Remember those times of letting go and giving up to allow the spirit to give you direction because every turn taken led to a dead end? I’d started this column three times. Three dead ends as the world’s rubble brought me to a halt.
First, in early March and by the end of March, during the Stay at Home order, that topic became pointless. Another in April, and by May, it also became pointless. Then came the week of murder and mayhem, and again my new attempt was pure pointlessness. It’s not the time to blather on about the superficial when upheaval is happening for the whole world. I put all efforts aside, the ultimate I-give-up, and waited for divine input.
I’d kept busy during quarantine when I wasn’t teleworking. I read “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah. His Netflix shows make my cheeks ache. I was invited to a Facebook page, Quarantine Dance Specials 2020, which awed me with so many beautiful Native dancers. I taught myself to crochet again and made some feather bookmarks, made hemp wish bracelets, created some videos, bought a bunch of stamps, and mailed some good cheer.
In the first week of May, the library book club chose “Night of Fire” by Colin Thubron for June’s discussion. When the cities across America endured nights of fire, the coincidence of that book choice gave me chills. It’s about six tenants on the night their building burns down. The tenants don’t know each other, but as they face their demise, the reader unravels their connections. It’s psychological fiction with the main themes of memory, dreams, rebirth, and the uncanny.
From “Night of Fire:” “He believed dreams to flow from agitated long-term memory, so this saturated fragment had been salvaged (he supposed) from a far longer story that had slipped away” (Thubron, 2016, p113).
On the morning of Pentecost, I woke from a dream I will never forget. This dream was, like most, a collection of memories, pulled from the brain files. Instead of being random and put together like a Dali collage, it was a story comprised of recent events.
It began with the gal who lent me Trevor Noah’s book. Not surprising, she was on his Netflix stage. Her long hair, unlike its usual way, was flying wild around her lilac blouse. From center stage, she twirled to stage left, on cue came a train of Native dancers in full regalia. Their headdresses were ethereal and mesmerizing. Were they stardust, halos, feathers? Their flowing all-white dresses exposed slivers of blue and red from layers underneath. I’ve never seen dresses like these. The dancers seemed to float across the stage, yet every step was grounded. At center stage, the leader met with the trains’ tail to form a circle; she began to sing. I recognized her and her long dark braid. She’d led the We Are Water program at the library. I was expecting to hear a Native song. Instead, she sang an intense Black spiritual.
Startled by the unexpected, I woke while humming the familiar song – Wade in the Water. I found the lyrics; in white, blue, red, wade in the water. The dreaming brain played with connections and coincidence. I was anxious for my friends and family in Minneapolis and was soothed by seeing local healers and hearing a song of freedom. I pray for healing and freedom for every soul aching from this tragedy, even while I sleep. Black and Native communities lost a lot that week. In my dream, they became one, united for all who did.
Such a vibrant dream with so much color, rhythm, and sound, I still call it up, sing the song, and lament the stories that burned to the ground – the lives, the livelihoods, the arts, the gifts, gone. But not the memories. The water has been troubled. It’s time to wade. We are the waters that can seize the flames and fury. We have to be. In whatever capacity we can personally and professionally.
I’m looking forward to the book choice for this summer’s One Book One Minnesota statewide book club, “A Good Time For the Truth: Race in Minnesota,” by Sun Yung Shin. For more information visit, thefriends.org. It’s going to help me process recent events with others all across the state. Clearly, my heart and brain are still reeling. These are heavy times, but there is joy in people helping people and by being a change-maker. I encourage you to use your libraries, school libraries, public, academic, and Little Free Libraries. They belong to you! They connect us.
I share reflections, discoveries, and joys of being a librarian and library advocate; however, my thoughts and opinions are not necessarily those of my employer.
Carolyn Avaire is a Mille Lacs community member and librarian.