When I was a girl
the old women told me if I were always generous I could paint a part in the middle of my hair with red.
Red ochre. Red paint. Red lipstick some even used.
But it seemed not right
to reveal to the world
that I was generous,
as if the announcement takes it back.
So, unlike other girls,
I appeared selfish
even if I gave so much away.
But the red part I recall the most
had to do with generosity, and then
our giving up the taken land and forest
to those who wanted it so.
We parted with our clothing,
our families, and on our way
we left the red farewell
of a blood trail along the land
writing that became
the book coming after us
with words of truth.
~The Red Part from A History of Kindness by Linda Hogan
As a Chickasaw writer, Linda Hogan's writing style focuses on environmentalism and activism with her roots firmly based in Native American spirituality. Her writings most often are connected to a wider scope of how we fit into the planet, with her words giving the utmost respect for the earth and life that flows from it.
This work, A History of Kindness, is broken up into five books that beautifully explore sorrow and pain, as she connects and poetically compares harm to the human body and the destruction of the earth; Rightfully, making historic links to the state of the world today.
It’s the largest organ of the body and I wish
I could tell you what it was to lose so much of it when being dragged until I was only blood
and the thin nerves of this body where one pain ends
and another begins far from where it started,
just like the underground strands of communication from tree to tree.
Bark, when I see you with an injury
and the amber colored sap like golden blood,
I have to wonder if nerves are inside,
if it hurts the same. I can’t help
but to bandage you.
~Skin from A History of Kindness by Linda Hogan
A History of Kindness by Linda Hogan teaches the appreciation for the earth and humanity really, through the trauma experienced by indigenous people. I recommend this work for general reflection on what our roles have been and will continue to be in relation to the planet. How are we valuing it? Along with how are we valuing the people that live in it? They are interconnected. One cannot exist without the other. So this book also can serve as a call to action or an accountability tool for how we live.
What I found most profound is that by reading her poetry, you are brought into the personal experiences of Native Americans, whose voices we rarely get to hear directly. I could see the parallels of struggle and trauma often shared through slave narratives or from the perspective of those who survived the civil rights era; illustrating once again that we are more alike than different. But those distinctions should be celebrated as necessary elements of cultural diversity and interconnectedness that many would try to hide or minimize. Reading the stories of survival, resilience, the refusal to be silent, the commitment to stay kind and compassionate in the face of oppression, all the while acknowledging that a woman wrote this book, is empowering. #womenshistorymonth