Earth Day at the Musée

SAM-brochuresLast week was damn busy – as I forecast in my Failure to Launch post. I don’t usually have so much going on, liking mostly to just come home and chill after work. I’ll write more later about the other events, including the two author readings, one of which held several fortuitous moments for Doug and me.

As I also mentioned in that post, I capped off the insanity by getting up crazy early on Friday to be at a monthly pre-work yoga and dance party called DayBreaker (@daybreakerSEA). The theme this month was the 80’s, in honor of the one year anniversary of Prince’s passing. I pulled together a semi-appropriate outfit in spite of screwing up my attempt to create a slouchy sweatshirt (basically it was so slouchy it was falling off) and danced like a very happy fool with my good bud Tess for two hours after doing a 6 a.m. yoga class on the floor of a bar. Doesn’t get much better than that (although, never been more grateful for a yoga mat, trust). In case I don’t get back to this at a later time, my impressions from club dancing, which I love and used to do often in my twenties:

  • Be yourself, together
  • Beats in your feet travel through your body, jumping up and down
  • Sweaty and free
  • Yes!
  • Not one, but TWO dudes dressed as Prince were there
  • Spandex (this WAS an 80’s theme, after all)

So my intention Saturday was to have breakfast, mow the lawn before the rain returned and then run some errands. Not much else, because I was SORE, people. Dancing at 47 is a whole different story than when you’re 17 or 27. Knees and feet particularly, plus shoulders and upper back from the yoga. I do yoga every week, but this was a bit more rigorous. I think the adrenaline was pumping, from a lack of sleep and in anticipation of dancing , so I overdid it. YOLO, right?

After mowing, I did my meditation (priorities!), and I realized that going to Costco on Earth Day felt akin to tossing plastic bags into a pod of whales. So I thought about what I felt up to doing, which unfortunately didn’t include the March for Science (first protest I’ve missed this year) or volunteering at a park restoration event. I landed on a long-overdue trip to the Seattle Art Museum to take in the Jacob Lawrence Migration Series that was ending yesterday. The Seeing Nature exhibit is also there, which felt appropriate for Earth Day. A wander through a museum felt like the speed I could handle.

I arrived early, which it turns out was a very good thing, since the room is small and the paintings are numbered, so are viewed in order. By the time I left the museum a few hours later, the line to get in the room extended all the way down the third floor.

The Migration Series was painted by Lawrence in 1940-41. The 40 paintings in the SAM exhibit (I’ve read there are 60 total, so some were apparently left out) depict the stories of African Americans migrating from the rural South to the North in search of better lives and new opportunities.

lawrence-copThe first paintings show life in the South and the conditions that black people were facing – lack of food, work and decent housing, boll weevils killing off the cotton, and lynchings. Meanwhile, the North desperately needed workers, so much so that agents were coming to recruit them. People started to leave for Northern cities, waiting at stations and crowding onto trains with their few belongings, leaving in such numbers that they faced harassment and even arrest to impede their exodus, but nonetheless they went. They sent letters back to those who stayed behind about all the opportunities, and the black newspapers covered the stories as well, compelling more people to make their way North. There were jobs (hard jobs in steel factories and railroads, but jobs), better places to live, more food, schools for their children.

Things seem good for a while.

Then the paintings start to show another side to the story. White workers angry with black workers for taking their jobs (unbeknownst to them, black workers were sometimes being recruited to replace striking white workers), sometimes resulting in violence, even riots. Different, subtler forms of discrimination, even from other African Americans who’d lived in the North much longer. Living conditions becoming overcrowded and unhealthy.

