I spent an hour or so yesterday afternoon in the woods I frequent most often, pulling garlic mustard from the rain-softened earth. Garlic mustard can be medicine, but it is also invasive, and destroys biodiversity. The roots release chemicals that alter mycelial networks connecting native plants, and passing nourishment between trees. Garlic mustard emerges early in the spring and grows fast; the heart shaped leaves take up too much space, too quickly, at the cost of other forms of aliveness. And yet, garlic mustard has its own offerings, and I tucked a handful of leaves into my pocket to add to the beans we would eat for dinner, to be joined by a handful of chives, the first spring offerings from the overwintered herb garden.
Ruth Wilson Gilmore teaches that abolition is less about what we must get rid of, and more about what we might build, and orient toward. Beyond the absence of forces of violence and death, abolition is presence, Gilmore insists, the presence of all that makes life livable. “Life in rehearsal,” aliveness practiced, tended, cared for. Aliveness sheltered and sheltering, enfleshed and enfleshing.
As I plucked tender root after tender root, I noticed other lifeforms emerging. Dandelions and violets; the first buzzing bees. Forsythia, and blossoms becoming wild plums that I hope to forage in a few months and place, bursting, on my tongue.
I found myself whispering all I wanted to uproot, as I pulled and plucked. I live in a state that is rehearsing an unlivable life. Rehearsing a life of devastation and death. Bills and bans and budgets–invading too much, too quickly–that are already extracting catastrophic costs to our collective aliveness. A life in which guns are more protected than trans girls. A life in which the earth is plundered for profit. A life in which the excess of a few is shored up at the expense of supporting the many, the most. Uproot, uproot, uproot.
We are not safe, and very little if anything is secure, and quite honestly it terrifies me, how quickly everything is crumbling. And. “Freedom is a place and we make it, and we make it, and we make it,” Gilmore reminds. Bayo Akomolafe talks about decoloniality as playful cosmology, the call to create anew, to leave familiarity behind, to break the postures we are used to–familiar postures of fear, separation, alienation, despair, certainty.
To rehearse a life we long for–a livable life–what must break, and what must be built?
Bayo invites us to “live a world” where we all belong. We live in a world where we do not all belong, and we can live a world, build a world, where we all belong. Belong to each other, belong to the earth, belong to life–sheltered, shared, savored.
What is making life livable? What do you need to make your life livable? What do we need, to make our life livable? How can we rehearse a life, make a place, live a world, where we each and all are held, celebrated, sheltered, where we each and all belong?
This week I’ve been savoring a sacred space made and held by Orion, a self-described trans faggot witch whose offerings include “seed-sized singing lessons” that are open to all, and center trans and queer voices. Music makes my life more livable, and I have been missing singing, longing to be immersed in collective song. Nelle Morton taught about the sacred feminist wisdom of hearing each other into speech, and each day in this space I encounter the courageous vulnerability and gift of hearing each other into song. At the beginning of each gathering, Orion asks, “What might become possible for you when you remember that you never breathe alone, and you never sing alone?” Together, we are invited to remember: “We are always already whole. We are always already sacred.”
It is so stunningly beautiful to encounter people rehearsing livable life, building worlds of collective belonging. Remembering this, as I kept pulling up garlic mustard, I stopped whispering all I wanted to uproot, and started singing all I long to see grow.
Anna Blaedel (they/them) is co-director and co-founder at enfleshed, where they tend to the theopoetic intersections of spiritual, academic, and activist engagement. Anna chaplains University of Iowa students, and is a doctoral candidate in Theological and Philosophical Studies at Drew University’s Graduate Division on Religion. Waking before dawn, lingering in poetry, being an aunt, retreating to the woods or their basement woodshop, tending the garden, sharing silence, and feeding people delicious food are some of Anna’s favorite things.