As my new book, Inherited Silence, moves toward publication in July 2022, I’ve been thinking about its underlying themes—the history we have not reckoned with and the urgency of doing so. The story that follows came up in a writing group as I sat on zoom in the circle of women whose energy helped birth the book. The words that came prepared me for the death of my sister shortly after, and the violence about to explode in Ukraine—the sadness and fear of what might follow.
October 1, 2020
Published in the Mindfulness Bell, with Lyn Fine and Cathy Cockrell
The murder of George Floyd and systemic inequalities revealed by the pandemic call up centuries of genocide, enslavement, and exploitation. It is lethal and heartbreaking. How in these times can the Plum Village practice community contribute to transforming racial injustice and support wise, skillful, and compassionate action grounded in love—in short, create beloved community? As Thay reminds us, “The willingness to love is not enough. If you do not understand, you cannot love.”… […]
May 25, 2020
Published on the What I Miss? website
As virus panic mounted in the United States, I was already researching the psychic and actual sickness that came with the Mayflower four hundred years ago. Appalled to find myself descended from six of its passengers in a year when big celebrations were planned, I wanted Americans to see our history through the lens of disease. A full ninety percent of the Indigenous Wampanoag people had died from European illnesses even before the ship landed—and our founders themselves faced […]
December 5, 2019
Published on the Eat Drink Films website
My first reaction is “No way I’m going to review a film with the name “R——.” I’ve spent too long telling relatives in the nation’s capital how their team’s name evokes bloody skins of the First People of our continent hunted for bounty. Even though this film acknowledges the R-word as a slur, even though today’s reviewers think it progressive for its time, I’m reluctant. Our history is […]
A dream came weeks before we knew how serious the pandemic would be, much less the nightmare police killings and the uprising to preserve Black and Brown lives. I knew this dream was about something big but back then it was hard to know how big. In the dream, I was floating through moving water at the eastern edge of the continent, in a huge tidal river making its way through a city to the ocean. Other floaters at a distance, all of us picking up speed, no […]
There are contradictions as I write about the Napa land and my ancestors’ relationship with genocide. One of them is in our language—the word “settle,” the idea of settling and the settler. There may be hidden potential in that word, a way to heal.
When I started this book, the term “settler” filled me with shame. It evoked my great, great grandfather, Nathan Coombs, the one who came here in the early 1840s, before the gold rush in California, before statehood. The Bear Flagger who was so successful […]
“How did you get so lucky?” There’s awe in the voices of friendly tradespeople in small trucks, who find their way up to our place to fix the sprinkler system or check for termites—and look around in wonderment. Their work takes them to so many places tucked away in the Napa hills, but somehow this one stirs them. Maybe it’s the unpaved road winding through the huge live oaks as if into deep time. Forty years ago, my father did a beautiful job laying it out past […]
Photo by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images | Firefighters battle flames at a burning apartment complex in Paradise, north of Sacramento, California, on November 9, 2018.
November 28, 2018
Published in Yes! Magazine
I want us to go humbly to the very people our culture tried to exterminate to listen to what they can teach us.
January 27, 2017
With Courtney Martin
Published in OnBeing
California was particularly violent, but the story holds true in different ways throughout the country, whether our white ancestors were actually there for the killing or immigrated later and moved into places that had been conquered….We’re living with the kind of shadow Jung talked about — played out in our political life, denial of climate change, and lack of true respect for darker-skinned people.