Wild Writing: Watermelon Dream

Written in my Wild Writing class, inspired by two different poems: “A Prize Watermelon” by James O’Hern and “Prayer on National Childfree Day” by Abby E. Murray.

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I’m in the watermelon dream. As a kid, even though my grandparents had a farm and we had a large garden, we didn’t grow watermelons. Maybe it was too wet in Oregon, or there wasn’t enough sun. Watermelons were the stuff of picnics, barbecues, special occasions in summer, something you bought at the store. I don’t remember ever buying a watermelon for us to eat at home. Maybe they were too expensive, or maybe my parents didn’t like them, or maybe I just don’t remember.

As I got older, lived on my own, I never thought to buy a watermelon, unless it was for a picnic, barbecue, or special occasion. I didn’t think I particularly liked watermelon. But then I moved to Colorado, and they grow watermelons here — crispy, sweet melons that are local and in season for a month towards the end of every summer. The first year we bought one for no special reason, just to eat, it was so good we ate half of it immediately, standing over the kitchen sink with two spoons, eating straight out of the melon, juice running down our arms. We obsessively ate watermelon that summer, couldn’t stop, never felt satisfied no matter how much we ate, even when we made ourselves sick to our stomachs from eating so much.

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Then one year, as our garden got bigger and bigger and we had to come up with more different things to plant, we decided to try watermelon. At the end of the summer, two tiny green striped melons sat in our garden. We picked them, so excited because everything else we’d ever grown proved to be better than what we could buy in the grocery store — we gobbled tomatoes right off the vine, standing in the sun, the fruit still warm, and I ate whole cucumbers raw. But we cut into those first watermelons and they weren’t even pink yet, a pale fleshy white dotted with black seeds, wholly inedible.

We tried again the next summer, had more fruit, but still none of it ripe. Maybe our growing season wasn’t long enough in the north? Last year, we tried one more time, researched how to know when they were ripe — you had to wait until the little curl at the end turned from green to brown.

Blessed are the poems you scratch into the ground. The watermelons, those round green poems scratched into the ground. Our mistake in years past was picking them too soon, even though everything else in the garden was done — except for the tomatoes and strawberries, which slow down for sure but as long as there is sun and the nights didn’t get too cold, they’d keep going. We learned we had to wait, until the tiny green curl at the end of the fruit turned brown, and then they’d be ready.

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This year they were bigger, maybe a different variety than we’d tried before but we’d lost the tag so couldn’t be sure. There were six of them. It was very late, summer practically over when the first curl turned brown. We took the melon inside and set it on the counter. We were both skeptical, didn’t really believe they would be any better than before, but when Eric split it in half with the knife, the flesh inside was deep pink and juicy. He leaned in close, took a deep breath, and said, “well, it smells like a watermelon,” but neither of us really believed the fruit would be tasty, anything we’d want to eat.

We each took a bite, our eyes widening as we chewed, smacking each other on the arm before our mouths were empty enough for words. It was good. It tasted like watermelon. We moved half the melon into the sink and another spoon so we each had one, and like that first time, ate half a watermelon standing over the sink, spitting black seeds into the compost container on the counter, the dogs hovering by our feet, begging for a bite.

A watermelon, from my garden!

We could hardly believe we’d done it, that there were five more huge watermelons in our garden that would soon be ripe and ready to eat — their seeds were poems we’d scratched into the ground, our garden yielding the watermelon dream.

What we remember, what I write might all be fiction, but it’s also the truth — pink, juicy, and full of seeds.

Gratitude Friday

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1. Spending time with lovely humans. My favorite kind are the ones who are curious, smart, kind, creative, and funny, and I got to hang out with a couple of them this week.

2. Good food. Linden Street Cafe (formerly known as Cafe Ardour) has some seriously yummy food and drink. Eric has also been cooking some really good stuff for dinner, which means I get the bonus of some amazing leftovers for lunch too.

