I wake up to the smell of coffee this morning, someone in the cabin got up early to put a pot on and walk around the Truckee neighborhood. I open the coffeemaker and pull out the grounds, holding the stories of offerings from Kimmerer, and walk out unto the balcony. “Thank you for your hospitality”, I greet the trees, “thank you for your kindness and generosity, for your love. Thank you to the sun and the moon, the wind and the sky in the morning,” I whisper to the beings as I slowly pour out the coffee grounds, which plop into the snow beneath me.
A sentence from Lisa Grayshields’s piece a few weeks ago has stuck with me- “Lake Tahoe is the spiritual and cultural center of our world.” I feel the spirits swirl strongly around me, I feel the magic of the trees and snow. I grew up going to Lake Tahoe every year, and I’ve been called back a couple times in the past few months. Once, in November with my parents, when I was in an extreme state of depression and anxiety, and now, to go on a ski trip with my grad school family. Each retreat has been incredibly powerful, and healing.
An oversized red VAIL sweater is keeping me warm this morning, there’s a picture of my grandma wearing the sweater in Lake Tahoe when I was a child. I feel so connected here, so incredibly grateful. As I stand outside, looking at the trees dance in the wind, and the snow sparkle, as I feel the touch of the cold morning air on my nose and face, I desire to offer my greatest thanks and gratitude for the gifts of this place. I think of Kimmerer again, of the Thanksgiving address of the Onondaga Nation. I wonder what expressions of gratitude the Maidu, Miwak, and Washo tribes offered to this land before they were settled upon. Later, I remember to find the Grayshield piece on Lake Tahoe. But for now, I offer coffee grounds and words of thanks and gratitude.
I needed to get out of my home this weekend, out of Berkeley. Drama and conflict have been heavy lately, with me caught in the middle. I wounded my family, my family wounded me. I’ve wounded myself again and again, torn myself apart, beaten and suffocated myself. I’ve died a million times, killed myself at the end of every breath. But the deconstruction made space to rebuild myself stronger and kinder, more authentic, humble, and powerful. Our emotional wounds and trauma have been laid bare, open and tender. Retreating, or perhaps escaping, to the land always gives me some relief. I wholeheartedly agree with Kimmerer, that “the earth, the first among good mothers, gives us the gift that we cannot provide ourselves.” Kimmerer needed healing after parting from her daughter, realizing that she must define herself outside of being a mother. The lake, filled with water lilies, comforted her in her grief.
But unlike Kimmerer, I am aware I came to this land asking to be fed, to be healed. The past year and a half since I’ve come out as queer has been an incredibly challenging, traumatizing, beautiful, transformational, and spiritual time. It has all led to this moment- this moment of painful and incredible love, of gratitude, and of healing. And I have been trying to define myself through this lens of queerness. I’ve come face to face with my younger self, with my inner child. Like Susy Zepeda, I have “realized I had abandoned my younger two-spirit/ queer self.” I often speak to them, channel their pureness, joy, wild, wonder, and love.
I have been grieving for most of my life, I have been caught in the tristesa, the fear and grief, of hiding and of hating myself, of lying to myself and everyone around me. I’ve been grieving the child that I locked up in a hole deep inside of me. Last year, it sometimes felt like my grief might crush me. Like my Professor, Sandra Pacheco, I have felt the “White Supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal hate” land heavy on my spirit, tear my soul into pieces. I have almost let it destroy me and drown me in darkness. My grief has felt a bit lighter lately, not as dark and heavy, but still present. But I feel peaceful lately, more accepting of my dualities- of my feminine and masculine, my toughness and tenderness, my joy and anger, my passion and compassion. I am tired of letting the hate trap me in self-victimization. I am ready to fight. And even now, as I’m caught in conflict, I offer forgiveness to myself and others for the mistakes we’ve made. I’m still learning to trust, to heal from my individual and intergenerational trauma, and to love myself and others fiercely and unapologetically. I am full of gratitude for the people and beings who have cared for me, held me, loved me, and comforted me when it felt like I was breaking, when it felt like I might not survive. Today, the cold air fills my lungs and I can breathe a little easier. I can speak with conviction.
In my journey of queerness, I’ve been considering my gender and the gender binary. A year ago, I announced to my family and friends that I would be taking they as well as she pronouns. I felt angry, depressed with feeling controlled and trapped by others’ expectations of how I should look, act, speak, think, and perform. I was sick from being abused due to the perceptions of the label that has been attached to my body and being. I’ve been bleeding from the shame and guilt of my body and my love. I’ve realized that I don’t want a gender to be assigned to my physical body. And yet I still identify as a woman, because I identify with the powers, strength, and struggle of women and of the feminine. Recently, I decided to take the pronouns he as well, to recognize the angsty, brilliant, rebellious middle school boy I shut down long ago.
I think of my classmates, who wondered about Kimmerer’s assignment of women to motherhood. Is motherhood bound to womanhood, to females and female bodied people? I don’t believe so. I believe the Earth is my Mother, and the Earth has no gender. Like Nature, the Earth has creative and destructive powers, feminine and masculine powers.
I created an alter in my room on Thursday night, after we made alters in class and I pulled the Nuno Sa Punso (the Hermit) tarot card. On display- a drawing of my abuela Maria, the Filipino tarot cards, crystals and stones, a burning candle, and a small Costa Rican vase filled with dirt, water, and a plant from my yard. I burned Palo Santo before creating the alter, to cleanse the energies of my space and call in protection. I feel the need to be with my Self, to care for my Self, to tend to my wounds, and to be guided by my inner knowing. My body and my room feel comforting, feel like home. I believe that my life, mi vida, is in a moment of massive change. I am a mother of transformation, and I believe that I will help transform the world, with other bearers of life and creation. I am preparing myself for the sacrifices I will make in service of the greater good, in service of abundance and gratitude. In service of Nature, Love, and Liberation.
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Lisa Grayshield, Indigenous Ways of Knowing as a Philosophical Base for the Promotion o Peace and Justice in Counseling Education and Psychology
Robin Wall-Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
Susy Zepeda, Altar for the Healing of Our Younger Self
Sandra M. Pacheco, The Day After the Election (body as altar)
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