Travel Log – I Want To Remember: The Final Stretch, Day 33

  [Photo of a mural of monarch butterflies with green and blue leaves and purple buds of flowers with the word, "MIGRATION," written in black. Photo by  MM .]

[Photo of a mural of monarch butterflies with green and blue leaves and purple buds of flowers with the word, "MIGRATION," written in black. Photo by MM.]

Today is our final day on the road, as we head back home from Las Vegas to Oakland.

 

We drive through the Mojave Desert for miles and miles. Huge brown and maroon mountains crash down into the yellow, gold and green speckled land below. Fields of cacti fly by us, each one amazing and unique, twisting and reaching for the sky. The sandy earth lights up the ground, elevating the muted grey-green color of the brush that covers the landscape to vibrant.

 

As we crest each hill, we catch our breaths from the sweeping views of purple and blue mountains disappearing into a grey sky—swaths of silver earth in the distance giving the illusion of large bodies water.

 

I still can’t believe this is our last day and that our trip is over.

 

Once we get back, we will have driven over 8 thousand miles through 30 states in 33 days. I am still unsure how to reintegrate back into regular life once I get home. This past month has been filled with constant movement, the stillness of stories and the sweet glow of friendship. I want to take my time to reflect on the gift that was this road trip. I want to remember all the moments and sights and feelings. I feel a slow sadness knowing that I will never be able to remember it all.

 

I want to remember the desert and the South; the heat of the Northeast and the coolness of the Midwest; the rainbow color pallet of the Southwest and the rivers and snowy mountains of the West. I want to remember the late night talks and the vulnerability and love; the zest, risks and quiet care; and the steady deepening of trust and joy. I want to remember the way it felt to embrace some of the people I love most in this world, whom I rarely get to see, and those who have helped shaped who I am and who I will become. I want to remember the fun, the laughter, the singing, the desserts, the BBQ, the homemade meals and the silliness. I want to remember the long drives and the scenery flying by me in the passenger seat, listening to songs we love. I want to remember every landing after a long day on the road; every warm greeting from friends and storytellers, welcoming me into their homes and stories. I want to remember the kindness and the sunsets; the remembering and the letting go.

 

I want to remember the journey, the adventure and the blossoming. I want to remember all of it. All of it.

 

Thank you all for being on this journey with me. Thank you for helping to make this work possible. I can’t wait to start editing the stories I have. I hope they will be as precious to you as they are to me and those who shared them. Thank you for your trust in me to hold these stories and this work well, I work hard to do right by you. Thank you for the faith you have in me, it is something I hold dearly and know that it is nothing to be taken lightly.

 

From one survivor who has been on her own life-long journey towards love and healing: thank you. 

Travel Log – Journey Back Home, Day 31

  [Photo of land between Denver and Las Vegas in the plains/desert. A large rocky plateau sweeps up on the right hand side of the photo to bright blue sky with clouds and green plains and bushes lie below. Photo by  MM .]

[Photo of land between Denver and Las Vegas in the plains/desert. A large rocky plateau sweeps up on the right hand side of the photo to bright blue sky with clouds and green plains and bushes lie below. Photo by MM.]

We have officially started the long journey back home from Minneapolis to Oakland. 13 and 11-hour drives and longer days. Watching the scenery change from the Midwest to the plains and the mountains of the West is breathtaking.

 

Nebraska stole my heart with its crystal clear air and water. The light is different there—magical. Sweeping plains with cattle and winding, rushing rivers. Watching the sunset over the plains just after we crossed into Colorado was like some kind of dream.

 

Today we drive from Colorado to Las Vegas, where we will spend the night and have a day off. Driving through the Rockies is a kind of other-worldly feeling. The stunning beauty of the snow-covered mountains, thick with pines and aspens greet us at every turn and beckon us onward.

