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In November, my love and I ran a loop around Yosemite Valley, a little over thirteen miles. This was a strange and beautiful departure from the ways in which I used to move my body in Yosemite—backpacking and climbing—and happening as it did during a month of tension, anger, frustration, sorrow, grief, and what I described to a friend as an ever present, nonspecific cosmic sadness. This sadness seems to have as its origin the nothingness that we are, that I am, that I both long to return to and wish I could permanently banish. It is the non-feeling feeling I would call depression, a sinking into grayness, a relinquishment of will.

Speaking of strange departures, here are many.

Moving forwards at a relatively quick pace is less a practice of will than of the embrace of this disintegration of will, one that has brought me comfort over the past year in which I have stopped my decade-long practice of moving upwards, that is, climbing, because climbing felt too precarious. I do not want my body to disintegrate, yet, upon impact with, for example, the ground. Mostly what I run are loops or out-and-backs, which always return me back to where I began, at least in terms of place, though not time or being. Movement can reveal the gap between where you are and where you were, which can be painful both for its distance and its nearness. The will that I have to move against is the desire not to move.

Right now I am re-reading (looping back to), for pleasure (I like thinking about doing something for, that is, in the service of or in obligation to, Pleasure), one of my favorite series of all time. A friend of mine mentioned that she was returning to books that she knew would nourish her, beginning with Fire Logic, the first book of the Elemental Logic series. You know the feeling of having saved half of your burrito from last night for today, which fact you forgot all morning, and the remembrance of which feels like life, like feast? And if your half-burrito could be started again from the beginning? This was my feeling upon remembering that I, too, could feast again upon Fire Logic!

I first read Fire Logic late in 2020. I had met a new writing friend a few months before the pandemic, who gushed about it, and loaned me xer copy. It sat unread, as books do, in a pile of other unread books, until I realized, months into lockdown, that it might be a good way to spend my time. It did not immediately pull me in (and I can't even tell you how many dull-to-the-end books I have since read long past the halfway mark because this book was one of those fabled books that you have to keep reading, which makes me extra delighted in the process of trust/reading as the only way in which to fall in love and to continue discovering that books, like lovers, are sometimes exactly as wrong for you as they seem at first glance). But it did ultimately pull me in.

From this friend's review:

Fire Logic opens hard: the land of Shaftal, plagued for years by the militant Sainnite invaders, loses its protector-mage. In the aftermath, the Sainnites begin in earnest a campaign of systematic colonization and subjugation. The remnants of Shaftal’s government and soldiers flee to the countryside, where they commence a gritty, grueling guerilla war.

It is no wonder this book about time, colonization, and trauma is again a balm, now, when our present knowledges of how to navigate the pain, horror and grief of colonization are born out of body-minds shaped primarily by our centuries-old failures to navigate these same/similar pains, horrors, and griefs through time. What's the opposite of a half-burrito you get to start all over again? An epistemelogical loop to hell that makes you know less and less the more times you go around?

Anyways. What I mean is that Fire Logic continues to be the best example I know of a book that deeply and organically imagines a world in which the pain, trauma, disability, racialization, and violence of colonization are all treated as simultaneous with the practice of living and hoping into the future, that is, they are not solved out of a post-colonial future but are truly present, and their presentness teaches me how to know differently. The present-ness of colonized being is articulated consistently through the motif of waiting:

Zanja lay paralyzed in a blood-stained hay cart. At a distant mountain peak, the moon lifted her pale face to the starry sky. Except for the occasional calls of the soldiers on watch duty, the Sainnite camp lay silent. Zanja watched the sky, able only to wait, now that all choices had been taken away from her.

I think about the present, I think about waiting. Thinking is a way of moving through the waiting of the present. Allow me a brief digression to Fanon. I think of Frantz Fanon's description of himself in Black Skin, White Masks as "one who waits." In "In the Interval: Frantz Fanon and the 'Problems' of Visual Representation" Kara Keeling writes about the state of waiting in a colonized society:

"In addition to signaling watching with hostile intent, the English word 'wait' also carries a sense of constant attentive observation and includes the body's posture and attitude, and that keeps the mind ready. It is this latter sense that comes to the fore as Fanon continues his description of himself: 'I investigate my surroundings, I interpret everything in terms of what I discover, I become sensitive'. While Fanon's investigation and interpretation of his surroundings proceed according to the sensory-motor processes of his body, the temporal configuration Fanon describes is that of an interval before an anticipated event and after an event that has precipitated the waiting. Under such circumstances, to exist 'as one who waits,' then, is to exist in an interval. ...What ends the wait is what has been anticipated, even when it is the Black's explosion, and so the cycle continues and the interval endures."

The question for the colonized is how to wait and how to end the wait, if what we know of endings always signals a return to interval.

Returning abruptly to Fire Logic, I want to end with a quote from Lee Mandelo's beautiful review:

The centering of hope as a practice, of hopeful thought as expansive and dangerous, is vital to the series’ political argument. Nurturing willful, wild, directed hope—even in moments of despair and defeat—is necessary to be able to envision a path out of conflict, in direct contravention of nihilism or the reactionary impulse. Kindness and generosity, as well as a willingness to learn, evolve, adapt: these are all part of the practice of hope, in contrast to revenge, dehumanization, and stagnation. Fire Logic struggles through a morass of trauma, both personal and communal, but comes out whole with an optimism not gutted by pain but tempered in it. It’s a powerful challenge to oft-fashionable grimness for pessimism’s sake, and two decades later, that’s still excessively relevant in literature as well as the world at large.

I run in loops, as a way to wade through the present, as both a practice in hope that there is forward motion, that there is futurity, and as a way to become sensitive to, to sensitize, my body, my poor body, to its sadness as it waits, and waits, and waits, and is returned.

Until next time,



>> Publishers for Palestine has made a number of books and collections by Palestinian writers free until December 5. Find the books here.