JL-paintingThe last painting is only a few feet from the first one as you finish the series, and by that point, there seems to be almost no difference in the story of those who migrated from the ones at the beginning. It comes full circle, but in the same way a merry-go-round does, ending up where you started, then being swept up again into the swirl. You circumnavigate the room and at the end, little seems to have changed. I found myself pulled toward the beginning (end?) of the line, wanting to start over, hoping for another outcome.

venice-paintingInstead, I headed upstairs and ambled through the Seeing Nature exhibit, which houses 150 years’ worth of European and American paintings depicting luminous landscapes, brilliant renderings of the Grand Canyon, and numerous scenes of Venice as seen through the realist, pointillist and impressionist lenses. This exhibit was entrancingly beautiful and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but in some respects, I wish I had seen it on a different day. Or maybe that I’d seen Jacob Lawrence on a different day. Seeing scenes of such disparate lived experiences on the same day was jarring.

Then again, maybe it worked out just as it was supposed to. As my mind turns to the People’s Climate March on 4/29, I try to grapple with what we are doing to our planet, the plants and animals, and ourselves, of course. The impacts will be felt by all, but not equally. Some people have fewer resources and won’t be able to cope as easily with the changes we are facing, whether it’s lack of water, food or habitable places to live.

What will those migrations look like and how will we respond?

 

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Not Enough Sign

BLM-marchI put on my marching uniform and hit protest number three yesterday on the year, for Black Lives Matter. Could have been four, but I didn’t attend the Tax March in the morning, even though I obviously support the sentiment. Why hasn’t 45 released his taxes yet? It’s appalling. Many of the Tax March folks showed up for BLM though, so it was a good size march, around 7,000 people. The Facebook RSVPs numbered 18,000 so I guess a bunch of people decided not to come, which is disappointing. The organizer lamented the lower than expected turnout during the rally, but since we were the ones who showed up, not sure how helpful that was. (FYI, I did read on the event’s FB page that some black people in Seattle didn’t support this march because of the organizer; I don’t know much about that, so will need to learn more).

My hubby got to go with me to this one, having had to miss the Womxn’s March and the Immigrant & Refugee rally because he was sick or not up to handling the crowds. It made me really happy to have him there. I missed my other partners in resistance, but CG was away for Easter weekend and the others were working. Peg Cheng and her husband were there, but of course, we never saw each other! Maybe next time, since we know there will no doubt be a next time.

Two things hit me right away when we got there. First, there were WAY more cops than at the Womxn’s March, for way less people. I suppose they thought more people were coming, but even if all the RSVPs had shown, it would still not have been anywhere near the volume of the Womxn’s March. A giant pink sea of pussy hats must be less intimidating than a little pond of black beanies.

The second thing was there were no porta-potties. I don’t know if this was due to a lack of funding or planning, but it was a bummer. I hope there will be some for the People’s Climate march in two weeks, or my mum will be very unhappy.

BLM-names

Remember their names.

You can’t really talk about protests without talking about signs. I spent days thinking about what I wanted to put on one, but in the end, I just couldn’t decide what I wanted to say. There’s too much to say to put on one sign. The theme of this march was to tie into the tax one, in light of the economic issues and disparities faced by black Americans, and especially in Seattle where our sales & real estate tax rates unfairly burden lower income and people of color. But Black Lives Matter is both more specific, to stop police shootings of unarmed black people, and broader, drawing attention to educational disparities, lack of affordable housing, environmental (in)justice, discrimination in the judicial and penal system, and so many other things that no sign could possibly capture it all. When you start layering in issues of intersectionality (i.e., gender, LGBT, disability, class, etc.) you might as well create a flip board. I may do just that at the rate we’re going.

BLM-sign1Of course, I saw signs I liked, like the one pictured here, which captures one reason why I wanted to be at the march, even though it’s only one tiny effort to dismantle a system that’s been in place for hundreds of years. I saw something online while I was thinking about sign possibilities – how instead of a wall, we should build ourselves a giant mirror, and look at ourselves, what we’ve become. If a mirror could also show us the past, perhaps we could accept what (or more accurately, WHO) built so much of this country’s wealth and prosperity, and figure out what kind of country we want to be moving forward. As white people, it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge our role in an unfair system that we feel like we didn’t create, but still benefit from. Looking in the mirror and listening to black peoples’ experiences is the only way we can start to fix things. Racism is hard to talk about, but if you don’t start with that basic premise, it’s a lot harder.

