When I first heard about the late revolutionary Thomas Sankara from Burkina Faso I was instantly fascinated. Why had I heard about political figures like Margaret Thatcher (yuck) and never Sankara? Well besides eurocentrism and racism it is perhaps because his revolution was unfortunately cut short by his assassins. Like Mandela, Guevara, and many more I hope to further research, he led a united group of people towards goals of liberation, decolonization, and freedom through Marxist and anti-imperialist ideology. Today, if you have the awesome chance of meeting someone who actually knows Sankara, they will most likely know him for his extremely progressive views on Women’s Liberation, especially in his famous speech “The Emancipation of Women”. His views were not only progressive but revolutionary and completely trailblazing in the world of African and global politics.
This book provides a little introduction and chronology of Sankara and the events that surrounded his time in leadership, but mainly it just recounts some of his most famous and pivotal speeches and interviews. We get to hear about his basic theory surrounding the construct of his ideal military to what kinds of books he liked to read. His theory on not only how a revolution should take place, but the realities of life in an actual occupation revolution are invaluable and freeing. The way he was able to verbally articulate extremely complex topics was some of the most inspiring thinking I’ve ever been encouraged to do. His opinions on things like how neocolonialism can hide in a disguise as “foreign aid” were not only brilliant, but often the first of their kind. In a way he was like a militant Che Gueverra who got to govern his own land, his own people. And we can see now with the extreme poverty that has followed Burkina Faso since his assassination that if only his ideals were to be implemented in the long-run, would Burkina Faso be an example of a formerly terrorized colony turned into an example of a state with total class-equity.
Perhaps later I will dive deeper into the specifics of his speeches and interviews but for now I can list a couple of my favorite points. My first favorite point was surprisingly his approach towards the military. As someone who has only recently been radicalized and has grown up with primarily liberal views, the military is definitely a complex subject that I constantly aim to wrap my head around. The idea that the military is inherently apolitical is something we in current day American politics don’t talk enough about, it was refreshing to read about his theory regarding this and gave vocabulary to ideas I did not know how to articulate. His views on women’s liberation were also extremely valuable. The constructs he saw in society in which women’s oppression is so greatly tied to the same capitalistic and imperialistic connotations that hurt the whole country of Burkina Faso is revolutionary. He saw the oppression of women as a systemic failure of the systems he was already fighting against, something that even our most left-leaning politicians today fail to do. I truly could say his theory on women’s liberation matches that of the best.
So why is it important to learn about the leader of a revolution for a couple years in a country so small and far away? Because Thomas Sankara can teach anyone the basics of liberation against oppressive systems. He, like those who are famous in History, shows a true conscience against systems that have always and will always enable oppression and death in this world. His story cannot and should not be ignored. History will not remember him because he wasn’t like Mandela in the way he could appeal to even the imperialist themselves, but he shouldn’t have had to do that. Instead we should remember a man who called right and wrong as he saw it, who wasn’t scared of a system like communism that could free his people, when capitalism had kept them in shackles for so long.
I first saw a video of Ursula K. Le Guin talked about the failures of capitalism and I knew I had to read some of her work. I ordered this novel because sci-fi genres like this are definitely out of my comfort zone. I figured the 12 different stories would give me some brief tastes of the best of the best, and I was not disappointed at all. Since there are 12 different stories I will choose my 6 favorites and review those individually. I will also take more time on my absolute favorite story of them all. (warning: plot spoilers)
“April In Paris”: This was in my top three for favorite stories. I loved the narrative and the sense of identity, friendship and timelessness she played with. I loved the ending where the reader was forced to confront their communication of language, of livelihood, of culture. Loneliness, being alone, these are themes I have confronted especially in the past year. I find this story to be the kind in her genre which appeals to me; while it is fiction and mystical, in a way it feels extremely real to me. I loved this story.
“The Rule of Names”: This story was also a really great one. The concept of not knowing one’s true name, having others assign a name to you, identity, shapeshifting, etc are what occupy this narrative brightly and fluently. The character of Mr. Underhill is brilliant and the ending words and plot are exhilarating, revealing, and make you question all the clues you had read before without even realizing. Dragons aren’t really an interest that appeals to me, but if all dragon stories were like this I would read a lot more.
