Upstream

Matamoros camp with tent courts in the background across the river in Brownsville

In less than one week ten women and one man will follow the path that many have already traveled. We are traveling from different locations across the country to the southern border which sits along the Gulf of Mexico and between Texas and Matamoros. Many of us don’t know each other but we have begun the conversations that begin when traveling to a common destination. Travel plans, Air BnB plans, who’s staying where, car rentals, the costs, who owes who money, food prep sign ups, lesson reviews, food, margaritas.

Discussing almost everything except the obvious. The reason we are going. Then today that changed. An issue arose and the conversation went back and forth on our group message thread. Different opinions respectfully shared. Confusion created. Fear uncovered. We decided to wait until we were all sharing breakfast burritos and mimosas to discuss our thoughts about this further.

In that short discussion something became clear to me. While I may or may not agree with what was being said, I realized I was privilege to a conversation between remarkable people. We may or may not know what we are preparing to do, where we are preparing to go, but we continue forward anyway. Even though it’s pretty clear that we are basically going into the jaws of hell. There is no other way to look at it. Yet we continue forward. Nervous would be an understatement for how some of us, including myself, are feeling. So I wasn’t surprised when the private texts begin to arrive on my phone, “I’m getting nervous, are you?” “Do you know what you’re doing?” “My husband wants to know, are we going to be ok?” And so my knot grew and I struggled with the weight I felt and wondered if I was lost. Lost in my belief, in my work, in leading others to join me. And yet, while this fear slowly (or not so slowly) and successfully crept in I realized that there really is no choice here. We all know it. That’s why we go.

We decided to go together. Like the caravans that have arrived on our doorstep, we travel together. For safety, for camaraderie, for support, and maybe even a strong shoulder to lean on. For some of us we go to see, to bear witness to learn enough to bring information back to our communities. For some, it’s to work with the people in the tents. For me and I think most of us, it’s both of those things and more. We are compelled, morally, to go. There is no choice; we must go.

These experiences along our southern border allow me to read hate filled comments in our local newspaper and know they are based on ignorance or worse. It allows me to hear our president talk and recognize the deceit and racism behind his statements.

And so I think of this…..

“… I was walking the wrong way,

upstream instead of downstream.

Finally I was advertised on the hotline of help, and yet there I was, slopping along happily in the stream’s coolness. So maybe it was the right way after all.

If this was lost, let all be lost always.

The beech leaves were just slipping their copper coats; pale green and quivering they arrived into the year. My heart opened, and opened again. The water pushed against my effort, then its glassy permission to step ahead touched my ankles.

The sense of going toward the source. ” Mary Oliver from her book, Upstream (I took the liberty to divide up her text a bit.)

May the eleven of us follow the source of our beliefs with open hearts. Let us feel the pressure of the water pushing back and may we continue to push through it and continue. May we relax in the lost knowing we won’t be lost forever. May we continue to walk upstream to the people on the border. Those in desperate need. Those our country has forgotten. May we continue to the source so we will know. So we can feel. So we can see and then tell.

Honored to be part of the eleven. We will do good work…together…arm in arm. Much love amigas and amigo.

Mary

7 thoughts on “Upstream

  1. Mary, I just returned tonight from spending four days in Brownsville and crossing daily to Matamorus. I went with my husband and it was a wonderful experience. I felt completely safe, met many great volunteers from all over the US, did daily food prep and serving with World Central Kitchen and worked Sunday at the escuelita. The asylees are such warm humble people and were so appreciative of the help they are getting . Team Brownsville has done a fantastic job finding and coordinating services from all over. You will be safe and inspired by all the people you meet on both sides of the border. I look forward to reading about your trip. Have a safe journey.

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  2. All any of us can do is keep walking forward, leaving the world a little bit better as we go. You make it better with every step and every breath. Stay safe and come home happy that you acted what your heart sang.

    Liz

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  3. This blog post is excellent and explains why so many of us have given up our time and talents to be on the border. We do this hard work because we must to be able to live with ourselves. To organize such a large group is so excellent as everyone who goes will be so impacted. Sending you energy and courage and patience for the day ahead. And do tell everyone to take their vitamin C as almost everyone I worked with including me got bad colds! Try and stay healthy!

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    1. Thank you Karen. I can feel our energy changing from raw nerves to emotional preparation. We are ready. I’ll get some Vit C when I go get that other airborne stuff. I got pretty sick last time I went. So I’m anticipating it. I’ll pass your advice along. Thank you!

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  4. Fantastic blog post and try and stay healthy! Take plenty of vitamin C as most of us in my experience working on the border got exhausted and sick. Sending you energy and aloha for the days ahead.

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