It is the time of the goldenrod and soon will come the pokeweed. I feed the last caterpillar of our season as the rest are in chrysalides or have launched. We go to the woods to offset fear and dread, to take into our eyes and noses and ears as much life as we can before the light wanes. We have had to grow through these six months, but that was made easier by the world greening and blooming around us. Now we begin to smell the sweet rot of decay on the trails and life yellows to brown out. We will need to make our own light, increasingly, in coming months, to burn the brush.
And then these thistles in transition remind me of cotton and I’m a goner.
Because every time I think of the fact that there’s a Senator whose name is actually Cotton who is working to be sure that The 1619 Project — US history that centers the legacy of the enslaved and their descendants — is not taught in schools that leads me down the path to the fact that the POTUS is a guy whose name is actually Trump whose entire platform is winning and domination and that lends a hair too much credence to the theory that we’re truly just living in a simulation and I can’t believe a simulation this advanced couldn’t hire better writers. Cotton? Trump? Hack shit.
I have started listening to 1619. I put it off for a year because
I know White supremacy is real.
I know White supremacy was and remains brutal.
I know it pervades every part of our society.
I know individuals participate passively by claiming innocence.
I know I participate both passively and actively. (Let me count the ways.)
I know there are parts that are mine to fix and parts that are not mine.
I know, I know, I know.
Knowing is its own goal, the trap. When we think we know something, we feel we can set it aside. Whatever is set aside we have neither impetus nor duty to dismantle. And that’s when stopping at knowing creates an unbearable stasis of complicity.
When I try to think I know White supremacy, when I try to think I can draw its reach and its edges, when I try to define my part in it, it becomes an ever shrinking web around me. The more I struggle to understand, to learn, to grow, the more enmeshed I feel. And then on a walk I’m stopped by the radiance of the goldenrod in the golden hour and I notice the thistles are turning and I think of cotton and Cotton and thistles are brambly and the intractable grip is like being caught in the brambles and the fight to get out pulls us deeper and what does that remind me of? What analogy from my childhood perfectly describes that feeling? And it comes back to me that it’s the tar baby in the briar patch and BOOM: The hand of the programmer. We don’t know anything. We were made this way, and the only way to unmake is to not know.
I need to not know so that I will be open to learning. I need to not know so that I can build my awareness and compassion. I need to let not knowing radicalize me and break me of the hand of the programmer, break me of supremacy. I need to not know so that there is somewhere to grow.