Volcano Waking: A Guide to Living a Joyful Life While Fighting Fascism

Part 1: The Eruption …An Abortion Ban Leaked

It was as if lava coursed through my veins. Could this leaked draft from the Supreme Court be true? Is this the end of Roe v. Wade?

A tweet went out. People were planning to gather in front of the Supreme Court early the next day. I was definitely going, and whipped out my markers to pour my frustration onto a sign.

You are waking a volcano.”

I meant my sign as a metaphor for my own body’s reaction to this news, but I also hoped that this news would awaken the volcano of the reproductive rights movement, of the anti-fascist movement, of the volcano that should exist in each of us—erupting in activism and spewing lava down the face of fascism. 

After an awful sleep, I woke and left for the courthouse. I was early. So I stood quietly in front of the barriers to the steps of the Supreme Court holding my sign with a few others.

The Washington Post snapped my picture and the Guardian and NPR sought me out-quoting my anger. Later, I was joined by thousands, their anger and frustration mixing with my own. The heat of activism coursing through us.

On my way home, I was greeted by encouraging texts from friends and family:

“OMG Rowena!”

“I was driving home tonight and just heard you on NPR!”

“You represented us well.”

“Thank you!” 

That night, I slept soundly.

In the morning—with the lava inside me quieter—I thought about what it means to live in a world fighting fascism, opened my laptop, and out poured this piece. The ideas below are not just mine, they are the product of hours spent reading smart people. We are all attempting to figure out how to cope with the epic fight against fascism we find ourselves in. I wrote this piece to help myself but I hope that it might help you as well:

Part 2: Fighting Fascism…While Living A Joyful Life

1. Pick a cause, join a local organization, & take action

What keeps you awake at night? What change in the world do you most want to see? Figure it out, then dedicate yourself to that cause. (If you have more time you could consider two or three causes, but make sure not to spread yourself too thin.)

Find a local chapter of an organization that is doing the kind of work you want to see done and join it.

If a local chapter doesn’t exist, perhaps you are the one who is destined to start that local chapter. Maybe it is your destiny to start a pro-choice group in your church or community.

If you’re not the kind who does well in organized groups, create your own independent studies project. Identify areas of interest, arm yourself with knowledge, and create a list of projects to do. This is the option that works best for me. The important thing to realize about the independent studies option is that arguing with people on social media is not a project, nor a way to gather knowledge. Actually do things: go to protests, help with elections, write stories, talk to people, draw or paint pictures that inspire, make phone calls for groups, etc.

2. Understand your strengths and figure out what role you will play in the movement

The beauty of our world is that we’re all so different. Some people are fantastic with generating new ideas but couldn’t create a decent plan to save their lives. Some people are geniuses at creating structure and spread sheets. Others are natural people connectors, while some are good at seeing the hard truths a cause needs to consider to be effective.

What are your strengths? You know you have them. What are you naturally good at? If you can’t identify your strengths, ask a family member or friend.

Now figure out how you can help your local organization in your cause.

Are you good at leading people in meetings or running for a local office? Are you the kind of person who welcomes everyone who attends an event and makes them feel needed and appreciated? Perhaps you have a talent for writing up the notes of a meeting in a clear, visually pleasing way that makes it easy for everyone to see what was discussed and what the next steps are. Or maybe you’re a tech whiz and can help with setting up presentations. Perhaps you’re the one who has ridiculous ideas, which on second consideration have something to them. Or maybe you’re the one who sees that this “ridiculous” idea isn’t actually so out there. Or perhaps you’re an independent agent who flits in and out of groups and pinch hits.

Now…go forth and use your superpowers for good!

3. Take your own needs seriously

Fighting fascism and creating a fertile world to pass on to the next generation is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself and take care of your needs.

Make sure you get at least 6 hours of sleep a night, more if you can. Feed your body wholesome unprocessed foods. If you don’t have the time to cook, invest your money in a service that does. Figure out a way to exercise your body with joy, then do it regularly. Identify the activities that recharge your batteries and do them for at least a short time daily.

4. Use social media for connection, not doomscrolling

Social media is a tool. Like any tool it can help you or hurt you, depending on how you use it.

Think carefully about what platforms works best for you and why. Also, what people on those platforms feed you and which people sap your energy? Learn to use lists, unfollow options, blocking/muting, and/or other social media tools to curate a social media experience that works best for you. Figure out what time of the day and the amount of time that works best for you to be on social media. With this knowledge, make a simple social media plan with a clear set of rules customized for the unique person you are.

Stick to your plan.

If you find you’re having trouble sticking to your plan, find a buddy and help each other keep on track.

5. Find a way to be informed that doesn’t overwhelm you

We all want to know what’s going on in the world but it’s impossible to know everything.

Find one or two news sources to keep up with the world in a general way. This could be a podcast, newspaper, TV news, etc. Then, figure out if you want to keep up with it daily, weekly, or some other schedule. If it’s daily, keep it to 5-10 minutes at most. Do the same for local news sources, possibly this could be a local paper, a curated Twitter feed, or a website of your city or town. Then check them out a couple times a week to keep informed locally. Next, focus on media that feeds your topic of interest. Find a publication or curate a social media feed that covers this topic. Check in with it at a schedule that works for you.

