Crete

Crete, at our little school. 2035.

The arks now above us, planted with the “seeds” of everything on Earth. Some cultivated, much stored for when we returned in a millennium. Somehow our SIA scientists and the mycelium had found a way to freeze the genetic material of an entire planet in tiny packets that could bloom again.

I thought of sea monkeys I saw advertised in comic books as a kid.

(I am a historian, not a biologist! I don’t know. I know so little about what I am a part of.)

Each ark was five miles across, made of repurposed garbage, of space junk too, and of broken stars captured in asteroid fields, of the endings of earlier worlds.

“Sculptors of ruins,” Dido calls us.

She writes me from New York, saying “Today we live in the shadow world of what will soon be. Can we make it of ash? What other sources and seeds are there, in the place of no future? Love, amor, expansion, togetherness. It is what we have.”[1]

I say, Yes. We have made it of ash.

5 miles across: massive scale for a ship, but such small containers for a desperate world.

When the fires of 2020 blazed through the Pacific Northwest, I thought of Australia the winter before. The Amazon the summer before. We collectors grieved wilderness that raised us, places we had touched, creatures we had heard rustling there. Birds.

Or a place where bright flowers had yearly bloomed–shock of orange paintbrush. Now quiet. Burned out beneath the blackness left behind a brighter orange. Under the green heart of flames. Already choked in dust of drought before the blaze was even set.

But by 2019, Juno and the scientists of SIA were already ready. They had been combing those woods for years, carrying it all gently, lovingly, down into labs underground. Discrete, disinterested in attention, humble about their ingenuity. Codes for intellectual property long held in traditions, locked in stories and old ways of being with the land that the Western world could never have access to.

I joined the collectors on Crete soon after, shipping down from Athens on a slow ferry that dropped me off in the middle of the night. All day upon the dark blue seas, as my polarized glasses made purple glitter of it turning aside, made brilliant white the foam. Wind whipped and wild as I liked to be.

Crete felt like an ancient homecoming.

And the more I studied, the more I understood why. Our purpose, the great cycles of history and consciousness, also opened like the sea there will: suddenly to aquamarine shallows like sea beasts that heaved gently on rocks burned gold in Aegean sunlight.

I would lay naked on my back in the surf at Kommos Beach and remember Theseus arriving and leaving. And before him, Phoenicians, the clever sailors who fished the Mediterranean for arts and good trade.

They carried the tiny turtle islands, earth seeds, up into the heavens on ships that all believed transported garbage. They secreted them away on those temporary satellites, our arks, until we were ready to join them.

Meanwhile, I was part of a team of knowledge collectors, archivists, historians, and educators for schools of the refugees of capitalism, of climate change, of authoritarianism, of militarism, of colonialism, of toxic masculinity and white supremacy. Children who had come across the dark seas, in the night, at great cost and their mothers, their queer uncles, their trans-aunts.

We are all orphans of these forces we called the isms, all survivors. From our suffering and our healing we developed curriculum for the newcomers to our shores—in hopes of healing trauma, lest we build from it and build new monsters.

How to transform survivalism into utopias? This would be our project.

We would try and try many ways, fail, and try again. But the children remembered and they taught us much of the time before birth. We began to piece the great hologram together, the faint complete picture on each of the elements that made us, becoming clearer.

In a practical sense, we were creating a massive database. We were learning and saving all the tongues of our planet to keep them safe and return them one day, to let them loose on Earth’s winds long after we died and went into the soil to feed the Great Mycelium of our arks.

Our priestesses would carry the knowledge we gathered and the visions we dreamed on tiny implants that woke their minds, wove them back into the collective consciousness.

We would be remembered forever there.

As would Earth.


[1] Lines from a friend’s note. Macarena Gómez-Barris, September 11, 2020.

The Multiversity

Have you ever made a hair pin turn, but sensed others of you peeling off and missing the corner, in screech of brakes, careening out of control, spinning off the road in tight spiral, tumbling trunk over hood to catastrophe? You knew somehow that you had lived on, while others of you ended, trapped over and over, powerless, clenched in fear, frozen, gasping, clawing, screaming.

Reaching your arm across your beloved passenger to keep her in her seat. Even when no one was there?

Or in one case, without even trying to stop, accelerating spontaneously, the last moments of your life burned like a star, flying into the abyss?

This is the sensation of parallel lives.

Once I chose one love over another, but dreamed my other life continued. I saw it all the way through: a simple, contented life of family and joy. But in this life, I went on alone, with those dedicated to Earth.

