history of violence, exploitation, and malevolent neglect–it’s hard not to connect these. Who that is human will suffer the most from a given disaster? The same people who suffer the most the rest of the time–not as a law of nature or an act of god, but through human action or inaction and its interactions–its twisting, violent pressure–on the processes and relationships of nature.

I hope you will read the essay I just linked to (there it is again), and Morgan Parker’s poem, and Ashon Crawley on the Otherwise, and many more things that I will share with you here as I track them down again. They’re who you should be listening to. In the meantime…

I’ll be at the Sankofa World Market today with the booth, 3-7pm at Knight Memorial Library on Elmwood Avenue in my segregated city. I feel very low today, very angry and very sad, but I hope you will come talk with me, especially if you feel that way too.

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