Once you’ve created this plan, stick to it. Don’t overwhelm yourself with all the news. Be reasonably informed about the world in general, your local area, and your topic of interest in just a sliver of your time. Use the bulk of your time for living your life.

6. Find time to revel in being alive and learn to enjoy the fight

I once saw a quote on social media that said something like – we are in an epic battle with fascism and we can either let that get us down or we can learn to love fighting.

I plan to figure out how to love fighting.

At its core, fascism is a belief that only a select group of people deserve to have a good life and everyone else is worthless and deserves to struggle. By reveling in life you defy fascism.

Take time to dance, play racquetball, cuddle with your pets, paint landscapes, tell knock-knock jokes with your kid, write steamy fan fiction, do yoga, climb boulders, make sourdough bread, have deliciously wicked consensual sex, etc.

Having fun is a political act. It tells the world that we deserve to have a good life and shows others that they deserve a good life, too.

7. Give your sense of hope the space it needs to grow, instead of smothering it with cynicism

Being right is not the same as being effective.

The left has a terrible habit of inner fighting. There are a lot of really smart people who are able to pinpoint mistakes. Yes, that celebrity didn’t make a smart voting choice in 2016. Yes, it would have been nice if that Supreme Court judge realized how vulnerable her own health was and retired. Yes, it’s frustrating that two of our Democratic Senators turned out to be corporate shills and we have to once again work hard to get a real Senate majority instead of giving up on a functional government. We cannot undo the past. Make a note of the lesson learned and move on.

Let your sense of optimism fuel you to be part of the story that begins with “no one thought it could be done but…”

We are the creators of our own story; let’s create a volcano movement that generates fertile soil for future generations to grow and prosper and let’s have a damn good time doing it.

Composting

I’m washing carrots in the school’s kitchen sink when Jasper Chen and Milo Alvarez walk in holding hands. The minute they see me their fingers fly apart.

“Hi, Clementine,” Milo says, ever polite.

I nod, letting the cool water splash over my hands, pretending I’m not watching Jasper.

He picks up a crate of onions, and I try to ignore the way my skin hums while I watch his biceps flex.

The wet carrots glimmer with a deep orange as I set them on the cutting board at the vegetable station. The delicate green fringe is tangled together. I take a chef’s knife and whack the tops of the carrots, freeing them from their tangled mess. If only I could do the same to my feelings for Jasper Chen.

The carrot tops smell like fresh cut grass, and my lips tingle as I remember Jasper and I kissing, kissing, kissing last month in carrot patch. I want to take that memory, tie it up in a big plastic bag, and throw it out. But here at Wild Garden High School we compost.

Milo and Jasper chop onions at the station next to me. Jasper’s eyes tear up like the morning he told me about Milo, while we were weeding the garden.

“It just happened, Clem.” He yanked out a weed and put it in our compost bucket. “I know it’s not fair to you, but I love him.”

Slash, slash, slash. My knife hacks through the thick orange carrots over and over until there are dozens of tiny pieces.

Milo and I were part of the initial first grade class here. My parents were excited for me to go to a public school where we learned to garden and cook along with reading, writing, and arithmetic.

In first grade, I was the kind of girl who colored the radish in my garden journal such a deep shade of red that I broke the crayon in half. Milo was the kind of boy who took both halves, sharpened each, and said it was lucky that I had made twice as many red crayons for our table. So I understand how Milo’s presence is like sunshine at the golden hour, even if my own heart feels like unwanted vegetable waste.

Jasper wipes his eyes as he chops. Did he sign up for onions as penance for falling in love with someone who isn’t me?

I scoop up the peels from their table into a bucket with my carrot greens.

“Thanks,” Jasper says. “Hey, have you signed up as a mentor yet? There’s this kid in my apartment building named Ellie who needs someone as cool as you.”

Jasper didn’t start here at Wild Garden until seventh grade, four years ago. During our weekly nature days, he and I would race each other up to the big branch of the oak tree. He was surprisingly good at climbing, considering he had gone to one of those old-fashioned elementary schools that didn’t have nature days. I loved to sit on that high branch and look out at rooftop solar panels on the apartment buildings in the distance.

At the big gray compost bin near the kitchen door, I dump the onion skins and carrot greens on top of the other organic waste— potato peels, eggshells, and coffee grounds. The smell is rich and earthy.

Above the kitchen compost bin a white board hangs with names of the kids in this year’s first grade class. High schoolers sign up as garden mentors.

The first time I planted radishes, I was so excited I smashed all the seeds together. My mentor, Indigo, gently took my hand and used their finger to push one seed by itself. Then they licked their finger to pick up the seed, like they were a magical fairy, and showed me how to tuck it in a secret hide out in the soil. I planted all my radish seeds as carefully as Indigo after that.

