Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Written by - Pamela Booker
SEGMENT I NOTE: Fade in/out music (00:06-00:15 ) Music at the start of this segment under introduction IN - 00:01 Hey, good people! This is Pam Booker… OUT -2:01 …my stories tell of…prowling for passion and stewardship. Hey, good people! Thanks for joining me, Pam Booker, host of Where’s Your Tree? a podcast series dedicated to liberating storytelling and conversations on green topics, social change, and—sustainable living. On this episode, we explore the idea of Joyful Dirt, as both a metaphor for daily living and rooted in the applied practices of gardening, farming, or otherwise advocating on behalf of locally grown foods, clean water systems, and the policies that regulate these networks. Rooted practices also speaks to those of us who may not “toil in the soil” directly—yet cultivate sustainable art practices that absorb and transport water, minerals, inspire and purify. This idea certainly applies to my featured guest, Rosamond King, a prolific poet and performing artist who fondly slays us with her sense of “writing that gives expression to what you think is necessary to be in the world.” She writes in her poem, In search of a word, “When you have language but no one to speak it with/eventually the words /fall to the ground/ unremembered.”
Art and Nature and Language must be privileged conduits in the environmental ruins of black and brown lives. This work reclaims the sustainable applications that our ancestors practiced lifetimes before this country’s irreverent “founding.” Were we ever lost? If so, remember the “unremembered.” Remember them as accessible to you now. That Artand Nature and Language are the places from which we enter into formations excites me. It serves as an important reminder that one’s “imagination,” however it might reside, striking down a thing or loving it, is vital to addressing injustice and confronting civil disobedience and communing with the Soul. Remember your Soul. Or, it will become “unremembered.” Take long walks in green places. Spread yourself wide among stalks of wild lavender and stretch weary bones to the sky, burrowing deep. It’s been a busy year, a wildly aggressive year filled with Dirt, virulence, and reflection. What will we “unremember “of this time? What will be remembered?
I usually cleanse myself at the water’s edge, where the ducks gather. Only now, Dirt sifts through my fingers and my pores, as if to remind me that cleansing environmental waste requires active bathing.
Later in the episode, we’ll be stirred by organizers and growers and energetic eco-influencers within Newark, New Jersey’s urban agriculture and sustainability movements whose stories tell of prowling for passion and stewardship.
NOTE: Fade in/out music (00:06-00:15 ) Music
Revised Opening - Final Draft v.3
Joy and Dirt. Dirt and Joy. Initially, the two words appear to be linguistically opposing ideas, don’t they? Dirt, is almost always a noun, soil’s grimier sounding synonym. On the other hand, joy can be both a noun and a verb—something received and given—such as pleasure or gratitude. Roland Barthes frames the sensation as “a plea for savor, for a festive…relation to happiness.” I’ve been thinking about how both these words provide sumptuous, sustainable properties that support mental and emotional health, nurturing, and offer vital “composting” properties, so to speak— when needed. Think of these two ingredients as fuel for the gut, heart, and brain cells. Joy and dirt potentially nurture our most vigorous rituals and routines for the creative, spiritual, and pragmatic intentions that drive our momentum for radical rejuvenation—but ONLY if we allow these elements to conspire on our behalf.
Seriously though, we’re all overwhelmed from too much information from too many sources, unsure of what to do and who to believe. Questioning. Seeking shelter, distance, and mostly looking for solutions and a vaccine that won’t fry your spleen. But here we are, left to ponder who we want to become amid the chaos and shape-shifting of wandering virulence, pondering how to revision a future. Plan your future, I say, despite the disarray and Eat Dirt. Joyfully, of course. While I don’t have many answers, I know that these times require us, implore us, to collectively unbecome our past embodiments. Not in some fantastical, magical style, but by daring to participate in more honest, succulent, invigorating sites of reinvention.
