I’ve been trying to conjure the feeling I had about a year ago—reeling from all the pandemic protocols, taking rage hikes up the nearby hill, desperate for some sense of collective action in the midst of so much insularity. Mostly what I remember is joining the river of people heading down my street towards the high school where the protest was happening—the pure relief of seeing them, of knowing there was a larger story unfolding.
A year later, I wonder what chapter we’re living?
In some ways, things could not feel more different. I’m walking around outside without a mask. I’m not demoralized by a president. I’m looking forward to a summer of Redwoods and reunions and losing track of time.
But in other ways, I’m afraid there is a same same setting in. The abolitionist spirit of that moment is quieter. The destabalizing knowing that the whole world is breaking open—for better and worse—is gone. I sense that the White people around me feel less responsible for our nation’s integrity, like we’re sort of taking a relieved deep breath as we settle back into the project of our own individual success.
I want safety and ease like every other human being, but I also crave an ongoing connection to 2020—a touchstone or a talisman that can bring me back to my self in that thin time and place, my self who knows that social media posts aren’t enough, my self who understands that my square block is about as much as I can consistently love and serve, my self who notices the small things—the way a poppy opens to the sun—but also the grand suffering—the way a man cries out for his mother with his last breath, my self who harvests seaweed off a beach covered in babies, my self who dances in the dark of the backyard with a neighbor and feels free, my self who paints and reads and forgives herself over and over again and decides to actually do life differently instead of talking about doing it differently.
This time a year ago was a moment filled with death, which is of course, inherently a moment filled with life, a bigger, more full aliveness, where we don’t take the lung’s function or the animus that courses through our children's bodies for granted, where we wonder—what am I here for? who am I here for? A moment where we don’t settle for simple answers or incremental reforms, but expand to embrace human complexity and dream of alternative realities.
Which is all to say, I don’t want this to be the end of a story (George Floyd’s, COVID-19’s, cowered and painfully awake America’s), but the middle of something unpredictable. As hard as I’ve learned unpredictability is. I still crave a narrative epic, for myself, for my children, for yours, an America remade by its year—naw, its generation—of reckoning.