Dear Dad, Some Questions Today
The last time I wrote to you was over two months ago, and I feel like I have been negligent to your memory.
A note: This post talks frankly about bullying and queerness.
This autumn my dad asked me to start a project with him. I suggested we write letters to each other based on how he used to write me cards as a kid. We’ve sent a few back and forth. It’s been beautifully healing.
We’ve both agreed to share them publicly. We feel it may bring some insight for others.
My dad can no longer write me back.
More will come.
The last time I wrote to you was over two months ago, and I feel like I have been negligent to your memory. I know this is not truth, but truth and feelings can cause a dissonance that disorients. I feel a bit lost. I wonder:
Is not writing you why I seem to not know where I am?
I am having such difficulty parsing and keeping time. Everything seems to meld together into a morass of timelessness. It is nauseating. I find myself being so incredibly tired because I sense all of time all of the time.
How do I segment or bind that which I experience wholly?
My art-making these days seems especially not to give a shit about time. Instead, as I sit down to create something, I experience an expansiveness in which all sits behind and ahead of me. I pause and notice what is requesting to be tended. Then, I ask myself,
What do I want to tend today?
I have heard sculptors talk about the process of carving or whittling as a dialogue between the artist, the tool, the material, and the sculpture. This metaphor is a starting point for what I experience, but it still does not capture how overwhelmingly vast all of time is. It’s as if the sculptor was on the moon and the material they were carving was the world.
How do you fully describe that to someone who has never experienced it?
Even now I wander. My mind is connecting the sounds of the 101 freeway in my backyard in San Francisco to memories of driving the icy highway 394 in Minnesota in your red truck that previously belonged to Grandpa. I was so tired then too, and my eyes drooped. The truck grazed the median shaking me awake. You never really brought up the huge scratch I made, and I am realizing now how profoundly beautiful and loving that was.
Why does it take so much time to see that which has always been there?
And now my mind spins towards justice and liberation for my ties to Minnesota are ancestral, and Minnesota is a place where justice and liberation are so desperately needed. This is older than Daunte Wright, George Floyd, Philando Castille, Dolal Idd, David Smith, David Croud, and all of the others killed by police. It goes all the way back to the formation of Minnesota as a state and the theft of the land from Native Americans, including the Dakota and Ojibwe tribes and peoples. And it continues through to today with a militarized police occupation of Minneapolis, Brooklyn Center, St. Paul, and all the surrounding area. It makes me think of your days as a Reservist and your growing realization the last year of your life of how much land has been stolen by Minnesota / United States government.
What would you have done if asked to be deployed against your neighbors?
Image description: a selfie of me with a black bandana face mask on standing in front of the old RYSE Youth Center building. The building has a mural on it with the words RYSE and FUN easily read, and other images and words blurred. It is a gray, overcast day.
I was invited to a tour of RYSE Commons in Richmond, CA, in early April 2021. It was just for partners with whom RYSE wants to continue creating. It was such an honor to be among this small group of youth members and artists and designers and educators. As we toured the construction site, I saw all of the ways the grounds were constructed to meet all of the diverse needs of RYSE members, who are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, immigrant, queer, trans, non-binary, disabled, neurodivergent, poor, unhoused youth. It stands in such stark contrast to the stories blasted on front pages and over airwaves about Richmond and all our “inner cities”. It is a testament to the power of centering those who the United States has systemically, generationally, and institutionally harmed and murdered and poisoned and demonized and traumatized. I am so lucky to be their neighbor, their partner, their comrade. I wish you were here so we could visit together, and you could experience what solidarity across generations and identities looks and feels like.
Where could we go if we truly centered those who the United States has terrorized?
I cannot stay tethered to one thought or strand. Instead, question after question keeps popping up and with each new question a new thread to follow. These threads pull in multiple directions, creating a tension that fuels further feelings and ideas and thoughts. And while the metaphor implies I am the spider spinning the web, I feel more like a fly trapped on it. I have become stuck by becoming untethered; I am waiting to be devoured.
Who do I be as I wait?
This letter to you began before I sat down to write it this morning, and it will continue after I publish it on my blog. It is just a slice of our conversation that started before I was even conceived. I know you talked to me before I even knew who you were, and I am now writing you after you know who I am. We are an eternal dialogue; I hear your responses in the questions I ask. I know you are here, presently.
This is the only answer I truly know.