“The Good Trip”: This one was also in my top three. This story very much gave me Holden Caulfield vibes which is very appealing to me (I find him to be what I think my alter-ego would be). For those of us that don’t use substances to get high, myself particularly, I found this telling of the ways our mind can create these similar experiences. The motif of the lost wife and skiing were striking in the contrast of the narrative. It really set the perfect picture for this experience to take place, it was a beautiful image to imagine. That was another thing in this story that I absolutely loved: the complete and instantly complex imagery.
“Vaster Than Empires and More Slow”: This was a long and definitely difficult story for me to follow. But the themes she developed were so, so good. The concept of having a person who’s sole role is to feel empathy, have their demise be that hurt from something like a world, nature, the wind, that concept is liberating and completely unique: the symbol of human fear and human- caused fear. The concept of the fear being in everything, it all being one which then led to the feeling of being alone. I won’t even try to summarize the vast themes and events this story escorts, but man is it thought provoking.
“Direction of the Road”: In a way I viewed this story as a palate-cleanser to some of the other narratives in this novel and it was wonderful to read. To me, this shows the vastness and capability of her genre and style of writing. I loved how she adapted first person to tell the story of the tree, something she doesn’t do a lot of in her other stories. Accompanied by her ever present insane imagery this story is not only a beautiful break in the novel but a brilliant exploration of themes otherwise not confronted.
“The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”: This was my favorite story by far. In fact, I would say it was life changing. The only other short story that has hit this true to me in my life would be “How To Tell a True War Story” in The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. When I got to the child scene I literally started crying, I realized exactly the picture that was being painted. And technically speaking she writes this in a way that literally invites the reader in to confront these issues. She often proposes aspects of the book to the reader like through a setting, plot, or object, perhaps to make it even more personal to the reader’s own life. Capitalism, neoliberalism, exploitation, these are described so intensely but not named. I might take another time to just dive super deep into this story with quotes and deep analysis but this is just a short reaction to the impact this story has already had on me. The ending too, those that walk away, man that got to me. The idea she proposed that some people think the child would be too far gone, or that it is bad but still worth it… she forces us to confront these exact thoughts we have in our real life. The construct of the world too makes it so we can simplify all the other distractions and unethical practices and really just focus our one moral on this one conflict. It is insanely brilliant and life changing.
Have you ever thought about the two steps that lead down to the Sun?
The socks, and the shoe, the shirt and the coat,
chipped, dirty nail with black, smeared nailpolish.
When I was little I’d like to imagine what life would be like on Mercury and Venus. Other kids were interested in the big planets akin to Saturn and Uranus, or the small supposed ones such as Pluto. But for me, Mercury and Venus were always ample.
They say that twins like me and my sister are like yin
and yang. Black cookie
and white cookie, a hot boil
and a cold freeze, feminine pig tails,
and masculine loose-curls.
I think about how Mercury looks colder than Venus while in reality its skin impedes closest to the Sun. How
Venus looks like a dessert of desert but in reality it once had pouring water.
From the Earth I look towards the aubade-ing and serenading star through my two pupils of Mercury and Venus
I want to try to keep this blog as a place where I showcase my current writing, stuff that is shorter and more relevant in a blog setting. However, last year, I wrote a biomythography for my freshman year english class that I think is relevant to the topics in this space. We read Zami by Audre Lorde, one of the most impactful and freeing texts I’ve ever experienced. I wrote this for my class.
Recently one of my classmates reached out to me and gave me the most wonderful job of tutoring second grade writer to two girls. She said she thought of my name because of the biomythography I wrote from class. I am so grateful to her.
*(note: some text effect might be formatted weird for some viewers).