Some of you recall the Peanuts character “Pig Pen.” I’ve contemplated and written about the existential Charlie Brown more than I care to admit. In particular, I’ve seen Pig Pen as the Jungian “shadow figure” who disorders life’s contentment. For some, he disrupts your joy. I always saw him as the poor kid or the child of color who arrived at Charlie Brown’s sheltered, white neighborhood in a cloud of dusty, sooty tracks. Visually, that boy, was a hot mess!—leaving his peers and their parents uneasy with the way he looked, and suspecting that he would never conform to their model expectations. In truth, if we’re patient, we stand to learn precious lessons from Pig Pen’s “tattered abandonment” in that—to stir up dirt—not petty conflict, but soul-stirring dirt, toxins, the stuff of inner-conflict—is really about stirring up the “dirty deities” that reside in us all. Healthy, internal, and social metabolisms are reclaimed, I think, through more complex acts of gratitude, resistance, and benevolence—as much for our “collective” reparations and maybe more—as an act of discerning “self” cleansing.
Next up…poetical pleasures with featured guest artist Rosamond King.
SEGMENT #2 Fade 5 secs of Music into the start of this segment
OUT – 1:25 Wow, I thought, if only I could dip into her bag of soil enhancements daily. Maybe there’s a cure, a vaccine, fresh air.
IN – 00:04 But what about the idea of Joyful Dirt…
Joyful Dirt. It’s a phrase borrowed from an online social media group, Edible Gardening By Black Girls With Gardens. A member posted photos of her robust-looking tomatoes. She claimed that one of the organic soil products used was something called— Joyful Dirt. I’m not kidding. Everyone in the group was like, really? Is that a thing? Tomatoes have always been a challenging crop for me. Still, when I saw her lucious harvest, plump and red, I immediately wanted to learn more about her strategies. In those tomatoes, would there, could there be a cure? A relief from, you know, stuff?
We live in a time in which transactions and metrics exact formidable influence over our sense of personal worth and value—more than in any other era. And here we are, entering the Age of Aquarius, “they say.” And a woman may lead us. And she will be green/black/brown. Our perceived and realized failings and the takeaways that we draw on could be seen as “the dirt” that we contend with systemically and are challenge me personally. When expectations won’t, cannot or don’t measure up, our dreams feel constricted or unjustly denied. Dirty. Disparaging transactions rest upon us as would dust on our tracks. And, a woman may lead us away from the unwellness. And she will be green/black/brown. And her work will be mighty and strategic, and some will scratch away at her joy.
Our ability to stir up “joy,” though, is hardly a simple equation and should probably not be approached as an easy, emotional counter-option to the “dirty” parts or periods in our lives that challenge us. This is where yin and yang don’t necessarily make sense to me. Rather, it’s more about what happens when we explore these two seemingly opposing elements subtly—through the lens of urgency and poignancy, for example—when pressing ahead to remove the “dirt” that clogs our lives.
SEGMENT #5 –Fade 5 secs of Music into Rosa Introduction
SEGMENTS #6-7 - Rosa interview… (Parts 1-2)
SEGMENT #6 Rosa Interview - PART 1
IN – 1:44 One of the things I was interested in thinking about was the notion of…
OUT- 9:50 The voice is kind of a sonic movement where I’m able to present the work live.
SEGMENT #7 Rosa interview - PART 2
IN – 18:55 The whole point of writing is to give expression to what you think is necessary to be in the world.
OUT – 19:26 And that also…
Note: Fade 5 secs Music into Segments #8-11
SEGMENT #8 – Newark Introduction
Newark, New Jersey, is a city that wrangles with the bleak portraits of its past in neighborhoods called “Wards”—that have often only been distinguished for their toughness and turmoil. And that’s fo’ real. But it’s also a city filled with sites of renewal and ambition for its economic and cultural future. And in a rapidly aging, browning America, Newark’s cited as one of the country’s largest cities with diverse brown and black and green populations of folks under 45 years of age—all of which signals a town that resides at the brightest intersections of reinvention.
“Brick City,” the legendary moniker, also boasts an abundance of community gardens and small farm coalitions, and eco-influencers, known for innovative community-building and relentless commitment to Newark’s sustainable revival, particularly on the issue of food justice and partnering science and eco-art. They serve to repair the city’s shattered ecosystems and encourage folks to rediscover what they love. They do GOOD. They produce social good. SOCIAL GOOD. GOODS. GOOD. I’m always thrilled when they leave freshly grown leftovers on my stairwell. Bags filled with zucchini, green peas, and corn grown in joyful dirt. They feed me. DIRT. They feed me GOODS. And I forgive my despair.
