A Secret Garden

I actually attended a garden tea party yesterday. Devised by my gardening neighbor pal and her daughter in law who lives across the street, their original idea was to entice a new neighbor who’d expressed an interest in the possibility of creating a small garden. This is a shy and possibly introverted woman (I’ve yet to see her) and my neighbor thought it would be nice for her to meet a few gardeners in the neighborhood and tour each other’s yards. As a confirmed introvert, I knew that this was probably not a great idea and sure enough, the new neighbor demurred and sent her apologies two days before the event. I was now stuck, but at least managed to have legit reasons to come late.

By way of explanation: not only am I an introvert, I have some curmudgeonly ways. I’m friendly, but small talk doesn’t come easily nor is it a pastime in which I care to engage. I’m also not your typical suburban housewife and am pretty adverse to a large number of things that the supposedly “typical American” wants or likes. We’ve also been in a heat & humidity wave that’s left everybody miserable and angry and drenched in sweat before you can towel off after your multiple daily showers. Topping it all off, I’m also a melanin rich woman of colour with a Latino last name. Eleven years on Long Island have exposed me to some of the worst racism and class biases I’ve experienced in my six decades on the planet, including 16 years in the South, so excursions into new areas or among people I don’t know here are entered into with caution. I knew that everyone else invited would be white and that our hostess would not have considered the possibility that they might be less welcoming than she. I always consider such things, but having agreed that they could tour my new, very incomplete garden and meet my new chickens (the most exciting event on the block this week) I forced myself to show up. And yes, it was awkward. What saved it was the attendance of one of the happiest, friendliest, and decidedly cutest little two year olds I’ve met. We bonded and her escapades provided a mutual focus, distraction and source of amusement.

After the ladies and little “Rose” enjoyed tea, lemonaid, and a fluffy lemon cake, we toured each others’ gardens. We started with the hosts, who have created lovely spaces, one with a long double lot that allows for a woodsy feel, then mine, the youngest & least complete. We ended with this 30+ year old beauty, a cottage gardener’s dream. It has “secret” paths, lovely enclaves to sit, fountains, mini waterfalls, and a hidden space where one can sit behind a tall, graceful wall of bushes without being seen. 

 The English born owner- a sweetly ancient, retired teacher who drives like a bat out of hell- leaves the gate unlocked so that neighbors can enjoy its peace and beauty when she’s not at home. It was a special and inspiring surprise I view as a kind of karmic reward for being sociable. It was worth the trip.   💚

Earworms and the Search for Meaning

Ok, everyday of my life, I wake up with a song/music playing in my head. It can be anything, but whatever it is, it tends to stick until I sing it, or play it, or override it with another tune. They sometimes keep coming back into my thoughts, persisting until I stop and listen or drive my husband crazy, as he’s forced to listen to my speculations over the possible meaning or (maybe worse for him) my singing the same tune multiple times. 
Sometimes it’s about the lyrics, and sometimes the tune is appropriate to my dreams or agenda, or related to whatever we watched on tv that night.  They’re often silly: occasionally jingles from childhood tv ads or tv theme songs. More often than not I’m amused by these mental musings. I don’t know if this is an experience common to many, but it’s the way of my little world.

The songs from my teens bring back the dances of that time and more than once I’ve had to stop what I was doing for a minute and take those rhythmic steps back in time, bringing laughter to my family and reclaiming a tiny bit of a girl that once was.

Today’s song is unrelated to anything current in my personal life, a blast from a favorite 1974 BBC miniseries. Now it may be stuck in your heads, too (sharing is caring)

American African Spirituality in 2017

Mixed feelings after reading the  announcement of a panel for the upcoming Afro-Latino Fest (http://remezcla.com/music/afro-latino-festival-symposium-preview/)

This is just one in a series of recent panels and articles about Diasporic African religions that have been highlighted since media and a more general public have “discovered” symbolic meanings in Beyoncé’s iconic Lemonade video.

I’m glad to see more pan-Africans being educated about the religions, but I’m also seeing very Westernized, capitalist versions being codified in various ways, including the aesthetic representations. It reminds me of what has happened to Native American spiritual traditions entering the mainstream and being co-opted to varying extents.

We survived the horrors and upheavals of the Diaspora and all that it wrought through a painful, necessary secretiveness, and by the creative genius that allowed our Ancestors to preserve and adapt. Yet I can’t help but wonder if the ostensible “freedom” we’re witnessing and experiencing  will destroy essential ways of knowing and being in the world. In a society where the Federal Court recently legalized discrimination against hiring folks with locs (https://www.google.com/amp/www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/amp/u-s-court-rules-dreadlock-ban-during-hiring-process-legal-n652211) and where black folks are incarcerated and killed with impunity by authorities, and where every creative work is colonized and exploited for the benefit of the dominant culture, I find myself questioning the type and quality of Africanisms and resistance that is tolerated or “allowed” to flourish. In my experience, our cultures are tolerated just long enough to turn them to profit in some way, or to be used as evidence against us.

Make no mistake: I don’t question the aims of the sisters and brothers seeking solidarity, community, and a spirituality rooted in our ancestral cultures and it makes my heart sing to hear the names of the Orishas spoken without the long needed camouflage of Christian saints. And yet I’m wary…Our long history here leaves me feeling that our beautiful, brave, and uncloaked young ones are standing in the crosshairs of racist capitalism in a new, albeit familiar way. Are they, in a manner of speaking, the new Ghost Shirt dancers, empowered and empowering, just moments before their deaths? My pessimism has nought to do with those true souls and everything to do with too many decades/centuries of observing The Others (#ThoseWhoDoNotLoveUs) And no, my pessimism doesn’t cool my fervent belief in Resistance. It does, at its best, make me want to entreat us to carefully consider what we’re creating for the generations and take particular care in weighing what we choose to ignore or leave behind.

But I guess my less agnostic beloveds would  hush their Aunty and say  that as always, this is the crossroads where Olofi, Elegua,  and the Potencias will manifest their will…