When I first started to write this I was going to initially cover gender and sexuality structures of power and difference. But after covering that in my final essay I realized I didn’t want to tell the same story. And the idea that I only really had that story to tell made me think about something else that we’ve talked about in this class: privilege. I wanted to write about privilege in a way that wasn’t analytical or merely just explaining what it is: I wanted to show what it is. I decided to pick a setting of my summer home in New Hampshire to tell this narrative because the amount of my life I’ve spent there is shorter and therefore it would naturally simplify my narrative of my realizations I have had with what my privilege is and what that means. I drew a lot of Inspiration from A Letter to My Sisters Who Showed Up For Islan Nettles & Ourselves at the Vigil because there it talked a lot about appropriation, and privilege in regards to not taking up space in a space that isn’t yours, that just because you belong to a community doesn’t mean you can speak up for everyone in your community, and it also started to explore saviorism complexes that specifically politicians have. I’ve recently been doing a lot of reading about white saviorism so that was another topic I wanted to include. I decided to break my work into six chapters that include a paragraph of a story of a literal event that happened at my house and then a poem about one of the topics in the paragraph. I wanted to make the poems into the shape of the topic of the chapter because I’ve always been fascinated by the structure of lines of sentences in poems so I wanted to include something more visual to stimulate the reader. I wanted all the chapters to advance as the next one came, for them to layer on top of each other. And I also wanted all the chapters to mean something to the other. I wanted to talk about privilege in a more nuanced and creative way, one where the main point isn’t necessarily stated, but shown through my words. I hope that by the end of the sixth chapter the reader understands the whole point I was trying to make.
In the rolling hills of South West New Hampshire sits a tiny town called Richmond. In 1810 a house on a hill was built, in 1910 it was purchased by my great great uncle. We’ve called it Hillside for as long as I could remember. We have a treehouse and a lake across the street that can sometimes feel like we’re the only ones in the world who know its there. In the afternoon the wind always comes in and the trees make a rustling sound that sounds like how I imagine the waves would be if there was a long beach for them to lap onto. We don’t have any nice furniture except for the stuff Aunt Helen nailed down because burglars come every autumn. When I was little I thought we called it Hillside because the side with the porch was about to fall into the hill. It was only used by my grandpa to do yoga in the morning with his pink underwear on but everyone always told him he was being crazy, that he would fall through at any moment. It tilted so much that by the time we gathered up all the savings from all the cousins to repair it, the porch was hanging on almost a thirty degree angle.
What does it mean
For something as sturdy
As a wooden floor with nails
Something whose only purpose
Is to be stood on
What does it mean when that thing
Needs support from you now?
I have lots of really great memories at our house in New Hampshire, swimming the whole distance of Sandy Pond, picking wild blackberries in our backyard, yelling into the woods to try to talk to Honey the Bear, hanging out with my cousins, some of which I would never meet again. Later my mom would tell me it was fetal alcohol syndrome which made Katelin and Shawn act like that. Every single married couple connected to that house except for my grandparents and parents are divorced now. They don’t usually come to Hillside anymore. I remember my mom used to take us to this blueberry festival every year until she found out that the church that is trying to buy every single property in Richmond ran it. Later I would learn that there were rumors in the nearby towns of Winchester and Swanzey that they were stealing little boys too. Winchester was also an important part of Hillside for me. Just four years ago did they start to sell veggies in their grocery store that we could buy instead of having to drive all the way to Keene. Most of the people who work there are addicted to opioids and meth, when I was little I was scared to look at them.
That are snatching the boys
You can’t call the Police when those in blue are those at service
Those in the church, ringing the bell, asking for donations
Telling you God will forgive your sins, your bad conscious
Buying the town
Buying the mayor
Buying the pipeline
Buying the media
Buying the newspaper
You can’t call
Are the ones
There is a camp across the street from us that is almost one hundred years old. Camp Wiyaka. We had to swim the Polar Bear every morning because it was our familial tradition of running into the ice cold lake at 7 am. Just last year did they take the Native American face off of their sign when you pull up onto the dirt road, and I’m sure they only did that because the sign was about to fall off just like our porch. Multiple generations of my family have gone to it so when I first entered middle school I knew it was my turn. I remember when I first showed up with my trunk I saw a lot of kids who looked like Katelin and Shawn and a lot of parents who acted like the cashiers in Koolicks grocery store in Winchester. The kids who went to the camp were from Athol and Orange Massachusetts, my cousin, my twin sister and I, were known as the Brokenshires (our family name), or “the kids who lived across the street in the big white house”. We were different and they knew it. About half of the kids didn’t believe my sister and I were related to my cousin because she’s half black, they did not understand how that could work at all. Besides a brown girl named Lexie who had a belly button piercing, my cousin Sofie was the only person of color there, and perhaps the only POC many of those kids had ever seen.
