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Dark Ecology: Race, Gender & the Environment

English 252 @ Hunter College

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NYC

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

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On March 8, 2017 I attended the women’s Strike in Washington Square Park. Knowing that we were all there for a common goal to speak on issues that affect us as women daily really inspired me want to do something more for the cause. A photographer who started a women’s series project for the month of March reached out to me about possibly sharing my story. While we were there he interviewed me to be featured in the series. At first I was a little spectacle to volunteer, I didn’t want to get judge for sharing personal feelings. After much contemplating I decided to do it because being scared of getting judge wasn’t a good excuse. It was silly for me to turn down an opportunity that would possibly impact other women in my same position. Below is my interview. It is extremely personal but I’m sharing it because I know it is an issue that many daughters and mothers faced. It’s a relevant issue for women.

 

Interview: In High School, I didn’t have many worries. I often would be hours at school because it was better than being at home. I avoided drama whenever possible because it remind me of what I was trying to escape. In high school I used to have fun, I was passionate about things and I remember always having a smile on my face and laughing all the time. When you are that young it seems like nothing can really ruin your life, until something actually does. When my father left it was life changing. And not because I was destroyed in the fact that he left. I actually wished countlessly that he would go. When your dad starts. But my mother and I didn’t have similar feelings. So when he left it destroyed her. She didn’t know how to pick up the pieces. She didn’t know how to pick herself back up again and I had to pick up the pieces. I was no longer carefree because I spent my days worrying and caring for her. It was a heavy burden to bare and it definitely took a toll on me and our relationship. She went through a deep depression and I was forced to grow up not because I wanted to but because I had to. Everything was different; I wasn’t passionate about things anymore. I think I lost myself through my mother’s pain. I wasn’t even able to deal with my own pain because I was worried about fixing hers. I was concerned with her healing; I was obsessed with her getting over it. In an odd way I thought, “If she got over it then our lives would go back to normal”. But that didn’t happen, for a long time things weren’t normal. When I was younger I was really artistic and it came natural to me, it was one of the only things I was passionate about and suddenly I just stopped, I quit making art. I put it aside for a long time because in a way I felt guilty for pursuing things that I enjoyed. My mother’s misery weighed heavy on me and giving up art was one of the hardest things I think I’ve ever had to do. I lived a lost and stressful life for a very long time. One night I broke down, I just started crying and I couldn’t stop. I think that after maybe hours of dry heaving and ugly crying I realized how unhappy I was and came to the realization that even though my mother was going through something it wasn’t my burden. So, I turned to art, I needed a way to release my pent up emotions. Eventually it helped me find my youth and myself again.

 

My advice or I guess mantra to other women would be to embrace challenges. I feel like embracing challenges made me who I am today, without them I wouldn’t have a story. I dealt with resentment towards my mother and her decisions after my father left. she often talked about taking her life away and is was painful to hear because I had this image and expectation of her. I wanted her to be strong and courageous but she wasn’t. I realized I had to be those things for the both of us. what i’m getting at is that many of us like to judge other women and put them down because they aren’t the “ideal” woman. I was guilty of it, but this only creates barriers between us when we should be untied rather than out casting other women for choices that you don’t agree with, why not lend an ear, a hand, a hug, why not help? why not embrace your challenges and understand theirs?

 

 

Trip to the Botanical Gardens (Blog Post #3)

It’s finals week for CUNY students. People are burning their candles late into the night, just to finish the third paper due, just to study a little more for their exam tomorrow. Anxiety rises among students quickly, causing nerves and emotions to fray easily.

These kids need a break. So, we went to the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx!

Upon entering the Mertz Library, we were treated to several, well-preserved works from multiple points in history that stuck to the theme of Dark Ecology, most specifically nature. My favorite book here was the one French work where the characters were humanized flowers — each “specimen” was made into a woman in a dress that fit the image of the flower itself; if I were a fashion enthusiast, I would have definitely used that book for inspiration. The work entitled Sea and Land was comprised of stories and descriptions of monsters and flora from the prehistoric era to the then-modern times of approximately 18th or 19th century. These accounts would be of great help to someone like me, with the almost storybook and fantastical-style of recounting this book had.

