home: month 4

Read the full series on home here.

month 4 – by M Jade Kaiser

Every year, thousands of species of animals migrate in order to survive. Conditions in one place become unlivable and a journey must be made – permanently or for a season – to a place where they will be safer, better resourced, and more nourished.

The Artic Tern, a small species (3.5 ounces) of bird, is known as the lengthiest of migrating travelers – flying a lofty 44,000 miles each year from the Artic to Antarctica. As for mammals, the humpback whale makes the longest annual journey at over 5000 miles each direction. Insects, fish, hoofed animals, and a multitude of others, often in community, are driven over long distances by instincts to survive and the wisdom of prior generations passed down. These treks are rarely easy. Food can be scarce along the way. Habitat loss makes places to rest hard to find while pollution multiplies barriers of healthy travel. Predators, too, capitalize off the weary passing through. Still, the next generation calls on the body to press on. Not everyone makes it, but going together makes greater the chances.

Of course, those species who stay-put face their own challenges. Making do with one’s environment, come what may, is its own manifestation of ancestral wisdom and life-striving. Harsh winters, dry summers, hungry neighbors. Survival is no small thing.

We human animals know how complicated it can be – deciding amidst struggle when to leave home or when to stay. Not everyone gets a choice, one way or another. And those who do, don’t all go or stay with the same resources. Like our creaturely kin, for many of us, in making such decisions, we weigh what makes a home ‘home’ through some of our most innate longings: For Safety. Belonging. Lineage. Pleasure. Connection to the land. Familiarity. Community. Resources. Joy.

We can wrestle: Is home still possible here? Or must we seek home elsewhere?

The active forces turning homes into places of hostility are many: Anti-trans laws and restrictions on abortion. Food deserts and gentrification. Policing and surveillance and white supremacists with guns. Seizures of eminent domain. Domestic violence. Spiritual violence. Cruel borders refusing refuge to those fleeing wars of imperial doing. And increasingly, natural disasters intensifying threats to structures, lands, peoples, and resources in response to capitalism’s relentless pursuit of profit.

All over the world, people and creatures are leaving home in hopes of finding or creating more favorable conditions. All over the world, people and creatures are protesting, organizing, coming together in courage and care, to create more favorable conditions of home where they are.

Maybe we are most lost, not when we have left or stayed, but when we have resigned ourselves or worse – our neighbors – human, plant, and animal – to unlivable conditions. In relinquishing our power, collective and individual. In favoring privatized life and property over webs of care. In prizing and prioritizing the crumbs metered out by institutions and corporations over all we could have. Over all that could be. Over possibilities for the future that are not yet determined.

Reaching back to our ancient and wild, earthly and adaptive roots, I wonder what feral beginnings might aid us in finding our way out of the complacent and compliant. What might awaken, stir, arouse the dormant defiance of deadening conditions and realign us with the longings and drive to seek alternative conditions?

More than all the promises of belonging based on demands and domination, may we remember we already come from – belong to – the eldest of lineages abundant with millinea of wisdom for navigating change and challenges. We are born from a long reaching for life. A slow unfolding that moves most naturally in the direction of shared flourishing. Not always easily or gently. But passionately and fiercely, with the next generation tugging on our spirits to rise to the occasion.

In place or in migrating, pursuing deliverance is harrowing but hopeful. There is no safe route to freedom and flourishing from here, but going together makes greater the chances of survival (and the pleasure of the journey). As Meraba sings, “I’m not trying to get by, I’m trying to get free.” For the sake of home, for us and for all, may it be so.

Rev. M Jade Kaiser (they/them) is co-founder and co-director of enfleshed. M wonders, wrestles, and works in the places where spirituality, activism, culture(s), and creativity entangle. Over the last decade, they have had the pleasure of collaborating and working in spaces and movements of shared longing and action such as Texas Freedom Network, Faith in Harm Reduction, SURJ, UmForward, Reconciling Ministries Network, ONE Northside, and other collectives of organizers, religious communities, and creators. In their spare time, they seek out creaturely encounters and enjoy working with stained glass.

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