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A quarter-century's journey
On the 25th anniversary of my leaving England.
I’m Keisha McKenzie. On Tomorrow’s Edge is a space for thinking, feeling, and dreaming about what we need to shift, who we’ll need to become, and resources we already have to meet and make a future worth living in.
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Twenty-five years ago this week, I huddled with my family in a London airport, saying long and short goodbyes.
I’d already checked two large suitcases, the old kind that didn’t have wheels and had to be dragged. My parents gave me last instructions. Call when you land. —Mum. Be good, and if not, be careful. —Dad.
Mum had already started packing a big blue barrel to follow me by shipping container. It would have my radio and CDs, some of my favorite books; toiletries, familiar sheets, and other supplies; and a little wooden stool I’d made in my high school Design class.
Hugs and kisses all planted, I clutched my backpack and a strawberry stuffy pillow with my Bible zipped up inside, and settled in on a plane bound for my family’s other island home, Jamaica.
That morning I didn’t know 90% of what lay ahead of me. I couldn’t have imagined it.
And, yes, my saying now that back then I knew even 10% of what lay ahead is absolutely me making up a statistic for narrative’s sake.
But none of my ability to guess or anticipate mattered much at the time.
What does matter is that I left. I left with an open heart. I left curious. I left ready to see what would happen.
Dear friends, a lot happened, and I’m so, so glad.
Six years later, I left Jamaica.
Eight years after that I left West Texas.
And four years after that I left Maryland. (A pandemic and love brought me back sooner than I expected.)
I lost something every time I left somewhere I’d chosen. And I grew, both in ways I could perceive as it happened and in ways I couldn’t perceive until it was already over. I became more myself and more open to the worlds emerging around me and in me along the way.
And I’m not going to stop.
My path includes more leavings, stayings, and comings, so I might as well get skillful with the switch-up.
There are so many ways to leave a place and still carry it with me.
Not all places need to be carried along. Some can stay right where they are and just be visited, or not.
If I go somewhere “to see what happens,” I’ll probably be connected in the scale of years, not months.
Every move destabilizes something that once seemed solid. Yet every dissolution makes room for something else that will concretize in time.
Leavings I choose and plan myself have such a different quality than leavings externally imposed. But the material and spiritual potentials of leave taken and space created are comparable—when viewed at enough distance.
A couple of weeks isn’t enough distance to view anything. Receive plenty of data; reserve plenty of judgment.
In every place and space I am, how I act is my responsibility. How others treat me is theirs. I always have a better experience when I don’t conflate the two.
Each of my goings and comings has been eased by the prayers of my elders and the gifts of my ancestors. I fondly remember the kindnesses and support of Sis. Daley, Sis. Nesbeth, Bro. and Sis. Burton, Sis. Bahadur, my grandparents, and all my living relatives.
The best grip during a pitching, roiling transition is intentional but loose. A rigid grip breaks bones; keep enough fluidity in the body to flow into the next right position.
The body knows the truth.
What I’m reading these days
- Kuang had me at “An act of translation is always an act of betrayal” and “Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence?” [Fiction]
Barbara Kingsolver: Prodigal Summer. This is only the second or third Kingsolver book I’ve ever read, but I’ve not read anyone so good at making a landscape and all its lifeforms as vivid and pulsing as the humans she crafts. Incredible gift. [Fiction]
Thema Bryant: Homecoming: Overcome Fear and Trauma to Reclaim Your Whole, Authentic Self. I came across Dr. Bryant’s podcast last year sometime, but bought this book after listening to her share a Liberian folk story about an eagle lost in a yard (07:40-10:49). “It’s impossible,” she says, “to come home to yourself and stay in relationship with someone who’s dishonoring you perpetually.” [Non-fiction]
I don’t rail against traditions. I love them so deeply I fall in and come out the other side. Reflecting on the trails humans have trodden into the English countryside over millennia—traditions written with our feet imprinting the ground—Jim Leary writes, “We must keep our ancient tracks alive by walking them.” (The Guardian, July 2023)
The Episcopal Church’s Bishop Michael Curry cut through the fog of despair with a message to LGBTQ+ people last week.
“Know and remember that you are created by God, in the image of God, and that is God decreed… I believe deep in my soul that God is always seeking to create a world and a society where all are loved, where justice is done, and where the God-given equality of us all is honored in our relationships, in our social arrangements, and in law.” (The Episcopal Church, June 2023)
Cory Doctorow writes about technology and freedom, and he does it incessantly. In conversation with Laura Fernández, Doctorow describes science fiction as a way to retrain imaginations stunted by the status quo. He also considers how much we need to stay embodied amidst the temptations of digital culture:
“When I think back to how long it took me to paper the neighborhood with flyers to fight for something when I was young, I can’t believe that it only takes one click today for the whole world to find out what you’ve set in motion. But we need a balance. The changes will only be real if we act analogically. In other words, the digital world must be a world of encounters, but we must stay on the street. It’s the analog that produces change.” (EL PAÍS, June 2023)
Nearly three years ago, I wrote a 7-day devotional/meditative practice called In Balance. Revised it and had it redesigned for digital publication last year… and then I sat on it like a hen.
It’s warm and ready to crack now.
Because you’re on this list, let me know if you’d like a copy.
Only two rules: (1) Commit to completing a full week, 15-20 minutes every day; and (2) write to me within 10 days to share how your week went!
Blessings as you, too, wander
Lucille Clifton’s poem “blessing the boats (at St. Mary’s)” carried me through the first two years of the pandemic. Read it at the Poetry Foundation.
I’ll close with a blessing I wrote last year:
May love be your path through this world.
May justice be the common tongue that you speak behind closed institutional doors, in community, and in the public square.
May you remain soft enough to remember we cannot be beloved community by ourselves and so reach for the hands beside you.
May you live and see and know with imagination and humility.
May curiosity, delight and mystery carry you from all you know to more of what you can become.
And may you have the courage to share with the whole what you hear from Spirit about your next step, our next steps, and the ways we’ll make together.
If you’ve had a life change recently that I might not know about, I’d love to share some time/space with you. Email me so we can figure out a time to talk.
And in the meantime, let’s keep walking through open doors,
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