The Botanical Gardens were absolutely awe-inspiring and filled with plants I had never truly seen in person. It brought upon a weird feeling of being lost, even though I knew exactly where I was. I felt absolutely relieved of the stress finals was pressing onto us at that time.

I’m absolutely returning to the Gardens at some point this summer.

The New York Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens were extraordinary. It was an intimate class experience with a small group of five and we started the day off at the Mertz library. At the library we were able to examine some rare texts including one which was about (praising?) Carolus Linnaeus who created the system by which plants are identified and named according to the sexual components of the plants. The book contained hand-painted plates and florid poetry—the production of the texts lead to the financial ruin of the man who published them (they were great!). There was even a book about a man-eating plant named Elizabite which was written by the same guy who made the Curious George series. The book about Elizabite was the basis for Little Shop of Horrors.

The gardens were also having a display of beautiful contemporary glasswork by an artist named Chihuly, which was an interesting contrast to the old texts we viewed. The sculptures complimented the plants so well and they were littered all over the conservatory—the area in which there were multiple artificial environments (rainforest, more rainforest, more rainforest, and desert).

In the gardens there were so many interesting plants. There were cute little Venus fly-traps and pitcher plants, a palm tree covered in spikes of all sizes, and a turkey oak. It’s amazing to look at these plants and to think of a time when New York was covered in forests. Taking the D-train uptown (despite the crowding) was such a worthwhile experience because it allowed me to feel a little closer to nature and history itself. The gardens are so beautiful and have such a rich history that it’s truly a transcendent experience.

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M.I.A Born Free video Apocalypse and Genocide *Trigger Warning*

MIA_press_photo_2016M.I.A is one of my favorite music artists that are relevant in today’s world. There’s not much known about her especially in mainstream media because she isn’t exactly one of those artists that has the mind set of conforming her ideals and image into what people want to see or want her to be. There have been many controversies surrounding her and that’s probably one of the reasons why I look up to her because she is a rebel with a cause. M.I.A tries to spread the word of corruption in our world through her music and music videos. One of those music videos is for a single she released about seven years ago named “Born Free”. The music video doesn’t have many fans for a reason. My first initial reaction to the music video was that it was pretty disturbing and pretty graphic, but then when I started thinking more about, I see more disturbing things on my Facebook feed everyday. There are videos on my feed from Syria and terrorist attacks in Egypt, Paris, Boston, London, New York, Spain, Switzerland. There are mass shootings almost everyday and I have sat next to people on the trains and buses who are so high off their mind they cant even open their eyes or articulate a sentence. We witness oppression everyday whether it be our own or someone else but it is happening in our world right now, it is in our facebook, instagram, tumblr, and any other social media feed we use. We just choose what to make a big deal of and what we can brush under the carpet. When I start critically thinking about everything that’s going on in today’s world and what I see every five minutes on my news feed, the video seems like a fairy tale. Nothing has changed in this world it’s just a different era with different ways of communicating our message. M.I.A with the help of a french director named Romain Gavras through the “Born Free” music video is trying to reach out to the people who can take this video and understand that it can fit in any type of society and situation in the world. All the events going on at the moment is becoming the destruction of who we are. The human race hasn’t made any improvement in the morality department. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.   MTV NEWS ARTICLE

A Day with Women

“I am trying to be both happy and pay attention to the world around me. I do not know if it is possible to do both at the same time” (Blythe Baird).

I do not watch the news, read the newspaper, or go out of my way to stay updated with what’s going on in the world. It’s all too overwhelming; I figure if there is some information that I REALLY ought to know, it will find its way to me.

I found out about the Women’s March by word of mouth, the way I receive most of my information. My professor cancelled class because she would be participating in the “A Day Without a Woman” Strike.  I told my other professor, and she cancelled too.

