From the Earth

I spent this past weekend at a farm with our korean drumming group. We all packed in to a yurt, drank swigs of 막걸리 / korean alcohol, and played our drums for the opening ceremony of the queer farmer’s festival. We unraveled our rhythms on a land that was not our own, with people that were not our own. To bring on the harvest for this year, with our sounds of moving clouds (북 / buk), rain (장구 / janggu), thunder (꽹과리 / gguang gari), and wind (징 / jing). Ah, the complexities of diaspora.

We were followed by a ceremony by an Amah Mutsun tribe member that left The small, round patches of dirt on our snowy white 민복 / minbok knees. Have you ever kneeled on the earth and spread your palms on the earth? There is something powerful about rolling grains of dirt between your fingers — knowing that this is what feeds you & what takes you in at death. It pulls up thoughts about the people we have buried in its depths — those who were taken, those who left, those who were forgotten. And the power of the world to do so at its will.

***

Perhaps it was the “life” aspect of being on a farm, but the weekend felt so vibrant and whole, as if life was pulsating through everything — from the round ends of my drum mallet to the tip of my toes.

We walked between rows of red ripe peppers & bountiful tomatoes and stared out into broad fields of corn stalks. 40 acres worth of farmland — neatly lined up in green rows. I can’t remember the last time that I’ve seen the flat earth edged up so close to the sky like that. It’s so amazing to stand witness to the earth’s plentiful nature. How the earth constantly nourishes, how its energy cycles. How it gives & receives, how it heals & endures. How it brings the sky, water, plants & people together. How it hides and reveals / buries and unearths / feeds and extracts — but never doing one without the other. It makes me realize that there is no giving without receiving, that there is no actual loss or gain because ultimately, we all belong to the same earth. That’s some stuff out of high school physics. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed. First law of thermodynamics.

I remember thinking that earth’s flow of energy feels a bit different than that of water. It fills me with a different kind of awe than the vastness of an ever changing sea. Earth has a wholeness & fullness to its fluidity, rather than a steady rhythm or motion like the water. The earth is like a constant stream of energy that feels complete, that has an eerie sameness, like drawing a circle without lifting up the pencil, then retracing its lines over and over again.

I felt like I was given enough space to think & breathe / to eat, laugh, drink / between my rapid-fire arguments and grueling organizing. The earth teaches me to savor the fast-wilting beauty, but also hold onto the knowledge that it will come around again. It gives endlessly with both the trust & age-old wisdom that I will eventually return all of it to its underlayers. The earth gently opens up my mother’s bundle of childhood stories from her village — memories of her elementary shutting down for every harvest and long-held collective knowledge about 품앗이 / a practice of an entire village rotating from one family’s plot to another to help with sowing seeds. I think about how the land is fundamental to our sense of belonging, how we nourish ourselves, how we conceptualize creation & destruction. Both physically and figuratively, the revolution will occur on this earth.

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“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”

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