Flannel sheets and
Olive oil rings on the counter and
Solid wooden doors with cracked paint and
Blue tile bathroom with grout that really needs a clean and
That house smell that your friends tell you your house has
Toilet paper without the cardboard roll- save the trees!!!!!!!
Furniture we got from when my uncle sold his second house
Food that tastes like how my mom hugs, how my dad talks
Coins that someone left on the table, waiting to go upstairs
A piano with three trombones and two and a half clarinets
Hillside is my home in the summer and it is safe and familiar
A refuge for crickets and mice and dragonflies and ants and
Warm, metallic water to wash my hands and feet and face
I’d later learn that Athol Mass is an old town struck hard by the Great Depression and ruined by the closing of the mill. They have one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country, murders are not rare, and that substances run through the blood of families. There were four “M’kayla’s” at this camp, three girls named “Haylee” a couple girls named “Mariah”, and five girls named “Marrisa”. I learned what falling down the stairs meant and what metal coat hangers are for. I learned what it meant to live next to the “graveyard”. I listened to Kayla tell me about how her brother was shot right in front of her and how Marrissa’s dad and mom both overdosed and died when she was at camp last year. While little Ella was forced to reckon with big ideas like systemic drug abuse, unsafe and underground abortions, the familial pattern of teen pregnancy, rape, murder, loss, I also had my own “problems” I was trying to figure out. I remember my aunt on my dad’s side sent me a package with candy and money and I felt so good giving Kayla the five dollar after crying about her sunglasses she dropped in the lake earlier that day because her dad had given them to her from the dollar store. A saviorism complex that I had inadvertently yet still developed from this exchange.
When we were little they
used to tell us “don’t waste water”
because kids in Africa don’t have any.
They used to tell us that kids in “third world
countries” would not complain in the ways
we do. We were supposed to admire White
Folk who came to talk to our class about the
amazing work they did in Africa. They’d show
us pictures of kids with swollen bellies. “This
little girl changed my life” They’d say. I remember
asking one of them what the little girl’s name was in
the picture“Oh it’s some complicated name I can’t
even pronounce”. I ask him what country she was
from “Oh all the countries we went to blur together”.
I ask him why we can’t all go on this trip “Oh it’s very
expensive for us to all get there you know” I ask him
why they were the ones building houses not contractors
“Oh we thought it would be more impactful for Us” I ask
him why there’s a picture of him with a stethoscope
even though he’s not a doctor “Oh they’re just grateful
that we gave them medical attention at all” I ask him why
they’re so poor in the first place “Oh they just are, but
don’t worry, we helped them by building a house!”
I used to run 10ks a lot so I would always run on the mountain behind my house. There’s a government facility building that has an electric wire around its boundaries and a lot of weird planes and jets that fly over our field to get to. When you run to the top you see the building and you know it’s time to turn around. When you run down the mountain your legs are tense but they start to relax. Your lungs are heaving but they start to find a rhythm. Your neck bobs with your head and with your steps and you actually start to feel like you might make it down the mountain alive. I was running with my uncle one time and there was an injured sparrow in the dirt road ahead. Sam the dog had no interest in it but we soon figured out to move it out of the middle of the road to the side with some leaves. We kept running until we get to the base of the mountain and then we jumped into the ice cold lake that felt like velvet and running in slow motion. As I swam to Bare Ass Beach I thought back to the bird that was injured. But it is not me and for right now I am flying with breastroke in the lake that cannot hold me back. I say a prayer to the god I do not believe in- hoping it will be okay, and then, I move on with my life. Right?
bird of love
my uncle said.