I thought it’d be a nice experience to attend the rally, and also be a part of history, women’s history. So I went online to find where the march would be gathering.

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I sought out a friend to accompany me, because of course I was too nervous, for whatever reason, to go on my own. And of course that friend cancelled on me the day of. And after a lot of pep talks and self-convincing I decided to put on the only red shirt I own and take the train down to Manhattan alone, and attend the rally on my own.

As soon as I got off the train at the West 4th St Station, I began to see all the red, and I felt good. It’s similar to the feeling of entering the rainbow crowd at pride in NYC, after being in the suburbs.

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I’ve never been surrounded by such a welcoming crowd of women. Everyone greeted me with a smile, I could feel the love and support of womanhood in the air. Many people stopped me, just to talk, just to ask how my day was going. It felt like we were sisters.

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“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware” (Henry Miller).

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Here’s a link to the Women’s March website,

https://www.womensmarch.com/

What I forgot

The brightness in the room was pleasantly overwhelming; the curtains did very little in containing the light outside. But I did not mind because it was a soothing way of waking up. Although my eyes were closed, I could clearly see the white, yellow and orange shadows dance above my face and even though the window was closed I could feel the warmth of the sun tenderly sizzling on my chest. In the kitchen, I could hear my mother singing along to a song playing on the radio and the awkward sound of aluminum trying to be gently folded. It was Saturday and she was making sandwiches because soon we would be on our way to the park. My mother made a habit of always packing enough food to last us the entire time there and the left overs was often given to the squirrels, which I always believed was a peace-offering for allowing us to use their space that day.

I was my happiest on Saturdays because it meant being outdoors. And I loved the outdoors, the warmth of an afternoon summer breeze, the fragrance of grass that tingled my nostrils in the most delightful way and the feeling of accomplishment when I would leave with the scent of nature soaked in my clothing. When you are a child nature is not complicated, kids enjoy and cherish it because it provides them freedom and security, they build a relationship with nature and it’s gifts. when we were children we climbed trees, picked flowers, ran on the grass, and rolled down hills. Nature was our playground and we took comfort in it always being there for us. which makes us take it for granted and so we stop going to the park. We convince ourselves we have better things to do and play into the myth that we are too old to roll down hills and the smell of dirt mixed with sweat grosses us out. We resign from nature and confine ourselves to living an unnatural life based on routine. Where we spend most of our day in spaces that make us prisoners to hues of yellow produced by a bulb attempting to mimic what we once knew. I’ll admit I was one of those prisoners and I dismissed nature from my mind.

Until one day a friend asked me to meet them in the park. As I walked through The Ramble in Central park I noticed the sun as it shone brightly on the water, I had to squint through glimmers of light to see where I was going. And it struck me that I had lost sight of the beauty that I once embraced as a child. Nature had made me the happiest I had ever been and I needed to feel that way again. So the next day I went on a hike and made a promise to nature that I would never abandon her again.

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A soothing soul

It was a hot summer day, where the sun was so bright one would feel as if the light would make them blind. However, life on the other hand wasn’t so bright; stress and emotional drama was a constant in my life and despite the beaming sun the day still felt dull and gloomy. It was one of those days where I was in a state of self-war, where everything just seemed unreasonable and incomprehensible, leading to sleepless nights. I was busy doing my work during the day time and upholding the façade of a happy strong girl, however, at night I was doing extra shifts of self-exhaustion by over thinking and continuing the ritual of self loathe and pity that I had started a couple of months earlier. On a daily basis continuing the façade became challenging. With a much needed break from all the thinking, I decided to go down to the beach along with a few of my friends. The trip to the beach was a form of diversion from all the stress. I was hoping it would be an escape from ME. The me that wouldn’t let me take risks and the me that always played safe. With the anticipation that I would be busy with friends, I didn’t think I would have the time to go back into self-pity mode and some how get thrown back into the dark corner that I always end up in. The corner that lets life take over and buries me from facing all of my problems. It’s a corner that engulfs you for days and to be pulled out would mean the need to have a lot of mental strength and power that I feared I did not have.