By 2020 it was clear that the University as it had been envisioned was over. Once built on the ideal of the entire universe of ideas together, meeting in hallways, arguing in classrooms, holding forth before lecture halls, demonstrating over Bunsen burners, then atom smashers, scribbling, then typing, then word processing in offices.

Here, the liberated minds were sacred, tenured, funded in their resistance.

Once a servant of colonialism, the University lived out its promise: rebels repurposed the tools of academia to dismantle, to deconstruct, to decolonize. Critics of capitalism and white supremacy, anointed in its halls as tokens, did not inoculate us: they transformed us!—until we had tools for the great inventories we needed to rebuild the world, for utopia, to create a livable existence for all.

But the very machine we meant to retire—into a nice museum or a history book in miles of library stacks—kept on grinding. The western mania for colonialism devoured the globe then turned on its own creations. Students became customers. Even good-hearted administrators could not save it. Above them someone had an appetite for conquest, efficiency, assessment, standards. The languages of disciplines were shackled to a brand and silenced in their critique. The library was not so much emptied of books as suffocated, forced to breathe and re-breathe the dusty old volumes.

Book acquisitions were over.

And when the plague struck, the patrons quit coming to study and whisper and linger in the rows where once they had turned oxygen exhaled by the forests of books into new air for the old tomes to breathe.

Grieve this for one moment. Picture your library, your campus, now dead, now emptied of meaning, an overpriced Disneyland that held no danger, no discomfort, no challenge, no energy for it from conscripted faculty, indentured students, and no more revolution. See the shining and quiet floors. The lawns. The coffee shops. Full of people. Then ghost haunted.

Now—it is time to build the new world. Look up.

The trick is to wear what we love like loose garments. There is nothing to let go of. Say goodbye to those parallel lives self-destructing, frozen, mourning, too depressed to rise, ranting and beating their fists on administrative walls.

Accelerate into the abyss.

We had already begun to build the multiversity, based on theories of parallel worlds, experiments to revision, islands preserving history, culture, ecology, knowledges, and languages.

We imagined ourselves on arks, like medieval Irish monks who protected ancient manuscripts from marauders, like elders telling stories, making offerings, tending the shrines of ancestors, like archivists of queer zines, like hippy hoarders with all the old press clippings, composition books filled with ball point scrawl, meeting notes, and photos of a revolution, like keepers of heirloom seed collections, of vinyl, or genome projects…

And like the Great Mycelium who stored a plague to save her from the plague of us.

Nepantla [1]

“fashion worlds of pleasure, joy, disruption, and refusal organized by the social desire for transformation.”[2]

Red Mars, golden Saturn, bright Jupiter. The moon in mystical rings before the rain. All of it moving our electrons across 2500 miles and decades. Or Friday, 8 miles down the road. We let our hearts feel the connections. We let ourselves live on silken bridges between.

Part of what we needed to do was envision our world.

We did not need to start from scratch. There was a lot to read. There were friends all around the globe. Reaching into the past, to traditions resilient within this: the toxic form of power now heavy on us. Now restricting us. Now coming to our homes and disappearing us. Now burning us in effigy. Now sheltering us from the pandemic.

In our studies, we came home to the sharp, sweet, new old regimes of identity, in places and times on our own planet. Some had been nearly forgotten, others never fantasized, or seen only on stage and in art. In a snippet of film by a visionary who had been taken from us by AIDS. Sometimes we lacked language to describe and so, we learned languages, until we could design in tongues new to us.

It took courage to recognize. To reiterate. To build from the remnants.

You see, we were leaving, but we would return one day. To Earth. In more than a millennium. We would hope to bring a new way with us when we did.  

But first, we would have to go. And so, we walked in the woods. Breathed in rain. Put bare feet on the ground. Slipped our clothes and walked into the waves, into the current of river, the stillness of lake. We savored.

The sun we noticed lit up our lashes, as in lazy spring days in college, lounging on a lawn with friends.

And those friends were the ones we first dreamed with. In the arrogance of youth, still shocked at what we were learning, at how much was wrong. We leaned over small tables and scones and cappuccinos, to expound. Or leaned back against the greased smooth wood of benches, to listen.

We noticed each other’s eyes. The lines now on our faces, from smiling and kindness and thought. Deep in our sockets we looked into one another and saw histories’ sorrow. We saw one another as brave.

So consider: what do you need for a transfeminist, post white supremacist, decolonized utopia? If you could make a cuir planet—What are the new values? Who do you look like? How do you refuse and disrupt and please and enjoy and transform? How do you “shift from one world to another”?

We took care about these things. We took garbage so we did not need to extract. And we spent all the golden women’s pentacles on this, to churn a new wealth for the future, to feed mycelium, to build our crafts.