I think about
the jet flying above my head to the top of the mountain we were just at and I wish that this
little sparrow was flying high with it. I ask myself why a beautiful creature like this is shivering on the ground when a gas guzzling, brown child murdering, corrupt money funded machine gets to fly in the beautiful blue around. This bird is the bird of love and yet we do not love it. We love machines and big corporations and unruly aspirations
We love black
culture but not
black lives. We
Pray for “the
but not Palestinian children.
We love jets but not sparrows I realize.
There’s nothing like being out on the water right when the sun is going down. The bats start to come out and fly across the purple sky. The frogs start to sing in their choir that won’t stop throughout the whole night. Owls that sound like coyotes and coyotes that sound like owls. If you take the pink kayak out to the middle of the lake when the sun is about to set then you can be apart of it in a way. The purple sky becomes purple ripples of water. The trees rustle. The moon is in charge now. We can get a good campfire started and make smores and salmon. I love the popping and cracking noises that the fire makes when we really get it going. I love sitting next to the people in my family. Not worrying in this moment about how my dad has advanced cancer. Knowing the kids at Wiyaka are in their bunks by now. Mosquitoes bite my ankles but for right now it doesn’t matter. When the sun sets and the moon comes out to play, I can’t help but think a lot. I think about how the porch used to be falling, and boys are being stolen, and home is a word of comfort, and that I used to think I was better than all the kids at Wiyaka, and a sparrow was once on this dirt road. A sparrow that I do not know anything about now. I think about how privilege and saviorism have made my eyes think a certain way. Privilege that I was born with, a saviorism complex that I later developed. I sit there hoping that the sparrow replaced that jet. That the cross and the gravestone were merely a slanted porch that needed to be replaced. Home for me is a word of comfort and that is a privilege that I need to acknowledge. The government has never infested my communities with drugs, my ancestors weren’t stolen and taken here as hostages, the town I live in does not have a shut down mill, I have never used opioids, metal coat hangers in my closet are only used to hang coats, I think about what my eyes see, and I know that I just got really lucky.
Is the fact that when I came out
My parents still loved me. It is going skinny dipping in
Sandy Pond at night. It is when my grandma asks me what colleges I am applying
To, not if I am. It is being the family from the White House across the street. It is having sneakers
With laces. Privilege is writing stories for fun. Privilege is whiteness. Privilege is knowing people are
Being systematically murdered and still buying things from the culprit. Privilege is a jet hogging the skies when Sparrows should be able to fly too. It is looking through your eyes and ignoring what you see because it doesn’t affect you. Privilege is something that can be used for good things but rarely is. It is homemade packed lunches, new basketball sneakers every six months, another pair of sunglasses when they fall in the lake, not getting that call from the hospital. Privilege is the smoking gun used to shoot down hopes of resistance. It is
a pink pussy hat but no solidarity for trans victims. I think a lot about the person I used to be. I was creative and thoughtful, a real joy at least I think. But as I’ve grown older and especially at Hillside I’ve started to realize that privilege is me and I am privilege. Being queer and a woman sucks sometimes
But I have a home even if its porch slants occasionally. And it is my
I first heard of this book in my research to find a good introductory book to the world of global geography. I have to say while there were many things I really liked about this book there were also some areas where I really felt the narrative fell short and the story was not as developed as it could have been. First I’ll talk about what I liked and then I’ll dive deeper into those things I felt lacked appeal.
There were a bunch of things I really liked about this book. I really liked the way Marshall segmented the book into the ten maps/regions of the world. I felt like this made the book more digestible to a reader that could otherwise be extremely overwhelmed by the vastness of global geography like myself. I also really liked the real-life examples Marshall brought to the table from his time being a reporter on the ground during some of the world’s biggest conflicts. I felt this added not only validity to his explanations but it humanized them from just being locations on a paper map to being real-life places. The argument itself that geography and physical makeups of our world like terrain, mountains, access to water, etc is something I fully heartedly agree is ignored way too much in our discussions of world history and politics, and for that I’m grateful his tale breaks free from that lack of intersectionality. The description of real, tangible, land boundaries on the ground matter and were extraordinary to read about. I also found his explanations of relationships between countries: allies, enemies, or neutrality, to be clear and concise, something that is lacking in a lot of other similar sources. These are the things that I really like about the text.