As I left school, I met up with my friends not anticipating anything from the day, especially not the freedom I would receive from myself. As soon as I arrived at the beach all I saw was the blue ocean in front of me, and not a single person besides my friends. At this very moment I felt at somewhat peace. Knowing I was in a place where I was not allowed to be, made me feel defiant and the selfish part of me didn’t want to leave. I sat down and decided to take in the view, and despite being with eleven other people it still felt quiet and peaceful as if it were just me and the beach. As I sat down, I took in the gentle but cold breeze and let my mind go to rest, away from my worries and away from my restless soul. I was in a state of zen where everything I was worried about just felt frivolous and cold. Despite being in a cold and abandoned area, it felt warm and welcoming. Nature felt as a mother, soothing and singing a lullaby to calm my restless soul. The soft sand felt as a mother’s hug and the soft waves were as if it was trying to sympathize and comfort me. Nature was a father. The soft breeze, protecting me from the evil of my own thoughts, by blowing the insecurities away. I didn’t feel confided in a small cage anymore. I felt more at ease and, for the first time in a long time, comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t feel like I was living in an intangible universe. I felt like I belonged. I felt at home.

(If you would like to visit the beach: https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/fdr-boardwalk-and-beach/highlights/12257

A yelp page with similar experiences regarding the beach(not all of them are however.): https://www.yelp.com/biz/midland-beach-staten-island )

Back to the Concrete Jungle

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This is actually near my old place. Image by www.trulia.com

I spent about a few years living in Pennsylvania. I remember being about five or so when we moved into a little townhouse on the side of a mountain. It didn’t mean much to me then, but in hindsight, that’s pretty wild. I could just look up and see more of the mountain range in the distance. I remember, even then, how small and inconsequential I felt. Obviously, as an adult, I can verbalize much better how startling the contrast was. But there’s something beautiful about a feeling that you can’t quite or don’t want to put into words.

I guess what I’m getting at is that I’ve always associated my childhood with the backwoods of Saw Creek, Pennsylvania much more than the concrete jungle of NYC I was birthed in.

Maybe it was the air. It was always sweet and fragrant.

Maybe it was the tap water. Nah, just I’m just clowning. That tasted pretty bad.

Maybe it was the stars that winked at me during the night. They were comically vivid.

Maybe it was the array of wildlife I saw. Deer would come onto the lawn.

Maybe it was all of these things. Maybe it was none of them. This was more than fifteen years ago, after all. My memories could just be distorted and all.

But I distinctly remember a creek behind the place we rented out. Compared to the only other natural body of water I had seen at the point in my life, Jones Beach, the difference was startling. I could see right through. The sunlight glinting off the fish. The little pebbles buried deep into the bedrock. I’d see people walking down the road with their catch of the day.

Nothing was ever rushed. If anything, we were the odd ones out. No one else locked their doors, and that made us the strange ones. Weird shit, right?

It was a slow life there. A peaceful one. A good one, even. If you were into having nature as your backyard. This is the kind of place Ralph Waldo Emerson would’ve advertised for his whole ‘return to nature’ thing.

But honestly, at this point in my life, I don’t see myself ever going back. It was just too stagnant. Maybe it’s the pollution here that’s messed with my mind. I like to think it’s the bomb-ass food and that sense of urgency only NYC has.

Saw Creek, Pennsylvania is where I see people going to live out their lives and die. And I don’t feel I’m quite there yet.

I guess I’m happy that I’ve traded the natural landscape, animals, and wood nymphs back for tall buildings, expensive cigarettes, and the godawful MTA (still way better than the NICE buses to LI, though).

I don’t see myself leaving the concrete jungle anytime soon.

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Image by Kate Kendall

 

 

 

 

 

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