SEGMENT #9 I Miss Montse – Departure Notes
IN: 1:32 DACA was stamped on her forehead, tatted across her toes. She left before the Stormtroopers arrived.
“I mean,” she sighed, one night with two glasses of red wine sitting between us, “after you snatch babies from their mothers at borders in broad daylight, ¿Qué les harán a mis niñas? What will they do to us? We are all immigrants basically. We all came from Mexico, and we have so much trauma to undo and so much healing to do. There’s misogyny and patriarchy in Mexico too. I will return with some of that Xicanisma badassness!” She hoots to the ceiling, then reaches to sip from her glass. “Which is why,” she continues, I gather with community now in sweat lodge in backyards in Newark, to have healing ceremonies, to undo the past. Many will return by choice. Others will be returned under malicious government directives. Reclaiming indigenous land and rights as indigenous people. And civility and gentleness between partners and families. I own my land in Mexico and always planned to return when the girls were older. We will build a home and spacious green gardens. It won’t be easy, but it will be ours. I like Emilio. He is a GOOD person. We love and appreciate him. But he is a white man who descends from earlier colonizers to whom I pay rent. This is not his Land. He is no Lord.”
OUT: 11:51 We love you, Pam. We will miss you.
Note: Fade 5 secs of Music as I weep.
SEGMENT #10 Tobias Fox Interview – Farming the Mind
IN - 4:50 My goal with Newark Science & Sustainability is to create ways to awaken the social immune system. I started gravitating to those people who were involved in urban agriculture and clean, renewable energy. Economic Justice. Glocal.
OUT- 6:51 Social systems needed for a cohesive society. “How can I do that? By farming the mind.”
SEGMENT #11 Emilio Panasci Interview
IN: 6:01 We just try to make a positive nexus for what’s are already out there.I’m a white homeowner. I know I don’t own the land. I am not anyone’s Lord. I’m simply trying to do some good. SOCIAL GOOD. Undo the past. Create equity.
OUT: 7:45 It’s hard to reconcile collecting rent from the people whose lives you want to help liberate.
SEGMENT #12 – Closing Thoughts “Stay rushed on.”
That said, expect and offer an absolute reciprocity in the civilities exchanged between yourself and others. Expect too, that being a “good” or “patient” citizen may not bring about the immediate atmospheric change, justice, and radical rejuvenation we need in our lives. Truer still, if you are black or brown, woman, queer, working/middle-class, immigrant, differently-abled, or questions the integrity of Reality-TV leadership across party lines. Choose wisely, your daily battles, because there are plenty ahead. “Stay rushed on,” is what an enslaved woman whispered to me in a fluttered dream. “Stay rushed on.”
Thanks for listening. Until the next time, Be Still. Stand in Love. Pay Attention. Chao.
Note: Fade Music under the closing remarks to end.
 King, Rosamond S. Rock, Salt, Stone. Nightboat Books, 2017. Used by permission of the author.
Pamela Booker is an Interdisciplinary Writing Artist. Educator/Knowledge-Abolitionist. Eco-Activist. Her fiction, essay and performance writings reflect social justice, pop-culture, race, and identity. She is host/producer of www.WheresYourTree.com, a podcast that explores liberating storytelling and mediating tools in the face of historic, environmental ruin of the planet and green/black and brown lives. Forthcoming publications: Black Earth Institute/About Place Journal (fall 2020) and American Road Magazine (2021). Recent others include the critically acclaimed Blacktino Queer Performance (Duke Univ. Press), Akashic Books and the Anthropology of Consciousness, Interbeing Issue (Wiley). A recipient of Newark Creative Catalyst Fund Grant (2020), she is currently at work on a two-part podcast/ docu-series, Journeywoman Project: How I Gathered in the Company of Trees & Other Covid Stories.
In Our Own Words is an ongoing feature where artists and writers are asked to speak about their new work, ideas or projects in their own words. It is also part of invert/extant Transmissions for the Artist Writings series. If you would like to be kept up to date on this or other projects, please sign up for our newsletter.