The main issue I had with the texts was the lack of narrative surrounding the concepts of colonialism and imperialism. Perhaps it is because I read this book right after I read. The Divide: Global Inequality from Conquest to Free Markets by Jason Hickel, but this book for me lacked historical significance in those senses. Oftentimes he would talk about the lack of success in a country and not even reference those legacies. Not to mention the ways in which he defined success were not explained thoroughly, and routed in eurocentrism. I found this particularly clear in his descriptions of Pakistan, Latin America, and Palestine. He was extremely harsh when it came to Pakistan and did not spend nearly enough time examining the long and deadly history of English imperialism. In Latin America he focused on issues like corruption in the government and didn’t really talk enough about European imperialization and then US colonization and interjection into Latin American elections. For me, these are things that are crucial in understanding the historical and geographical makeup of Latin American countries and I felt like he skimmed out on some of the context he could have given. In his discussion of Palestine while he did not claim a position obviously, he did not mention any numbers or historical significance in the lives lost and instead stuck to just descriptions of the land. I feel that only seeing geography as numbers and resources on a piece of land is ignorant, after all, it is people that write the narratives of those places. Especially in a conflict like Palestine/Israel where the numbers are so contrasting and telling.
These are the issues I had with this book. I definitely think I learned a lot while reading it, and I’m very appreciative towards that. I think that if he had taken more time to explain the implications and long lasting effects of things like colonialism, imperialization, and interference in foreign elections, it would have been a smoother and clearer picture. While he took the time to give historical context to some things, he didn’t for others, which I found unfair and not sincere to the actual reality of global geography.
After reading The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein I decided my next book in my steps towards radicalization and self-liberation should be this wok by Hickel. After reading this in less than 24 hours you could say I was very impressed. This book was very similar to Klein’s but provided an easier and more digestible way to question global institutions. I found this book very informative and complex in the positions it examined, yet non-excessive and equally unpretentious in its explanation. This was one of the first books I’ve read that I felt really put my own thoughts on things like legacies of colonialism, imperialism, and systems like charity and economic support into perspective. His claims on things like why charity doesn’t systematically help, or the effects of US intervention into elections from other countries, were routed in clear evidence and explained simply. His own real-life experiences and times where he had to examine his own biases was refreshing– it felt like all the claims he made he really meant. And not only did he support all of his evidence through historical evidence but he provided his time as a teacher and professor as a way to solidify his claims. He often brought up counter ideas or conflicting positions that the reader could inevitably have through the questions his students asked him, and then would explain why he concurred or rejected those claims. To the young radical who wants to educate themselves on leftisit politics and the realities of our world I would definitely recommend this book even before The Shock Doctrine because I think it is an excellent starting point. Although on the shorter side for this kind of political theory reading, its narrative is complex, beautiful, and liberating.
Depending on who you ask there are between 193-196 countries in the world. One day for fun I decided to try and see how many I could name off the top of my head. I’ve always been probably above-average, but not great at geography. In fifth grade I memorized all the state capitals which was really fun and I knew where every state was. But taking the time to learn all the countries was something that seemed not only difficult, but useless. What surprised me was the value I found in the months it took me to memorize all of them. I found myself researching conflicts in small countries, discourse on geographical boundaries and interpretations. I was able to understand on a global scale the impacts of colonization and imperialization in the violence against many indigenous populations and lands. I was encouraged to do more research on the countries that already fascinated me such as Uruguay, Myanmar, Argentina, Rwanda, Palestine, and Kazakhstan. I grew to have interest in countries such as Burkina Faso, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Armenia, Mauritius, Lesotho, Eritrea, Tonga, and Chile. All of a sudden I found myself researching Thomas Sankara’s revolution in Burkina Faso. The current conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The United State’s exploitation of the land in Tonga. Eritrea’s extremist government and huge humanitarian conflict which no one seems to talk about.