3. Having a short car. Seriously, yesterday was a sloppy mess with no signs of stopping, and I really really needed a spot in the parking garage so I didn’t have to clean my car off again, but there were only two faculty spots left: one was for an electric car and one for a short car.

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4. Ringo Blue. I love both my dogs equally (for different reasons), but the adorableness of Ringo is sometimes more than I can handle.

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5. Sam. That being said, the sweetness of Sam is often just as hard to handle. Whenever my three boys get back from a walk, he’s the one who always has to come find me right away, check in. And in the morning, after he gets breakfast and goes potty, if I’m still in bed, he jumps in, gives me a kiss, and then curls up next to me. How hard he tries to protect me, even when he doesn’t need to. How patient he is. How he hides from the washing machine. How he runs out of the room if someone sneezes or coughs.

It's hard to get a good picture of a black dog.

It’s hard to get a good picture of a black dog.

Bonus joy: Some really good documentaries, a good week at work, pay day coming soon, snow (even though I’m kind of over it and need some sunshine), my “new” bathroom (which is over a year old now), snow tires, wool socks, clean sheets, soaking in a tub of hot water, laughing, really good writing, the technology that allows me to connect with people I love even though they are far away, knowing I’m good at what I do, being able to say no.

Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: It’s not good to get comfortable in knowing. Just because I know something doesn’t mean I should stop learning, allow that knowledge to become fixed, solid, unmoving. Getting comfortable with what I think or believe makes me stagnant and dumb. Things are constantly changing, as they always and will continue to do, and good people are doing research, finding and sharing new information all the time. I must stay open to this, curious, because if I stay stuck in my current state of knowing, eventually I will be wrong.

2. Truth: Resisting change generates suffering. Resistance to new wisdom eventually turns aggressive, violent. Holding on too tightly to what I want to be the truth, wanting it to remain even when its nature is to dissolve and fall away hurts. And depending on how tightly I cling, how violently I resist, I can become a danger to others too.

3. Truth: Not knowing is better. There’s a teaching in Buddhism, “only don’t know,” which recommends cultivating a state of not knowing, of curiosity, and resting there. The poet Rumi describes it as a field, “beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing” and says “when the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.” Pema Chödrön says,

Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.

One wish: May we cultivate a state of curiosity, opening ourselves to new possibilities for compassion and wisdom, letting what we knew, what we were so sure of, so certain about, fall away without resistance.

Something Good

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1. This Day Brought Me to Tears from Jena Schwartz. This blog post brought me to tears. Jena at her best is like…I can’t even think of what, because there’s just nothing like her at her best.

2. 25 Famous Women on Dealing With Anxiety and Depression.

3. Attention white women: The Primal, Unyielding, and Dangerous Ego of Missy Anne, and The Decolonization of White Feminist Consciousness, and The Subtle Linguistics of Polite White Supremacy, and Befriending Becky: On The Imperative Of Intersectional Solidarity, and Decentering Whiteness, and 20 Black Women You Should Be Following Right Now.

4. Knocked down by the election? Here’s how to move on. Because this, “I had to stand at the exact same moment that I could not stand.”

5. Lemonade Didn’t Win Album Of The Year Because White People Don’t Know How To Not Be White People.

6. New Platform Promotes Images Of Black People Engaging In Acts Of Affection. In related news, Artist Addresses The Racist History Of Photographing Men Of Color.

7. Renowned programmer pulls out of tech conference hosted by Shopify. “Toronto developer, who teaches coding to women and minorities, says Ottawa firm’s relationship with Breitbart puts it ‘on the wrong side of history.'”