Oh, and in case you missed it (I haven’t really paid that much attention to it myself), lots of states are trying to pass laws to curb protests and make punishments more severe, including here in Washington. Because it’s “economic terrorism.” Which is both laughable and infuriating, given we have a President who refuses to be transparent about where his money comes from and if he’s paid any taxes while the rest of us spend the next two days getting our taxes done on time. If you like irony, it’s a good time to be alive.

Never Call Yourself a Writer, and Other Rules for Writing

Absolutely loved this post – captures perfectly the whiplash experienced when trying to navigate learning the practice and craft of writing. Just write!

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

shawna kenneyBy Shawna Kenney

First thought, best thought; revise, revise, revise. Write first thing in the morning when the mind is alert; write at night and never while sober. Do it alone, in an office with the door closed, surrounded by books; write in coffee shops, surrounded by stimulating characters and conversation. Use traditional quotation marks and capitalization Unless You Are a ‘Genius.’ Journal in longhand; always type fast. Sentences longer than three or four lines are unacceptable and tedious, unless you are William Faulkner, William Beckett, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jamaica Kincaid, Virginia Woolf, John Updike, Charles Dickens, Gabriel García Márquez, David Foster Wallace or one of those other people who can get away with it. Short is good.

Write with an ideal reader in mind; fuck the audience. Never show anyone an early draft; find a workshop for feedback. Write to please everyone; quit workshop and hire an editor. Take classes…

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Failure to Launch

Jeanie & Carl

My cousin & I showing our cards. It was almost the 80’s…

Two weeks now, two posts I’ve worked diligently on, only to get scuttled (well, I didn’t sink them, I just didn’t get them to their destination). I don’t know why, they just didn’t flow. One didn’t go anywhere, and the other one went somewhere but was lurchy. I think maybe I was trying to put too many ideas together and I ended up with a frankenpost. I felt like I was close to wrapping one up last night, when our internet went out for several hours, and today, I just wasn’t feeling it.

It’s also been really hard to focus on my own small concerns, given all the news lately. It was making hubby so anxious he finally had to stop reading it every day. I think there are quite a few people in the same boat. Real Change paper had an article recently called “Mental Wrecking Ball” about how area therapists are seeing so many patients who are traumatized by the President’s policies and the rift the election caused in relationships. I was looking for a therapist early in the year and it took me a while to find one who had any availability.

The good news is that I have been writing. Pretty much every day, which is great. I have noticed though that as the days get longer, my hands want to be in the dirt. Our weather has been pretty uncooperative this spring, so I haven’t had too much temptation yet to be outside instead of at the keyboard, but I can still feel that pull to get out there. Even if it means my hands cramp up from the cold.

Other than the usual homebody stuff, I’m looking forward to several events that I can hopefully use as fodder for writing – this weekend the Black Lives Matter march (got my black beanie!), then seeing James Osborne read from his book “Will Your Way Back” at the library, followed by Lidia Yuknavitch reading from her new book “The Book of Joan” and lastly getting up at crazy o’clock next Friday for Daybreaker in honor of the one year anniversary of Prince’s passing (#RIPPrince). It’s a pre-work dance party, starting off with yoga for an hour, then two hours of shaking your groove thing. In 80’s garb, of course. CANNOT wait.

To close out April, I’ll be marching with my parents and hubby in the People’s Climate march. With two more marches in one month, maybe my new sign will just read “Too Many Issues, Not Enough Sign.” In my research, one of my favorites was “Fossil Fuels are Ancient History.” Clever, no? Speaking of which [word nerd alert] – at the beginning of this post I used the word scuttle. Aside from the deliberate sinking of one’s ship, it also meant a pail especially used for carrying coal. And now that we’ve come full circle, I’m going to actually launch this one!

Be well everyone, keeping dancing and keep resisting.