From “Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimagining Our Future” by Patty Krawec

Grief is the persistence of love. It sees my ancestors in stalks of corn and hears them whisper when I pour wild race through my hands. It fills my bag with nettles and reminds me to be gentle when I strip bark from larch or dogwood.

Grief is the sound of thunder you feel deep in your chest, the lingering smell of sage hours after it is burnt.

Grief is the forgetting of names. It does not know which place the ancestors’ feet last touched before leaving home forever. It looks back over shoulders and sees only darkness. Stolen lives means stolen history means no thread to pick up and follow home. 

Grief holds the accumulation of centuries in its hands and watches it turn to ash and then reaches out for more. Grief is consuming and consumed, an endless cycle of loss.

We take a moment and pause. So much loss, so many missed opportunities for relationship and community. How can we not be overwhelmed by it? These histories, these memories: they come in like the tide, Each wave pushes the ocean further inland until we are submerged.

In the harbor of a nearby town, there is a hurricane protection barrier. It is a wall with a gate that protects the town from hurricanes. But as the seas continue to rise and the hurricanes become more intense, the townspeople behind this wall of rock and steel know that it won’t protect them forever.

We are like this. We hold grief at bay with walls of rock and steel, fearing the time when they fail to protect us. We fear the ocean, the weight of this history we cannot change. We fear the rip tides of systems we feel helpless to change. Imagining possibility seems so far away. What if we can’t swim?