I guess what I’m trying to say that while the world can seem big and scary, with an infinite amount of things to be outraged about and the rise in this exposure due to social media, education will help you prevail. With education I’ve found liberation in the way I viewed the world. I have gained an ability to decolonize my global perspective even past the already anti-colonist perspective I had. I’ve also become more empathetic. Not in the white-savior way of thinking “oh my gosh, I’m in America where everything is so great and easy!” In the way where I can understand that it is our government, the CIA, and billionaires that control this country which destroy other countries. American imperialization is responsible for the poverty in every subjugated country. We can see the CIA’s impact through the electoral statuses in Latin American countries, or the exploitation of labour in African countries. But only by educating myself through seeing a bigger picture of the world was I able to more fully grasp these concepts. And while this has helped to liberate my understanding of the world, it has shown me the subjugation and oppression of American imperialization and colonization.
American imperialization is responsible for the poverty in every subjugated country.
I’ve gone to the Shenandoah in Martha’s Vineyard for the past four summers (minus this last summer because of Covid). When I first started writing my book my mom looked up writing camps I could do and she eventually found this one. I remember when we first took the ferry to the island and I first saw the ship how terrified I was. Living on a boat less than 120 feet long with 30 other people, skylights above the toilets, and less than a foot’s room for headspace on some of the bunks seemed more like hell to me than anything else. But then, it turned out, I actually kind of loved it.
I’ve been a camper for two years and a junior writing counselor for the other time and my life has completely changed because of. Something about not having your phone and being in the middle of the ocean for a week just totally refreshes your spirit. I remember the first time we set sail and how intoxifying that feeling was. Your literal home, your whole world for that week is flying in the wind effortlessly, and carelessly. The crew walks above on the ship, sails, and lines like cats making their way up a bookshelf. Kids laugh around me, the sky runs a race with me, the ocean uses its long fingers to grab our boat and rock it from side to side, but ultimately forward.
We swing off the boat when it’s anchored from a rope swing. The water beneath is god knows how deep, but it doesn’t seem to matter to us. We sing songs in the dark, huddled in a circle with a guitar and lots of sun-kissed little voices. We go to islands like Tarpaulin Cove, paddle out and discover beautiful lighthouses. We run into the ocean at the shore and see the curve of the world fall behind our ship. For right now it is just us, the ocean, and whatever we want to make the shades and layers of blue around us. At night we turn the radio on and sing while we do dishes. We read ghost stories and make friendship bracelets. Captain reads to us John Masefield and we try not to fall asleep. At the moment we think it is really boring but when we get our land-legs we would trade anything in the world to be back.
Living on a ship in the middle of the ocean without my phone has been one of the most striking and life-changing times for me. Writing and reading, sailing and flying, swimming to the edge of the world, jumping down to the bottom of the world, these are things that change my simple day to day manners back on land. I wrote something on my finsta that I think could go here:
“You know they say writers have always had a thing about the sea. As I’ve spent my time cooped up from the life we considered so normal just a year ago I’ve been able to reflect on the time I’ve spent in situations like living on a boat, in new places far away, and on grand adventures so different to me. Some of my friends have said I’m good at telling elaborate stories about all the things I have done, but I would argue it is more through the stories that I’ve lived where I’ve found clarity. As I’ve spent further time engaging with classical literature, and critically thinking about the constructs of big systems in our society, I can’t help but be taken back to a time where my biggest concern was slamming my head on the beam right above me or how long the captain would read his stories that night. For some reason the normal complacency and routine of a life we perceive, that is being projected so forcefully and unfailingly, is not settling well in me anymore. For a girl who loves those small routines I find myself wanting to escape the routine in a capitalist system that so oppressing-ly has drilled in me an expectation of what I must do. Maybe it is social media but this hopscotch map of graduation, internship, bad job, bad house, bad husband– is something I disbelieve. I find myself drifting back to the dreams I had whilst lying on that small bunk with just enough headroom to lie on my side at night. Where my biggest worry was breakfast smells, 6:00 am ferry horns, and a gloomy day lacking a breeze.”
As my favorite John Masefield quote goes “And all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by”, I find myself looking for my ship and star everyday when I’m back on land. But when you’re on the boat all you need to do is look down at the worn wood underneath, the creaking noises your container makes in the middle of the night. And at the stars above that seem to sprinkle the water. Maybe that is why my time at sea has seemed so pivotal to me. I never have to go looking, it’s always there for me.