Quiet willfulness is buried at my core for sure. It is, and will forever be the crux of my 40-plus years of life, where writing is a means of excavating my most authentic self.
When my two children were very young, I taught them in practical, age-appropriate ways about self-care. When it comes to applying any salve, why that’s easy. “You scoop it out and rub it in til you shine like a brand new penny,” I’d say.
This is how we care for our bodies, how our radiance gets activated. In these mundane tasks lie our greatest lessons. If we’re lucky, we either have or can develop the foresight and faith in discerning what shines beneath the surface.
As my children got older, they came to understand salve in other ways. While yes, it can be found in a glass jar or tin canister atop a shelf, waiting to be scooped, slathered, and smoothed across ashy knees and knuckles, massaged into shoulders, stiff muscles, tendons, and temples. Our daily salves are also at the heart of our friendships, good, bad, and ugly ones. They come as quiet messages you only hear when completely barefoot on wet grass. Snatches of sleepy salve that wake you up at 4 a.m., but only after you prostrate before the altar you’ve built to yourself.
This all brings us face to face with our unique sovereignty.
The ways in which we, particularly Black people, have articulated, activated, and actualized sites of freedom deeply fascinates me. How we have participated in willed radiance as a political stance, how it’s sought out and used as an internal compass, or how our collective psyches grapple with it being dimmed or violently snatched away.
Daily salve reminds us to be intentional, for its very nature is to replenish and fortify. Sometimes we neglect places precisely because some areas are hidden from the outside gaze. It takes determination to seek out these dull places of heart, mind, and body. Oftentimes we simply need light to see what’s missing. These spots of tension beg for our attention. The care we apply behind the ears, the bottom of heels, between toes, and at that annoying unreachable part of our back are all offerings.
This is what writing is for me. As a Virgo, it’s how I identify, dust off, sort, and polish what I encounter in life. The practice of piecing together and mending the things that have been dulled, and in some cases rendered useless is a task that, of course always begins with myself.
Sometimes we have to apply pressure to get things to shine. That’s the elbow grease, the vigor that must be applied to this work where iron sharpens iron, and we need fire for purification. It’s indeed an ongoing elemental exchange. For under various pressure conditions, unique aspects of ourselves get illuminated.