 

We ebb and flow, twist and turn with the landscape as snow turns to red rock and trees turn to bushes and shrubs, painting the land with pointillism. Valleys start to stretch out into plains again, the mountains turn back into canvases, and the dry earth reveals the subtlest of color pallets striped with reds, browns and pinks, meeting pale greens. Hawks circle high above the occasional stony earth jutting out into the blue sky, majestic and proud.

 

There are deep canyons with jagged, rocky mountains that fill the sky and hold more shades of browns than seem possible. We drive next to frothy rivers for miles, cradled in greens and greys. Looking out the side window for breaks in the rocks, I can see framing views of mountains and lush valleys for a few seconds before they disappear. Cliffs break into velvety green covered swaths of hills, sloping down to rich, grassy pastures.

 

They are all a reminder of our place and perspective. We owe everything to the land, water and sky. We owe everything to the planet and its gifts. And we owe everything to those who work to protect it.

 

I owe so much to the land, sea and sky. They were my saving grace when I was growing up. As most people who grow up in rural lands will tell you, the land becomes a part of you. It becomes part of your story, part of your heart, part of your spirit. Nature was a huge source of resilience when I was growing up and continues to be. The purest form of spirituality, the deepest form of healing. I remember getting up early to drive east to Point Udall and watch the sunrise over the place where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean; where the sunrise surrounds and embraces you on the jutting cliff over the crashing waves. Where the wind whips past you, stealing tears before they can fall. The wind that comes from over the ocean, that comes from the horizon. The wind that brought me to land that signifies both a death and a life that never should have been. The clouds turn pink to orange to reds, the sky turning from black to blue to autumn to spring.

 

I know I have survived because of nature. I know I made it through because of the magnificence I was immersed in that inhabits every part of the tiny island I was raised on. It was because of the ocean and the glistening starry night sky that I made it out with a beating heart.

 

Much of my story of healing is one of sand and waves and sun; of rain forests and dirt roads and the smell of newly wet earth; of stars and clouds and sunsets and sunrises over hot cups of tea; of deserts and cacti and cliffs that drop into the sea; of windy horizons and dry, golden fields and trees that feel like memories. I will always be indebted to the earth, as we all are. I will always long for the ocean. And I will always be grateful for journeys that take you far from where you know and lead you back home.

 

Travel Log – Leaps of Faith: Leaving the Midwest, Day 29

  [photo of my hand holding small, clustered white flowers with green leaves. Photo by  MM ]

[photo of my hand holding small, clustered white flowers with green leaves. Photo by MM]

We drive through Minnesota and Iowa on our way to Denver for the night. We are starting our journey back to Oakland. It’s hard to believe that we will be home in four days, after being on the road for a month.

 

Farmlands stretch out around me as far as the eye can see. Large fields of greens and browns, tilled and starting to sprout. Patches of trees, tractors and the occasional buildings. The sweeping, overcast sky is a welcomed relief from the glaring sun.

 

Our time in the Midwest was short, but full. Yesterday I recorded my last story of the trip, a survivor story from a transracial and transnational adoptee. It was a story, like many of ours, of wishing for something more that never came. It was a story of trying in spite of what is. It was a story about healing, belonging and finding your own way. It was a story about the ownership of children that stretches into child sexual abuse, adoption, war, occupation, imperialism, militarization and family.

 

These stories swirl inside of me, with different pieces of each continuing to bubble up to the surface throughout my days and nights. I hold the tears and the sighs and the pauses and silence with precious care and a longing heart. I hold the bravery and commitment of each storyteller with every bone in my body that believes that sharing our stories gets us, as one storyteller said, “one step closer to freedom.” I hold the hope, often unrewarded and betrayed, and the Tries woven through these stories with the faithful, unwavering determination that healing is possible which shaped storyteller after storyteller’s journey, including my own.

 

I believe that healing is possible and I continue to move towards that even when I don’t know how, even when I get knocked down, even when it is hard, even when it gets manipulated, even through the anger and hurt, even when it feels impossible or futile. It is the same relentless commitment that I feel for liberation and ending child sexual abuse. I don’t always know how it will happen or how we will get there, and there are many days when it is hard to sustain hope, but I keep moving towards it, knowing that part of our work to get free is not in knowing all the answers, but in embracing the unknown and continuing to move forward with faith.

