When I can’t quite build a thought out into something solid enough for this blog, I will often post it to Instagram with the tag #LilliputianLog. The last weeks have seen a few of those posts so I thought I’d share them and the content here for those who aren’t on the other platform.
I traced my husband’s handwriting onto a handkerchief, then embroidered it with a staple I folded into a needle, and string pulled from the hemming of my jail pants. He was still alive, then.
Recently, I took that handkerchief and framed it, and you can see the mess of knotting behind the embroidery, the slight stains on the cloth, but it’s exactly right for the smuggled contraband that it is. My thought was to sell it, perhaps for mutual aid fundraising of some sort, but I just can’t. Yet.
I’m not sure what I’ll ever do with it. Some part of me can’t help but be sad when I see it. Another part is so grateful that we celebrated each other in life, that I was able to cut my teeth on a love as generous as this.
At the time I asked him if it would be silly to buy a handkerchief when I could only order so much from commissary at the time, when I needed to eat, when it could get me punished. He said: expression is a need, too.
Today, I’m thinking of a friend who went back inside this month. I can write her now, which is more than I could do for her when I was on parole, and I keep thinking about all the expression they take from you. How they’re going to take a woman I love— a woman whose warm arms held me first after Dave died, who cried with me, who literally walked into a fire with me— and try to pull the heart out of her. How they’ll make it illegal for her to dance, call her storytelling contraband, and move her so often she’ll never be eligible for a class that could showcase her amazing humor. Honestly, she’s the funniest person I’ve ever met. It’s such a loss to all of us.
Expression is a need, too.
(Please keep these stories in your heart when you hear about policy priorities like #AB292, the Access to Programming Act, which will make it easier for folks inside to be supported by teachers who encourage methods of healthy expression.)
“Whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else, if even in the tiniest way.”
It’s amazing to think how foundational the full idea of this quote became to my life. Later I would find my way to neighboring ideas— like MLK Jr saying that if a man is called to street sweep, “He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Or Doctor Who saying that “You know that in nine hundred years of time and space and I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important before.”
There has always been something so beautiful to me about the idea that we’re all a part of this greater ecosystem: that we lean on each other as a matter of birthright, and not only is there space for all of us but there is purpose in us. And the purpose is that we be exactly who we are— the best version of that we can manage— because who knows the impact that has on the world?
The end of this quote says something like, whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer, and I think of those words when we talk about wealth. And when we talk about re-imagining systems that don’t make room for everyone’s best selves, and the resources that we will need to birth.
I think about my life, full of creators and creation, and the richness of that. How somehow, blessedly, before my age was even two digits big, I found a map in a book about a phantom tollbooth, and it told me that a world where everyone felt their importance was just a few good and kind and courageous actions ahead. A few decisions, times each and every one of us.
Goodnight, Norton Juster. Thanks for the direction.