8. Accidental Racism, Intentional Activism.

9. Stephen Miller is the latest insufferable liar and bigot on Team Trump.

10. Museum removes every piece of art created by immigrants.

11. Another great black history month reading list.

12. Edmonton photographer wins World Press Photo award for Standing Rock coverage.

13. Wisdom from Brave Girls Club,

It’s ok to want things that don’t make sense to others, dear friend. It’s ok to be content with a simple life, to pass up on things that others find tempting, to walk a path that is not often traveled…maybe even a path that has never been traveled before. Please don’t get caught up in the confusing, hurtful and destructive belief that you are somehow obligated to live the life that everyone else seems to think you should live. Please listen to YOUR heart. Please shut out the opinions, advice and voices of “reason” that make you feel so uneasy, confused and inadequate. Be with your truth….be with the source of that truth. Get quiet and listen listen listen to your heart. Your path is your path….the very path that you were created to travel. Your decisions are your decisions…the very decisions that your Creator will help you to make. Go where the peace is….in your life, in your relationships, and especially in all of your decisions. Make choices that bring you the most peace….even when those decisions don’t make sense to the outside world. You have what it takes to hear your truth, beautiful friend…and you do not walk alone.

14. Social Justice Intensive: Spring 2017. “Join us, Desiree Adaway, Ericka Hines and Jessica Fish as we create a brave space to explore issues of race, religion and gender. We will analyze these issues through a lens of power, privilege, and binaries while helping you develop your social justice muscle and critical observations on key issues occurring in our world today.”

15. Trump Supporters Receive “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey” Moments After President Slams Reporters. Blergh.

16. Let Van Jones Explain How Mass Incarceration Led Directly to Trump’s Win.

17. When Did Compassion Become Partisan Politics? from John Pavlovitz, a wise and compassionate voice.

18. Recipes I want to try: Carrot & Chickpea Veggie Burger, and Melting Sweet Potatoes, and Asian Noodle Salad, and Roasted Veggie Salad, and Chocolate Mug Cake.

19. Turns out Black History took more than a month? Ashley Nicole Black investigates. Some good advice from people who have faced this before.

20. We Need to Start Telling the Truth About White Supremacy in Our Schools.

21. The 20 Funniest Tweets From Women This Week. You know what I just realized? It’s someone’s job, at least in part, to spend the week reading Twitter, just looking for funny tweets from women. Probably an unpaid intern, but still, not a bad gig.

22. Help Us #Resist…Better. Put your money where your mouth is.

23. The most powerful art from the #BlackLivesMatter movement, three years in.

24. Glenn McCoy and ‘The New Problem’ With Racism.

25. Amazing street art blended in with nature.

26. ‘Eating disorders are black women’s issues too.’ “Georgia suffered from eating disorders through her teenage years. Thinspiration Tumblrs inspired her to lose weight but that spiralled to starvation and bulimia. Now recovered, she wonders why black women are rarely identified as having eating disorders.”

27. 5 Ways Teachers Are Fighting Fake News.

28. Watch the Debut Episode of Revolutionary New Web Series Brown Girls.

29. ‘There Is No Good Card For This’: What To Say When ‘Condolences’ Isn’t Enough.

30. I Wish I’d Known… Me too. Meeee toooo.

31. Ken Nwadike spreads love to everyone through “Free Hugs.”

32. Is Reverse Racism A “Thing?” “There is no such thing as reverse racism and here’s why.”

33. 50 Ways People Expect Constant Emotional Labor from Women and Femmes.

34. 12 Black-Led Podcasts To Listen To Now.

35. American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. The first feature documentary about Maya Angelou’s life premieres nationwide Tuesday, February 21 at 8 p.m. on PBS. In related news, the documentary The Talk premieres on PBS tonight.

36. Art21. “Art21 is a celebrated global leader in presenting thought-provoking and sophisticated content about contemporary art, and the go-to place to learn first-hand from the artists of our time. A nonprofit organization, Art21’s mission is to inspire a more creative world through the works and words of contemporary artists.” Their video series is really cool.

What I’m Doing: Fat Acceptance

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This blog started with my “life rehab.” After years of a toxic work environment and two significant personal losses, I looked at my life with a new clarity and realized I wasn’t happy. As I dug a little deeper into the “why?” I realized I’d been in a long term abusive relationship — with myself. As I untangled the “why?” there, I discovered self-aggression directed at my body, which manifested as disordered eating and overexercise, a self-loathing that at times turned suicidal.