 

Faith continues to be a huge part of this work and all work for liberation. Not in the religious way that faith usually gets associated with, but in the larger, deeper, spiritual meaning of the word. I see the faith of survivors every day: the faith to continue to keep trying with and stay connected to their families, even after betrayal, heartache, attacks, rejection, trauma, abuse and blame, hoping that something more will be possible, hoping for change and not willing to succumb to apathy. The faith of survivors to not be connected to their families’ continued violence, abuse, pain, rage, fear, harassment and blame, knowing that something more is possible, knowing that freedom is on the other side and not willing to settle for the crumbs.

 

These are the leaps of faith that continue to inspire me. The way we leap, never knowing where we will land, but leaping none-the-less. Knowing that the power and possibility of the leaping is greater than the fear to leap.

 

Healing, justice, liberation, accountability and love are bound up together. The work we do to heal is ultimately work for justice and accountability and love. The work we do for justice is ultimately work to heal, to be accountable, to be free. The work we do to be accountable, in big and small ways, in our life is ultimately the work of justice, the work of healing and the work of love. At their truest core, they are interdependent on each other and any work for justice that doesn’t include work to heal will never achieve true justice and vice versa.

 

Our wounds from abuse, violence and harm are not who we are, but they are part of what shape us—and especially when it comes to child sexual abuse, they have fundamentally shaped many of us because we were so young.

 

I feel so incredibly honored to have gotten to hold and bear witness to so many people’s stories. It is rare to have spaces to share about child sexual abuse or sexual and domestic violence—to really share. To share them in their entirety. To be able to take your time and tell a full story. To be able to have it held.

 

I will carry these stories with me, everywhere I go. I will remember all the parts that won’t ever be reflected in the recordings; all the quiet moments when the tears were the only words that would come. The cancelations because of panic attacks, fear, nervousness and emotional break downs. The love and appreciation, the empathy and compassion. The courage to be vulnerable with your self and someone else, showing parts of you that never get to see the sun light. I will carry with me all of this and the moments when I got to see the meaning of love again and again.

Travel Log – The Northeast: Days 18-21

The northeast leg of our trip was fast and packed. We spent 4 days traveling from West Chester, PA, to Queens, NYC, Providence, RI, Northampton and Albany, NY.

West Chester was a surprise—both in the story and the trip there. When the survivor originally emailed LBP, most of the road trip had already been planned and it didn’t look like it was going to be possible for us to squeeze it in, but we worked it out and I am so glad we did! Her story was one of those stories that is both heartbreaking and incredibly inspiring all at once. It is a family response that taps into the kind of commitment, courage and love that many of us long for. I feel honored to have gotten to record it with the storyteller and her mother through laughter and tears.

  [Photo of my shoes standing on the edge of the sidewalk in front of lush green plants with small purple, white and blue flowers poking out. At the top of the photo is a geo tag that reds, "Nothampton, Massachusetts. Photo by  MM .]

[Photo of my shoes standing on the edge of the sidewalk in front of lush green plants with small purple, white and blue flowers poking out. At the top of the photo is a geo tag that reds, "Nothampton, Massachusetts. Photo by MM.]

New York City was warm and full. It was time with old friends and catching up and stories and headlines. It was Friendly’s milkshakes and tea at small tables with big love and lively conversations. It was traffic and traffic and more traffic; bridges and tolls and delicious food. It was driving on the L.I.E. and familiar sights and sounds. It was quick and abundant, reminding me of how much I will always love New York and how it has left its imprints on me as a child and youth.

 

Rhode Island was all new leaves in greens and reds, and trees growing out of rocky earth lining the highway. It was hot and humid by the time we reached Providence and the blue water sparkled in the sun. I met a storyteller there who shared about growing up with her survivor mother. We were both “children of the movement” and her story made me reflect on my own story and the similar themes many of us share who were raised by activists.

