Press Your Feet Into the Soil

Playing soccer

River is the player wearing the balaclava.

We are healing and cruising along here in our little corner of these native Cherokee lands, colonially known as “Celo, North Carolina.”

Ever since learning about the U.S. Department of Arts & Culture’s #HonorNativeLand movement some years ago, I cannot look out my windows with the same mindset, nor press my feet into the soil with the same sense of “ownership.” I have a long way to go with land acknowledgement practices, including examining my inherited identities and privileges. But during this time of year when so much of my being is attuned to the soil, air, light, and moisture … I’m especially sensitive to how I can be in right-relationship with these few acres of land my family has put itself upon.

Unsure of what Native Land you might be on? Explore this searchable map and start your own journey of land acknowledgement and repair.

As gusts of wind roll down the Black Mountains and temperatures in the 20s keep us in our down coats, I have mesclun, radishes, turnips, lettuce, carrots, cilantro, and onions in the ground. Last week, I billowed cuts of Reemay over those rows and set up hoops in a fury, no longer able to deny what I’d known was coming all along: winter’s final blessing.

But I also know the soil is around 50 degrees. And the seedlings I started in January, that are now weathering the storm, are hearty. They’ll make it, and be all the more delicious as a result.

The paradox isn’t lost on me. Take carrots, for example. The harder the frost, the sweeter the carrot. As a writer, I find this especially noteworthy. Let’s ponder this further:

  • Do you have an early or distinct memory of your first personal sense of accomplishment? A time when you finally felt or understood that you had overcome something, and the end result was therefore all the more “sweeter”? Was there someone in your life who helped you see and name that accomplishment in a positive way, or was the realization a private, solitary one? Explore the memory or the moment with a freewrite.
  • Fictional characters aren’t off the hook here. If we want to render them fully, we need to know how they most long to be seen and understood in the world. What would an internal, private sense of accomplishment look and feel like for your protagonist? And what would it take for your protagonist to accept public praise or recognition?
  • Conversely, where have you or your character(s) been denied acknowledgement? Was there a time you felt you needed or wanted to be seen for who or what you really were, but your “sweetness” fell on deaf ears? Knowing what you know about your life now (or about your character’s full arc), what does hindsight have to say about that experience?

I’d love to hear about what you discover from any of these freewrites. And if these aren’t your “thing,” leave a comment below or hit reply anyway and update me on what you are: a) reading, b) writing, c) most longing to find these days in your writing or creative life. Truly! I want to know!

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Showing 2 comments
  • Talia

    Hi Katey! Just found you through your Emerge event with AWP. I’m in Raleigh and wondered if you had any community/conference/writing group recommendations for us in the Triangle.

    • Katey

      Talia – I’m so glad you found EMERGE. It will be a big program, but it has a lot of heart and a bit impact, too. I’ll look for you in the array of Zoom boxes! Are you a member of NCWN? I can’t recommend them highly enough. Statewide, not Triangle specific…but they have “chapters” for each county, including yours.

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