I started therapy, directly focused on the disordered eating but which uncovered deeper suffering still. I worked a lot with Rachel Cole. I read a lot of books, did research, took classes and went on retreats. I stopped dieting, quit starving myself. I stopped working out with my trainer. I became a yoga teacher and meditation instructor. I did a little more therapy.

I started making choices about what to eat and how to move that were about feeling good and overall wellbeing, rather than about a number (weight or clothing size or BMI) or how it would make me look. I embodied what it meant to love myself. It’s been a lot of work, effort and energy and attention, and I’m still not all the way “there,” (whatever that means).

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What I realized the other day is that because of the work I’ve done for myself, it’s natural for me to advocate for others who suffer in similar ways. Because of my increased awareness and sensitivity, I see things other people might miss. I understand suffering and love in a way some people won’t even allow themselves to consider. They choose instead what is easy, embodying willful ignorance — pettiness, hatefulness, bigotry.

Take this video, for example. Someone shared it on Facebook the other day, with the caption, “Inspirational ❤ .” I watched it and had a completely different reaction. I felt sick to my stomach, then I cried. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got — white hot rage.

The video was made by Edeka, the largest supermarket corporation in Germany. As I write this post, it’s had 2.6 million YouTube views, and on their Facebook page it’s been viewed 33 million times, been shared close to 450,000 times, and the reactions range from like, love, and “haha.” There are 16,000+ comments on the Facebook post, and many are in German, so I didn’t spend time reading them and can’t really tell you exactly what people were saying.

The video is blatantly fatphobic. It portrays fat people as lazy, satisfied with eating the same gruel day after day. They eat lunch at their desk as they work or while waiting for the bus, and even their pets are fat. They dress in muted dull colors and are shown restricted to the city, with its concrete and lack of nature. The clear message in this representation is that fat bodies (people!) are lazy, boring, joyless, unhappy, and essentially immobile.

At a key moment in the video, a young boy notices a bird outside the window. Seeing it fly gets him excited about the prospect of flying himself. We all know humans can’t fly unaided by the technology of a plane, or at the very least a hang glider. No matter how thin you are, a bunch of balloons or a pair of cardboard wings won’t enable you to actually fly. And yet, the video shows differently.

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The boy tries everything he can think of, but always fails, clearly because he’s too fat. Then one day, he sees the bird eating berries, so changes his own diet to berries. I’m sure you can guess what happens next. It’s pure “body transformation = happiness” porn. The boy looses weight because of his new diet, and makes a pair of cardboard wings that allow him to fly just like the bird. The final scene is of him relaxing in a lovely lush meadow, “finally” happy in his new thin and therefore apparently magical body, popping a single berry in his mouth. A caption in German reads, “Eat like the person you want to become.”

The message is clear: fat = unhappy & unhealthy. And to change yourself, simply change your diet. There’s so much wrong with this that I don’t even have space in a single blog post to dismantle it completely. What I do know is “the cake is a lie,” (essentially, your promised reward is merely a fictitious motivator). There are plenty of studies, books, articles, and research that debunk this simple formula, and even more personal stories that make it clear that diet and exercise don’t automatically lead to happiness or health.

Eating good food is a choice, but more importantly YOU get to decide what “good” means. For me, good food is what appeals to me, satisfies my eyes and nose and mouth and stomach, tastes good and makes me feel good — sometimes that means I feel more energy, sometimes it means I feel more relaxed. Sometimes that means eating a kale salad, but sometimes it’s a slice of cake, and none of my choices have anything to do with my worth as a human being, because what I eat isn’t about morality. Same goes for movement — I do what brings me joy and feels good to my body. It has nothing to do with trying to chase a number or manipulate the way I look. It has nothing to do with being pleasing or acceptable or valuable to anyone but myself.

The bottom line is this: One’s choice to treat others with generosity and compassion, to be a sane and wise person in our dealings with other people, should be based in our common humanity, NOT the way our pants fit. I guarantee if you turned your effort and energy towards loving people, towards easing suffering in yourself and in the world, you wouldn’t have time for all this other nonsense.