In the tarot, The Star is a card identified with Aquarius, the weirdo, the visionary, the star being. It is the card of healing. Of reaching beyond what is. Of envisioning. And of meeting one another under the same moon. For now while we fashion worlds.

And one day, from the multiversities, who satellite near the same far sun.


[1] “I use the word nepantla to theorize liminality and to talk about those who facilitate passages between worlds, whom I’ve named nepantleras. I associate nepantla with states of mind that question old ideas and beliefs, acquire new perspectives, change worldviews, and shift from one world to another.” Gloria Anzaldua, this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation (2002), 2.

[2] Macarena Gómez-Barris, Beyond the Pink Tide (2019). This entry and the cuir-er than queer aspiration in it is humbly inspired by the work of this college friend.

Mycelium Tech

Mushroom specialist Paul Stamets: “we need to have a paradigm shift in our consciousness. If we don’t get our act together and come in commonality and understanding with the organisms that sustain us today, not only will we destroy those organisms, but we will destroy ourselves.[*]

In the early 1990s a close-knit group of geniuses, the Synergists, built and tested the first biosphere in the desert of Arizona. It was to be the first of many, designed with the goal of collecting data and of troubleshooting—so that one day they could create a spaceship or an extra-terrestrial colony on which to preserve earth.

They traveled the planet collecting species for their mini jungle and their mini ocean, their mini forest, their mini meadow. “Do you know how many flowers it takes to feed a hummingbird?” one asked. They made a mystical home, a mini earth, wherein they knew every living being and felt their interconnectedness with all life.

But when they tried to to live off that land, they suffocated and starved. They went insane on carbon dioxide poisoning, fighting and spinning conspiracy theories against one another. The animals suffered helplessly. In the end, the synergists had to bring in oxygen from outside in order to survive the full two years of their experiment.[†]

The SIA had learned two things since then. One, maintain secrecy. Two, depend on the Great Mycelium.

Throughout the earth. the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a network of fine white filaments, called the mycelia, link into root systems of trees, plants, and other mycelial webs and transfer information and nutrition.

The synergists had cut their world off from the source of life beneath.

The intelligence of plants, laughed off by some scientists, grew from the complex mind of the mycelium, which grows like neurons or the nerve cells in our minds, like the dark matter of space, like the network of the internet.

According to the research of Suzanne Simard, a forest ecologist at the University of British Columbia, “trees in a forest organize themselves into far-flung networks” and use the mycelium, which “connects their roots to exchange information and even goods.” Trees communicate, “convey warnings of insect attacks, and also to deliver carbon, nitrogen, and water to trees in need.”

Says Stamets, the “mycelium is the neurological network of nature. Interlacing mosaics of mycelium infuse habitats with information-sharing membranes. These membranes are aware, react to change, and collectively have the long-term health of the host environment in mind. The mycelium stays in constant molecular communication with its environment, devising diverse enzymatic and chemical responses to complex challenges.”

Sagebrush warns its fellows of a pest intrusion.

In a 2013 article, “The Intelligent Plant,” New Yorker contributer, Michael Pollan imagined the scent of sage as an “invisible chemical chatter, including the calls of distress, going on all around.” He described the air as “powerfully aromatic, with a scent closer to aftershave than to perfume.”[‡]

A forest will even work across species to share food.

According to Simard, “fir trees were using the fungal web to trade nutrients with paper-bark birch trees over the course of the season. The evergreen species will tide over the deciduous one when it has sugars to spare, and then call in the debt later in the season. For the forest community, the value of this coöperative underground economy appears to be better over-all health, more total photosynthesis, and greater resilience in the face of disturbance.”

Western scientists were naïve to the knowledge of people 10,000 years ago or that of African, Asian, and Indigenous societies, who depended on fungi and the inventions of mycelium to preserve fire, as antibiotics, as anti-inflammatories. And much, much more.

All the while humans were transforming the planet with art and technology and war and pollution, the mycelium had also been at work, resolving the devastations of our time.

“Let your imagination go wild,” said Stamets.

With the leadership of Indigenous scientists who were also members, the SIA had learned to work with the mycelium, to communicate a vision with the intelligence of slime molds and polypores.

The mycelium tech in my mask (and in the recycling centers we delivered garbage to and in the ones that were soon propagated on satellites twinkling in our night skies from 2025-2040) was based in traditional Indigenous knowledge kept by friends and members of SIA that was being put to multiple purposes by the Arks and Islands of the Multiversity.