 

Northampton was lush, rich greens mixing with colorful blooms. It was survivor spiritual stories stretching into the complexities of love and understanding. It was deep, dark shadows from tall, old trees and roads winding through the countryside. It was a quick stop on our trip, lasting only 3 hours, but reminding me of my days doing reproductive justice work and traveling there each year for conferences and convenings.

 

Albany and Troy (a neighboring city) was cool, light breezes in the afternoon sun and belly laughs, wide smiles and frequent hugs. It was survivor love and care, and stories about family, healing, rage and learning. It was loud talking and laughter in kitchens while foods from our childhoods were being made. It was making new connections and deepening preexisting ones. It was remembering and dreaming, letting go and welcoming. It was sharing about each other’s work and making plans for the future. It was the last stop in the northeast before we left for the Midwest and it was the perfect way to say goodbye and hello.  

 

 

Travel Log - Atlanta to North Carolina

  [Photo of a mural in Atlanta filled with abstract flower-like shapes in pinks, reds, blues, blacks, whites and mint green. Photo by  MM .]

[Photo of a mural in Atlanta filled with abstract flower-like shapes in pinks, reds, blues, blacks, whites and mint green. Photo by MM.]

We drive through the rain to get to North Carolina. Through grey skies and hills that disappear into mist and clouds. Through lush forests and wide, open fields. Cities and towns punctuate the rural landscape that engulfs us, and I fall in love with magnificent tree after magnificent tree, stretching up into the sky, towering over us.

 

This morning we left Atlanta to head to Durham to collect stories. I recorded 4 stories in Atlanta; some from people I know, some from strangers. Some from survivors and some from bystanders—each one as powerful as it is different.

 

Being in Atlanta always feels like coming home. I miss the city and my dear folks there. I miss the South and the thick, heavy heat. I miss the parts of me that come alive when I cross over into the South or the Caribbean: the two lands that have shaped me the deepest. I miss the trees and the thunderstorms. I miss the easy smiles and hospitality. I miss it all.

 

This trip has been like a remembering of my own stories, as much as it has been a finding of other’s stories. It has been an opportunity to look back, as well as forward; to feel into where I have come from and the lands and peoples that have made me who I am and led me to this project and work. It is like what I imagine storytellers must experience as they share their stories: a revisiting of a time that has both passed and still lives inside of you. I try and find the edges of where the stories stop and start, the ones I had forgotten that reemerge, and the ones that I have let go, but are never really gone.

 

Storytelling happens in all kinds of ways. My dreams are different in the South—in Atlanta. The old stories that surface as we cross state lines and regions or meet with old friends, people who knew you in a different time. The way a road can be a story; the way your body remembers every turn and stop. The way you can inhabit different worlds at the same time and time travel together or alone.

 

The Caribbean taught me how to survive and the South taught me how to love. They are inextricably linked, not only through the history and legacy of slavery in this country, but also through my own history and life. There are many differences, but also so many similarities. They both represent beginnings and endings for me; love and pain; sacred and transformative connection and unbearable loneliness and longing. They are the places that feel the most like home, even as I know I was never meant to be there. They hold a kind of belonging that doesn’t exist for me anywhere else. Belonging manifests in all different kinds of ways and when you belong nowhere, you learn to appreciate each and every little nuance and small crumb of it you can find, savoring every fleeting moment that you possibly can.

 

Remembering is a kind of strange belonging. It’s a way of coming home, in all of the complexities that “home” holds for those of us whose homes were never home. Remembering is never the same and ever-changing. These days I feel myself easing back into old stories in a different way, creating belonging where there never was, and finding pieces I never knew were there. Maybe we all find pieces of belonging in our remembering, eventually. Maybe remembering is a kind of storytelling in and of itself. Maybe our stories are what survive after everything is said and done. What I know for sure is that remembering our stories is both how we honor where we’ve been and where we’re going.