Writing in a Time of Peril: 7.24.2020

Walking with The Wind

The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard reported 3.59 million U.S. cases and 138,543 deaths as of 12:00 pm on July 17. – From Johns Hopkins daily update.

The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard reported 4.06 million U.S. cases and 144,552 deaths as of 12:30 pm on July 24. – From Johns Hopkins daily update.

An artist’s duty is to reflect the times.

-Nina Simone

A friend wrote to me. ”I’m envious of the motivation and persistence that keeps you writing during these times.”

I wrote back to her, “I don’t know what the difference is now exactly. I felt the same writing paralysis during 911 when our country turned to destroy another country and then occupied it. I felt it during the multiplicity of the killings of black and brown people long before now. I felt it when my country elected a sociopath as its leader and every moment since.”

 I felt this paralysis about mass incarceration, the separation of children from their families at the borders, the caging of those children and their families, and the disappearing of thousands of children. I felt this paralysis as my government has been unable to report out where these children are located or who they were given to and every and other disparity and assault on our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of health and happiness. Rage and despair choked me as my government completely failed to respond to Covif-19 as a national public health emergency that was compounding harms done by ethnic, gender, age, ability, class, and immigration status disparities that increase exponentially with greed, incompetence, corruption, treason, and white supremacy. These things compelled me to chronicle our current times. ‘Better now than never, I tell myself.’

“Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. Language alone is meditation.” 

-Toni Morrison

About fifteen of us children were outside my aunt Seneva’s house, playing in her dirt yard. The sky began clouding over, the wind started picking up, lightning flashed far off in the distance, and suddenly I wasn’t thinking about playing anymore; I was terrified…

Aunt Seneva was the only adult around, and as the sky blackened and the wind grew stronger, she herded us all inside.

Her house was not the biggest place around, and it seemed even smaller with so many children squeezed inside. Small and surprisingly quiet. All of the shouting and laughter that had been going on earlier, outside, had stopped. The wind was howling now, and the house was starting to shake. We were scared. Even Aunt Seneva was scared.

And then it got worse. Now the house was beginning to sway. The wood plank flooring beneath us began to bend. And then, a corner of the room started lifting up.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. None of us could. This storm was actually pulling the house toward the sky. With us inside it.

That was when Aunt Seneva told us to clasp hands. Line up and hold hands, she said, and we did as we were told. Then she had us walk as a group toward the corner of the room that was rising. From the kitchen to the front of the house we walked, the wind screaming outside, sheets of rain beating on the tin roof. Then we walked back in the other direction, as another end of the house began to lift.

And so it went, back and forth, fifteen children walking with the wind, holding that trembling house down with the weight of our small bodies.

More than half a century has passed since that day, and it has struck me more than once over those many years that our society is not unlike the children in that house, rocked again and again by the winds of one storm or another, the walls around us seeming at times as if they might fly apart.

It seemed that way in the 1960s, at the height of the civil rights movement, when America itself felt as if it might burst at the seams—so much tension, so many storms. But the people of conscience never left the house. They never ran away. They stayed, they came together and they did the best they could, clasping hands and moving toward the corner of the house that was the weakest.

And then another corner would lift, and we would go there. And eventually, inevitably, the storm would settle, and the house would still stand. But we knew another storm would come, and we would have to do it all over again. And we did. And we still do, all of us. You and I.

Children holding hands, walking with the wind. . . .

–John Lewis: Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement

On repeat, I play The Sounds of Blackness, “Hold On Change is Coming.”

I go down my to-do list of self-care: stay physically distanced but not emotionally or spiritually distanced, avoid contact with police, resist occupations, counteract despair, meditate, eat well, rest well, get exercise, connect, connect, connect, stay home–except for the pharmacy & the grocery & then only with mask and gloves & when there are very few people about. Watch less T.V., but stay informed. Laugh a lot. Channel fear, grief and rage into remembering, honoring, and loving compassion to expression, action, and art. 

I continue to chronicle these times.

In Joy,


© Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s