[*] Paul Stamets is real too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W57nYOaQmIU Also https://bioneers.org/how-mushrooms-can-help-save-the-world-paul-stamets/

[†] A great new documentary recently came out on this group. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGvYFB6GHRY

[‡] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/12/23/the-intelligent-plant

Masks and Face Coverings

I found SIA in the winter of 2019. I had been sober for some years and worked recovery on my childhood trauma and resulting survival skills through another 12-Step program. I knew the steps were transformative. I had known them to heal and change me on a core level.

But that is not the story I want to tell.

When the pandemic of 2020 hit, I was a newcomer in SIA. I had a sponsor. I attended meetings. I had only begun to work step one. I learned from the old timers, who had been around the rooms for decades about my powerlessness over structural violence: how we were survivors of it, but how, as survivors, we had also become perpetrators of it as well. Life had become unmanageable. Suicide seemed like an option. For many, homicide seemed viable. Some had done time in prison. Most of us lost sleep and peace fantasizing about revenge. We needed a new meaning for justice. We grieved and we made amends.

I quickly became dependent on the community in the rooms. We laughed a lot. I had felt alone and crazy. Now I was among fellow star beings and magical, mystical wise ones. My heart cracked open as I heard them share what they had survived. I looked up to the elders there: to Juno and to Dido and to Britomart. Camilla, as always inseparable from Gallia, took me into her rough arms and then sat me beside her from day one, grinning and winking at me. The other new ones, Manel and Xan met my eyes deeply.

There were many more beautiful folks in the daily meetings. But these were mine.

I was home.

It was weird, but I kept returning to the dingy room and the cracked cushions on the seats. I drank the bad coffee, with the dried creamer, from the chipped cups.

So when, in March, the pandemic hit and we were told to shelter in place, alone in our homes, I was pretty scared to lose all of that. I went dutifully indoors. I checked the news. I shook my head in amazement at the toilet paper shortage. I did what we all did. I waited for my government to set up testing and to provide guidance. Like everyone, I waited in vain.

My AA and ACA went on Zoom, but when I called my SIA sponsor, she said, “Come on down to the meeting.”

Stephen was there planting flowers when I got there. He smiled his gappy grin. He laughed his hoarse laugh. He had a hard time staying sober. But we had been friends in the rooms for years.

I knew not to hug him. I can still remember the last hug I had had: on March 11th at an AA meeting. Les. Even then, I was afraid one of us would get the other sick. Somehow, I already knew that the asymptomatic could be contagious.

Anyway, hindsight.

My sponsor met me at the door with a carton of disinfectant wipes for my hands. Then she gave me a lightweight, clear plastic, strappy gizmo with a cylindrical center full of what looked like dirt.

“Put this on.” It was a mask. “Keep it watered. Report in here tomorrow at 6 a.m. for service work.”

And that is how I learned how the SIA meetings and the quiet garbage collectors were related. The very next day, I was assigned a shift in my neighborhood.

Gloved and masked in mycelium tech, we went about in our competent way, rounding up the city waste for free.

12 Steps for Survivors of the Isms Anonymous

The reader walked up the concrete ramp, sliding her hand along the chipped and smoothed paint of the metal railing, past determined roses and sunflowers on ragged plants that needed to be deadheaded. She stopped to cup one bright beauty in her brown hand and brought it to her nose.

“So sweet,” she whispered to the plant.

Under the awning of the old stone church with its desert pink stucko joints and decorated with long-necked statues of monsters that gave the church its nickname: the Pink Gargoyle Church, she was met by friends on wide wooden benches around the patio. People stood up from conversations to embrace one another in warm, chaste hugs. They looked into each other’s eyes and exchanged the coded banter they had learned in rooms like these, rooms like the one she now entered through glass doors.

She stopped to introduce herself to the grim young man sitting just inside the door, shaking his hand warmly. “Welcome home Sebastian,” she said.

Inside, against a wall decorated with two plain banners—The 12 Steps of SIA, The 12 Traditions of SIA—she sat among more friends, smiling around a fold out table in a circle of thrifted chairs. The meeting began over the quiet clink of metal spoons stirring sugar and the powdered cream into chipped mugs at the coffee pot.

The last bits of chat quieted slowly as the leader said, “Will you please join me in a moment of silence for the still suffering, followed by the Serenity Prayer.”

The quiet came deep, willing, communal. She could feel the flutter of anxiety rise and still as her breath came all the way in, all the way out. She concentrated on the words as she spoke them, trusting the one she said them to, trusting the evidence in the room. Trusting the wisdom and the freedom that they requested in unison.

