I have been reading and working with Layla Saad's writing, via her book, "White Supremacy and Me" (with gratitude to those who are working through this with me in our reading/working group) and it has been resonating in me what she says at the beginning, that this work is a labor of love.
This weekend I walked the land that I belong to, and listened to its voice and it reminded me that the work I do there is reparations.
When I remove the trash left by settlers before me: Reparations
When I remove invasive plants brought by settlers that now choke out native life: Reparations
When I teach others how to be in respectful relationship with land: Reparations
When white people hear the word: Reparations--very often we stiffen. We resist.
"I didn't enslave people. I haven't beaten anyone to death. It's not my fault lenders discriminate against people of color. It's not my fault Black people die regularly at the hands of police. Why do I have to give something up to make it right? It's not my fault."
The idea of reparations frightens us.
What will we be asked to give?
Why must we pick up the burden of guilt for another's crimes?
But when I walk my land, I do not think in terms of guilt.
I do not think in terms of fault.
I think only how much I love my land. I think how much I love my guardian and teacher, I Watch. How much I love the spirit of Alder Creek who runs through the land. How much I love the fireflies. How much I love the pink lady's slippers and the trillium and the blue flag iris and the woodpeckers and the bobcats and the coyotes and the spiders.
I think only how much I love.
And I pick up the trash and I research how to treat a pest infection and I learn which plants will choke out the others if I leave them unchecked and I give because I love.
What if reparations isn't about giving up the things we enjoy. What if it's about wanting the things we enjoy to be available to others in equal measure. What if it's about laboring to undo the damage of the past because we can, because we want to, because we love?
What if it's about laboring to bring about a world in which we all are able to enjoy the bounties and blessings of this good green Earth together?
What if the work, rather than being about shame and guilt, is about joy?
What if we, in digging deep to uproot the poison of supremacy where it was planted and nurtured within us, were to do the work in reverence and in joy, yes, JOY. What if, every time we find within ourselves the evidence of that supremacy, we rejoice at the opportunity to remove it, to purge it, to become free and, in turn, to create conditions of freedom for our fellow walkers and standers and sitters and be-ers upon this good green Earth?
What if, when I find yet another oil bottle, poison bottle, plastic bag, barbed wire, buried in the soil of my land, where she has been working for decades to undo the damage, what if when I lift up that piece of garbage from where it never belonged, I give gratitude for the opportunity to put right a wrong, to move ever more into right relationship with the land and all her people.
What if it doesn't matter if I put it there, only that I am willing to remove it.
What if, when that piece of garbage is a belief or thought or word or action that I myself planted inside myself, tried to bury, what if I pick it out of the good fertile soil of my unconscious mind and carry it away and put it in a garbage bag and dispose of it so that the soil of my mind can grow more good and less rot, and what if I rejoice for the opportunity to do so?
What if, when I discover that the piece of garbage is an element of the system that was established to preference some people over others, I work together with those who have been working for decades to root it out, remove it, dispose of it, and what if I rejoice at the opportunity to do so?
What if every bit of it is a labor of love?
TAGS: social justice
Fen Druadìn (they/them) is anamchara, storyteller, dragon, student of trees, and a breaker of generational curses.
Fen's mission here is to love and remember themself completely, connect deeply with the world, and help others do the same for themselves.
Fen connects deeply with the universe through their relationship with a sacred land in the Appalachians of North Carolina, and shares messages here and elsewhere. When not in the woods, they can be found on Facebook and Patreon.
If you feel led and are able, you can support Fen's work in any of these ways:
You can also contribute to the work of reconnecting with yourself and the world in any or all of these ways:
Stand in front of a mirror, look in your eyes, and say, "I love you." Repeat daily for as long as it takes
Send your love to the trees and stones and water and Earth
Spend time in quiet meditation with a plant or stone person, and listen for messages
Clean up litter in your neighborhood and/or engage in other acts of environmental restoration
Build a personal relationship with the plants and animals in your area by spending time with them and listening for their messages and responding to their needs
Reconnect with your own strength and power and truth via meditative practice such as yoga, guided meditation, chanting, drumming, dance, or any other tool that feels right and helps you ground and connect
Engage in this community and/or other communities committed to re-establishing our right relationship with ourselves and the earth
Wherever you are, on your journey and in your life, may you be well, may you be at peace, and may you always find the next good step.