Sunshine and shadow, shadow and sunshine

Dear President Trump,

Just a few minutes ago out the back window to the East, the light on the huge fir trees (and one birch) in the distance was doing this incredible glow/shadow thing where some of the faces of the trees were bathed in golden light and other faces were charcoal-looking, like they couldn’t possibly be parts of the same individual trees. It actually took my breath away for a second it was so unusual and so pretty.

Last night as the reality of the 51 GOP Senators’ decision to take the low road and not vote in favor of witnesses in your impeachment trial sank in, it was so helpful that Laura found people on Twitter reminding us that even if things look bleak and feel dark, all is not lost. One of the people she found talked about how liberal types have to get over our all-or-none attitudes, that we have to stop taking progress for granted and behaving as if it will just keep going without us having to pitch in, and likewise that when progress is stalled or undermined we mustn’t throw up our hands in defeat and decide there’s nothing we can do because all is lost.

This afternoon a friend let me know that This American Life ran a series of short stories focused on the theme of delight for this morning’s podcast. I figured I would put the headphones on and listen to it while I embroidered some more letters of the preamble to the Constitution (I’ll probably explain the whole project to you at some point, but not today) since it seemed like there might be some nice synergy there and maybe something of an antidote to what is going on politically. Well, newsflash – This American Life has a daylong delay from when an episode airs on NPR and when it is available to hear online. So, the plan to hear the five delight stories had to be tabled and instead I queued up a podcast I’d been saving that the HP recommended called 40 Acres and a Mule by The United States of Anxiety. Sunshine and shadow, shadow and sunshine. Indeed.

40 Acres and a Mule tells the story of how a Black family living in the Mississippi Delta came to own their 40 acres of farmland and how (and why) they’ve held onto it for six generations. The podcast originator, Kai Wright, interviews a woman named Vernita who was raised on this farm. She tells him that as far as the family knows, her great, great, great (??) grandparents were given the land during Reconstruction after the Civil War in partial recompense for their labor and their forebears’ labor as enslaved people. Wright goes to that part of Mississippi and meets the current owner of the land, Vernita’s great Uncle, Elbert Lester, who tells harrowing stories about what life was like when he was a young man.

Wright also does a bunch of research and learns that the original land owners bought it – the government didn’t give it to them, they bought it. It was wonderful listening to him tell Vernita this news. She was thrilled because, of course, the implications are enormous and seriously buck the received wisdom that Black families that own (or owned) land in the South got it from government largesse and not by their own means. Wright talks with a historian who confirms that many Black families benefited from white flight out of the Deep South and managed to buy farms. So guess what, there’s sunshine here too and it feels all the more precious juxtaposed as it is with so much shadow.

May we keep hope alive and safe.
May we be willing to deal with the shadows and not lose sight of the sun.
May we insist on telling the real stories that feed us and keep us healthy.
May we be peace and kindness.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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