The readings went as usual, read every meeting, reminding her every meeting. She let them flow around her.

“We meet to share the experiences we have as survivors of the isms of a society built on dominance: colonialism, racism, binarism, heterosexism, ableism, classism…

“Those experiences infected us as children and continue to affect us today…

“One. We admitted we were powerless over the isms and the effects of growing up in structural violence and that our lives had become unmanageable.

“Two. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity…”

“Nine. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all…

“Suicide, addiction, harm to ourselves and others, anxiety, depression…

“We lived life from the standpoint of victims…

“We take our own inventories and leave the rest to our higher powers…”

And then, after the readings, in the familiar format of the meeting, wise, brave, petty, self-pitying, humble, comfortable, familiar, humorous, vulnerable, honest, and sometimes also still in denial, the people spoke for their three minutes, each as their ticket number was pulled and called from an old coffee can.

She looked out the window at the blue sky, at the tree waving in the breeze. She looked at the speakers. She nodded. She smiled. She felt moved. She felt glad it wasn’t her. She felt grateful. She opened her heart. She resisted. She checked out. She checked in. When the Newcomer Sebastian shared, choked with grief, she nodded with the room when he said, something about walking his neighborhood in fear for his life, about “the plundering of black bodies,” and “Black Lives Matter.” The hour gradually passed.

“Number 68,” the ticket person said.

The reader looked up from her folded hands and smiled. Her number had been called.

“My name is Juno and I am a Survivor,” she began.

Gaga Garbage

In January 2018, China’s National Sword policy brought the globe into awareness of its waste crisis. Well-intentioned people attempted to quit using plastics. But these measures were no match for a throw away economy where the highest good was too often in conflict with profit. Corporate citizenship had long stunted arguments for social justice and sustainability across all sectors.

A helplessness came over us as we rinsed out our produce bags and refilled them until they frayed and fell apart, landing in the waste basket along with all the plastics we could not avoid. A person could look around her household, or even into her bag and see plastic, plastic, plastic. And a need for more as these fragile items cracked and broke around us.

Companies that had once asked us to put our sorted recyclables into color coded bins on the sidewalks, instead quit collecting glass. Papers were poured into a common bin where they were soaked and polluted with grease and fluids from the other containers. Or paper was bagged in plastic.

Gone were the days when a little girl could smash her dad’s beer cans in an afternoon of cathartic stomping, then take them down to make a bit of cash for a new toy or some candy.

These were just some of the depressing thoughts.

So, when the reader began to speak of garbage, the golden women listened.

For us, it seemed to be a wonderful charitable act that resolved one of the heavy worries we lived with.

A shiny postcard came into our boxes offering garbage and recyclable collection service for a mere $5 a week. And then, as these concerns grew, we began to see all of our waste taken away for free. Bulky, hazardous, green. A fleet of shining, quiet trucks driven by matter of fact, courteous drivers moved in the early mornings through our neighborhoods.

They bought up the landfills too. They encircled them in high fences and, as was their way, quietly stirred dust and gently clattered through the piles.

And, of course there were big corporations and organized crime bosses to negotiate with. But the golden women and their force of close mouthed, diligent drivers and sorters and movers and…whatever else it was they did—well they efficiently addressed the global waste problem.

I am sure it would make an interesting story.

By 2035, we no longer needed to reach into a burlap bag we had bought for bulk oats in order to retrieve a clean produce bag. And frankly, there was a lot more to worry about by then.

Untwinned Flames

The reader spread out the cards amidst tinkles of laughter from behind the coolness of her shining veil. She would sometimes widen her eyes for effect, but she really did know things.

She could feel the whiteness of her grin as the golden women who came to her saw themselves laid out by her graceful brown fingers. Laid out on the table. The reader knew power.

But she was humble too. The gift that was to feel the skeins of the universe running through her vagus nerve—deep in organs and bone marrow, along all of her into ever fine filaments and out to the winds on her skin—she held lightly. When the message came in, the scar on her face burned clean, as sharp as the knife from this boyhood wounding.

The golden women, celebrities who sparked screens and speakers and made millions, could see the very tip of white blaze against her cheekbone above her face covering. But they knew not to ask. Or they were afraid, in awe of their prophet.

The day would come when she removed the veil and let them see the consequences of her youth on the streets, of bondage, of unchecked dominance in a crazed empire on the verge of collapse. It was then that she ceased telling them of love and wealth.

She spoke of garbage.

The divine feminine was turning her back on the Emperor, the Hierophant, and on all the kings, of fire and armor, of abundance and of blood.

It is time to go, she told them. And this is how.

A World Building Project