What a beautiful and challenging weekend we have had. The world outside our little cosmos full of tumult and heartbreak, all so distant and yet hitting close to home. The ordinary feels so wildly out of place in moments like these, when I can feel the unrest and disarray everywhere. It has been such a juxtaposition to our sweet inward days. With Grandma visiting, Joe and I have had the rare opportunity to take special time with each of our children. On Sunday, the sky a sleepy misting grey, we kissed goodbye to baby Des and Grandma, and Joe and I took Eloise on an adventure to find wild treasure. We didn’t have a place in mind, but we had rain jackets and umbrellas in hand and were prepared for adventure. We headed out and found ourselves crossing the Columbia into Washington. With a little research as we were en route to who knows where, we stumbled upon Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. After 15 minutes, the three of us were looking out onto a gorgeous sun browned field made luminous by the grey warm light of the overcast day. With gentle mist kissing our faces we ambled down a trail leading into the refuge. It was magical, the light bouncing off the water, the clinging drops of dew on the flowers. We watched ducks and drank in the melancholy morning with tender hugs and shouts of exploration.
For two-and-a-half years it was just the three of us. We did a lot of adventuring together. I have seen more of our country since Eloise was born then in the entirety of my life before. We have lived in three states, driven cross-country, explored cities and hiked to awe inspiring places. After we began our journey as parents, Joe and I talked a lot about what it would mean to bring a second child into the world and into our family. We had many late night discussions about how our lives and Eloise’s would change both for the better and more chaotic. We talked about the impact of increasing our population, about the joys of sibling relationships and about raising well rounded children. Our decision to have a second child was not made lightly, and while we are so happy to have our family exactly the way it is, I do at times mourn the loss of these special moments that feel so contained within our perfectly in sync little unit of three. Joe and I can be fully present and undivided in our attention, and Eloise gets to be her exuberant self without having to be pulled by another agenda. Our misty morning was exactly what I needed, to feel connected to my daughter as we explored the ponds and forest trails.
We watched a nutria collect grass for its home, picked blackberries on the hillside, danced in the grass, and made friends with the sweetest little frog. We hugged and ran and laughed. The simplicity allowed me to pull inside and think more deeply about the outside world wildly surging around us. I can still feel the cool moisture in the air and smell the grass earthy and sweet. The quiet symphony of birds and wind. I felt so expansive and complete, even in my sorrow. I felt in that time, a promise of continuing, a reminder of beauty and slowness.
We returned home, serene, to greet a content baby boy ready for his family. We felt at once the return to our happy chaos, feeling grateful for the quiet of the morning and the busyness of our home. Later that afternoon as I sat on the floor of our kitchen feeding Desmond blueberries, my sister showed me a photo taken by Todd Robertson in 1992 of a child no more than two wearing a klan robe. The child was looking up at a black state trooper. The officer, holding a riot shield on the ground, was smiling down at the child. This is what love in the face of hate looks like. It made me think of my brother, and his last words. “Tell everyone on the train I love them.” I think of those words often, especially when I feel angry at the world. At people’s bigotry. At possible nuclear warfare. I think of them and remind myself that in the face of hatred, more hatred is never the answer. I am devastated by what has taken place this weekend, that not more than three months after my brother’s death there has been another national hate crime representing countless undocumented incidents in between. I am deeply concerned that hate speech in the guise of free speech allows for freedom to condemn another, to create discord, to oppress. This doesn’t feel like freedom to me; it feels like a prison of fear and maelstrom.
I am not a brown or black person in our country, I am not an immigrant or a refugee, I am not muslim or jewish, homeless or migrant, nor am I a member of the many other minority populations that face prejudice and bigotry within our borders. I do not know what it is like to live my daily life within a system that continues my oppression, experiencing the miseducation of my countrymen as a fear for myself and family. I stand however in solidarity, I mourn with your communities, and I will get up and know my neighbors, walk beside you and fight for a restructuring of the institutions that continue to create feelings of other.
No one is born a racist. Todd Robertson’s photo beautifully illustrates this. The notion of “Other” is taught, not inherited. We as parents have the opportunity to break these cycles, to seek out different avenues of education, to promote multicultural experiences for our children. I think back to our quiet Sunday morning and it is affirmed even more greatly; We have the opportunity to dance in the summer browned grass and kiss or children, to let them know love, so they never fear to give it.