xenotopia (a strange place)

We are in a strange place. I would leave it at that, but I’m trying to encourage myself to articulate my thoughts, maybe clarify what I’m thinking.

A “xenotopia” I stitched a while ago

I feel today, with the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the same as I have felt many times. Just in the last few days, shaking my head over Supreme Court decisions and gun control and women’s reproductive rights, the January 6 Insurrection hearings, the ongoing climate catastrophe, the fall of Sievierodonetsk, Ukraine. I felt it very strongly when Trump was elected. Heck, I even felt it when Ronald Reagan was elected. I am in a strange place, a place I don’t understand. Things are happening that I don’t agree with and that are not conducive to flourishing.

What do I feel? These days I don’t cry. Sometimes I feel sick or transparent. I don’t feel angry. I would feel weird and ineffective getting angry. I feel some fear, but it doesn’t easily penetrate the comfortable, seemingly secure every day life I experience.

What do I rely on? This question is much more interesting to me. What do I reach toward for stability? Reassurance. What do I trust? (A word I’m now seeing everywhere, since Grace started Trust Time!)

A list:

  1. I am a Buddhist. I don’t usually say that, this is probably the first time I’ve put it in writing, but I really am. That statement is bundled with a whole set of views and paths and practices that I won’t go into, but it helps my understanding. Feels like a new home, unfamiliar and strange, but offering some sense.
  2. Compassion. There are people who suffer and will suffer more because of decisions and actions taken. I really feel strongly about pregnant people who will suffer even die due to this cruel and misinformed decision. I wish I could help them. I think of the Jane Collective, the underground network of feminist abortion facilitators who took matters into their own hands back in the day. I would do that if the opportunity arose.
  3. Oppressed peoples look at us overprivileged types and ask “What did you expect?” I tend to want to follow the thoughts and philosophies of those who are not at the top of this insane hierarchy we live with. I read this article by Layli LongSoldier yesterday “Now, You Will Listen – Trust Issues with American Schools and the Care of Our Native Children.” I felt I’d much rather think about it than about the congressional hearing. The first half talks about form and uses ingenious typography to relate very painful situations. She uses that word “trust.” In the second section, called “Metamorphosis,” she writes about art-making.
  4. The earth and our bodies are interconnected.
  5. We don’t know what picture is being painted. This is something Sam used to say a lot. He got it from somewhere, somebody. But it has come in very handy. My whole lifetime has basically been in a period of increasing right-wing extremism, white supremacy, and as they say “late stage capitalism.” The pendulum swings, it has to, change occurs. I don’t know the timeframe and I don’t know the lineup of causes and conditions. But taking a long view has always served to calm me.
  6. Xenotopia is a nice word because it is undefined whether the place is a utopia or a dystopia. It could have elements of both. It’s just strange, uncanny. Also, it’s escapist. I am not above being escapist. I like to explore. I find a lot of value in science fiction, speculative fiction, surrealism. Margaret Atwood, of course. Ursula LeGuin, my favorite. I’m going to start reading Octavia Butler.

So that’s it for now. It makes me uneasy to express myself this way. But today seemed to call for it.

Transform yourself to transform the world.”

Grace Lee Boggs

14 Responses

  1. you cannot know. you CAN NOT KNOW,

    how so so beyond Excellent and Wonder FULL this post is for me…
    you say….What do i rely on?
    What do i rely on.
    oh, CatherinE….thank you. THANK YOU

  2. Mo Crow says:

    thank you for your deep heart, powerful words and art in this strange new world

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks for your comment, Mo. The strange place becomes a little easier when familiar people are there.

  3. Thank you, Catherine, for this heart-felt post, for introducing me to the word Xenotopia, and for the link to Layli LongSoldier’s powerful piece. I just read a reflection by the mythologist Sharon Blackie https://sharonblackie.net/ in which she points out that, although we may think of many old stories as quests to find “the answer,” in many others (especially the Grail stories) the quest is to find The Right Question. You & Grace are helping me find Questions that offer me a solid place to stand in this current Xenotopia: What is Trust? What do I Trust? What do I rely on? Thank you

  4. jude says:

    no anger, simply screaming now, to clear the passage for flow.

  5. Marti says:

    To put down words that may not feel comfortable, to speak from the depth of yourself, is to transform, is to reach out and connect in such a heartfelt way. Thanks Catherine for putting yourself forth; for educating, for giving. In a moment of synchronicity, I quoted from Ursula LeGuin on a comment that I just made on grace’s blog.

    How do we go forward? Where is our path? What are our trail markets? For me, Trust is one sign post: We trust in each other and in ourselves, we hold or do not hold anger, fear, sadness…we stand and face and we hope that we will find a way back from what feels like exile…

    • Catherine says:

      Exile, right. I’ve been learning about Thich Nhat Hanh lately. One of his calligraphies says “I have arrived. I am home.” Trying to feel the sense of this.

  6. Nancy says:

    I am reminded of this book: The Three Questions

    “When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?”

    So much is in the looking, asking, timing. Thank you for this post. You wrote it when you most needed to for you and we gratefully receive your words/voice.

    I too am considering ‘trust’, and have not written about it (except in emails to Grace)…but I also find it everywhere…like today at the dentist getting a crown fitted/made – sitting with my mouth wide open, eyes shut from the light & close faces…trusting all will go/be well.
    A word for Big ideas and small ones too.

    • Catherine says:

      You are so right, once we start looking for it, trust is everywhere. We’re noticing the interconnections. Then we get a disruption like a shortage of toilet paper and it really affects us.

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