My First Teacher: Iowa’s Land (Short Essay)

Reminded of my first teacher: Iowa’s Land. My first political foray: fighting to save wetland. Where I went to recover: the forest. The land teaches of justice, of hope, of ways of knowing beyond the confined narrow focus of our modern world.

I miss nature: small patches of forest, paths along the lakes, the wetlands, leaving offerings to the trees and birds. The soft, black dirt beneath me riddled with tree roots as I sit under the branches of a maple and journal. Being stuck up in my apartment with this undiagnosed illness hurts. I need to be with the land. My heart grows brittle.

Science shoots upward with confidence like the corn from soil, Indigenous ways of knowing curls like bean stalks where its roots feed and replenish, and our responsibility to one another shields the ground like squash leaves. Each valid but requires the rest to be whole.

If only we could see the way these all require reciprocity, require relationship, require respect, require responsibility and accountability.

It’s a lesson America refuses to learn.

The political landscape reeks of horror and pain.America revels in the destruction of our bodies, our relationships with one another and the land, the land itself, our hearts and minds.

So much death, so much pain and grief.

Our society is built on genocide. A foray into the uncensored truth of history will show this.

This past year belched the consequences of centuries, decades, years of genocidal and destructive tactics, designed to enrich the capital class and exploit all of us and the land.

The intentional handling of the pandemic bleeds the death of many and disabled survivors through indirect genocidal tactics.

The destruction of regulations to protect our land steals our clean air and water that we need to live, another mark of indirect genocide.

The police brutality kills and maims our Black and Indigenous siblings, and those that protest, where the systems laud and celebrate the destruction of marginalized people, of those that protest these injustices, and our communities.

The medical system enforces genocidal tactics through medical gaslighting, forced sterilization, refusal of care, subpar care, neglect.

Food deserts, austerity, gentrification, voter suppression – more tactics to feed the genocidal machines.

America showed its underbelly of genocidal tactics blatantly, without any filters. Biden will not save us as he packs this cabinet with those that continue the neoliberal systems of harm. The Trumpocalypse continues to burn our democracy to the ground to keep power, and will the Biden administration and current Congress fail to take accountability? Leaving precedent for the destruction of any rights at all?

America seethes with the righteous fury of us marginalized, poor, of us that wish to dismantle the capitalist class, dismantle the genocidal systems of harm, and rebuild a more equitable, just and liberated world. America, its roots rotten, needs pulled out and replanted anew.

Fear, grief, anger, and anxiety stalk my dreams, as a disabled trans person who has little mobility. I write to show the truth in poetic prose, but does anyone hear?

The land hears when I sit outside, when I open my window, when I dig into the soil beneath my steps.The trees bend their branches my way, the squirrels pause at my window. I observe and smell the oaks, pines, maples, but so many of them have been felled by storm. 

I breathe in the scent of the cattails, moss, prairie grass, the corn, the transplanted flowers, but the scent lingers as an aftertaste in the overwhelming sensory clog of concrete and paint. I drag myself outside and dig into the pebble strewn soil, much of its dark richness drained from exploitation.

I also feel drained of richness from abuse, neglect, exploitation, grief, loss — I grieve with the land.

I miss going to the forest to clear my thoughts. To find solace and hope. The land teaches. The land gives back if we tend to it with love. America is unable to hear or see this first teacher; America can’t hear or see this teacher because America is founded on genocide.

My heart breaks with the pulse of each injustice, each death, each brutality to marginalized folks and our communities. The grief surges like a broken dam.

By Aibird

Open the door, step inside. Here you find a forest, teeming with animals and birds, which sweeps up the sides of snow-capped mountains. Here in the small pocket of beauty, one finds the essence of my soul. A writer at heart, I delve deep into the finer details of humanity's spirit, and seek to share with others what gems I uncover. I find life exciting and full of interesting surprises, and despite the great pain that often confronts me, I persevere with the joy in my heart still bubbling, and the light of my soul still aflame. There is a time and a place to introspect one's self, but often enough it is best to not look back in regret, but leap forward in the present toward the achievement of one's deepest dreams. I am a wanderer. An explorer. One place cannot contain me for long, but to my friends and family, I remain loyal, for love is not bound by time nor place. Once cultivated and nourished continuously, it binds people together on a journey through the unknown reaches of life.

1 comment

  1. Beautiful thoughts about the effect of being close to the land upon us humans. Not too many people recognize that any more. I think those raised in the Zingler family do since we went to parks, lived near parks, and visited lakes and rivers. Your father and I grew up on or near farms. Humans are beautiful too, despite the contradictions, fights, divergent views, and (yes, unfortunately true) violence. God sees us as a beautiful part of his creation and hopes for right judgment and wisdom and to reflect his constant love.


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