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Some resources that might be helpful:

Gratitude Friday

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1. Kitchen counter love notes. Even though I’ve been home for the past week recovering from surgery, Eric has still managed to sneak a couple in.

2. Good food. Bran muffins with dried raspberries, smoked salmon, avocado, sour cherry juice, big bowls of fruit salad and green salad, ice cream sandwiches.

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3. Paid sick leave, along with good health insurance and the ability to work from home, as well as a boss who would never give me a hard time about needing the flexibility and two awesome interns who can keep things running while I’m away.

4. Time to rest and heal, not needing to be responsible for anything, getting to read and watch TV and take lots of naps. I’m healing specifically from my surgery, but I needed this time for other reasons too.

5. My tiny family. There’s a picture I took of Eric last week that as I was taking it he was laughing and saying “do not put this on social media.” You are just going to have to take my word for it that it’s both adorable and hilarious. He’s been taking such good care of me, and Ringo and Sam have been being so good, keeping me company.

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"Can we haz lunch now, Mom?"

“Can we haz lunch now, Mom?”

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He was falling asleep like this.

Bonus joy: That the human(s) who got into our cars the other night didn’t take anything of real value or do any damage, the sunshine, clean laundry, a hot bath in a clean tub with clean water, going to the grocery store (which is a big deal when you’ve been housebound for the past week) and having it not be very busy and the shelves newly stocked, lots of comfortable and clean pajamas to wear, friends who text to check in, Voxing with Justine, sending a surprise present to someone, talking to my mom on the phone, Valentine’s Day, love, laughing with Eric, my knee getting better as it gets rested by default as I heal from something else.

 

Three Truths and One Wish

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1. Truth: I watched Birth of a Nation a few days ago. For as long as slavery went on, for how recent it is in our collective experience, for the ways that history continues to impact us today, there are surprisingly few movies about it, and even fewer good ones. This one had a powerful message, was well made with the potential to make a big impact. As soon as I watched it, I wanted everyone to see it, if for no other reason than I needed someone to talk to about it.

2. Truth: Then I found out the movie’s backstory. Apparently, the director who was also the lead actor, Nate Parker, was accused of rape, along with one of the writers on the movie. The story is heartbreaking. The woman who accused them eventually killed herself, and her brother said, “I don’t think a rapist should be celebrated. It’s really a cultural decision we’re making as a society to go to the theater and speak with our dollars and reward a sexual predator.” Even though he was acquitted at trial, Parker’s own statement about it makes it clear he knows he did something wrong: “Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life. It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that. Seventeen years later, I’m a filmmaker. I have a family. I have five beautiful daughters. I have a lovely wife. I get it. The reality is I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.” I haven’t seen Manchester by the Sea because of the sexual harassment accusations against Casey Affleck, so this is an issue that does matter to me, something that does impact my choices. I don’t want to give my money or time to someone who treats women badly, harasses or attacks them. As the victim of sexual harassment and assault myself, it just doesn’t feel right.

3. Truth: And yet, because I saw the movie first, was moved by it and saw the message wholly removed from the messenger, it’s hard to let it go, difficult to dismiss it entirely — and I don’t really know what to do with that. The same thing happened to me with my Buddhist practice. I studied and practiced and embodied the benefits of the teachings for six years before I fully investigated the head of the lineage in which I practice. What I found was a man whose behavior didn’t sit right with me, but his teachings and the community already did. It was difficult to work my way through that doubt and confusion and anger to find my way back to the dharma, but I did — eventually.

One wish: That stories of slavery and its impact continue to be told, and that the tellers be honest people we can feel good about supporting. In my future is Underground (a new TV series), Roots (the updated mini-series), and 12 Years a Slave (which I missed the first time around), as well as the movies on this list, 21 Social Justice Documentaries On Netflix To Watch. And books, so many books! (Any recommendations you have are welcome, kind and gentle reader).