I scan the list of this year’s first graders until I see Ellie’s name. I watched her chasing kids around the blacktop at recess the other day. Her clothes were stained in blue paint, her long hair tangled as if she never combed it. I write my name next to hers.

In a few weeks, these carrot tops and onion skins will turn into rich new soil, just in time for radish planting with Ellie.

Gloveless

by Rowena Eureka

In the fall, she wore black leather gloves and took on an Emo-Goth-Punk look. She had mint green lambswool gloves to wear inside in the winter. In the spring, she wore red spandex gloves to add a “pop of color” – as her older sister Kailey would say. In summer, her purple satin gloves stretched up to her elbows, framing her gauzy maxi skirts with an elegant retro-flowerchild look.

One June day, when the air felt like bath water, Sasha sat on the grass outside the cafeteria writing a French skit with Evan Martin, wondering what would happen if she went gloveless.

Sasha and Evan both liked to use movie scenes in their skits. When Madame Rétat first paired them together, they pretended they were about to be crushed by the Death Star trash compactor while they shouted out commands in French, getting pushed closer and closer together until they remembered the French word for stop, and were saved at the last moment. Sasha still remembered how her red spandex glove pressed against Evan’s bare wrist.

 When Sasha was little she thought that touch empaths were just a story she and Mama made up. But the older she got, the more confusing it was to touch people. Whenever she and Kailey fought over anything, all it took was a handshake before her sister’s feelings leaked into Sasha’s head and she had trouble prioritizing her own wants — even her own needs — over Kailey’s.

Ironically, Kailey was the one who got Sasha the gloves for her thirteenth birthday. They were supposed to be a “fun fashion accessory.” Mama had only sent Sasha to Paris that summer to visit Grand-mère, where she drank big bowls of café au lait, while learning the family secret.

Her older Kailey clearly did NOT get the empath gene. She had no idea she had given Sasha armor.

“You used to be so sweet,” Kailey said, “then you became a teenager.”

Sasha was never letting a relationship be that one-sided again.

As she and Evan sat in the grass, the humidity frizzing her hair, Sasha listened to Evan discuss his summer plans. He was taking a SAT prep class and had chosen Star Wars as his new monthly movie theme, because Sasha said she liked the newer Star Wars movies. 

“The SAT class will get me for just three hours,” Evan said. “Afternoons are for skateboarding, evenings for movies.” He had seen older movies Sasha had never heard of, like all those Ingrid Bergman films from his last month’s theme.

Sasha thumbed at the edge of her glove, daring herself to take it off.

Today was the last full day of classes. 

If it went badly, she wouldn’t see Evan all summer. They didn’t hang out in the same friend circles.

But Sasha wanted to see Evan this summer.

Now was her only chance.

“Cool purple gloves,” Evan said as he leaned back on his elbows, spreading his toned legs out across the grass.

“Thanks,” Sasha said. “It was time to break out the summer gloves.”

She was fifteen and had still never touched a boy.

“Do you ever get hot wearing gloves?” Evan asked.

It was her opening.

He didn’t know what he was asking, but he had asked.

“Yeah, sometimes,” Sasha said.

“Is it like a religious thing?”

They had been skit partners for four weeks and Evan had never asked her why she wore gloves. He seemed to get that she didn’t want to talk about them before. She had never tried to explain touch empaths to anyone. It would make her sound like a freak.

“No, I…I just always wear them.”

Evan nodded. “I get it. It’s who you are.”

His long fingers were just inches away.

Sasha decided to be daring.

“I’m just not big on touching people,” she said.

“Really?” Evan asked.

Sasha nodded. God, she couldn’t believe she just blurted that out.

“So, you never touch anyone?”

She shrugged. “I like my privacy. Sometimes people are…too much, ya know?”

 It was like the humidity was truth serum.

 “I get it.” Evan said. “That’s why I skateboard. I just need to cruise down a hill and let everything fade away.”

“Yeah,” Sasha said.

 Was she missing out by not feeling Evan’s feelings?

Evan plucked a blade of grass and wound it around his finger. “So…what about kissing?”

“Kissing?” Sasha asked.

“Yeah, you know, what Ingrid Bergman called the secret you tell to someone’s mouth instead of their ear. Is that out too?”

Sasha had never thought of kissing as two-way communication.

Would Evan know her feelings, too?

That was scary.

 “So I’d be telling you my secrets?”

Evan grinned. “I bet you have good ones.”

Sasha looked over by the building where the rest of the class sat. Everyone, including Madam Rétat, was on their phones. The last days of school had their own rules.

“You know,” Sasha said, her heart beating so fast she could feel the blood pulsing in her ears. “If you wanted to kiss me, that would be totally fine.”

Evan’s full lips quivered, the left side rising just a little.

“Every day since you did that original Star Wars movie skit with me,” he said.

He leaned in and touched his lips to hers.

Evan liked her. He really liked her.

 Sasha stilled her lips. Maybe this was too much.

Evan paused.

He was worried. He wondered if she was okay, if he had done something wrong.

Sasha pressed her lips into Evan’s, sending her own feelings back. She really liked him, too.

Ingrid Bergman was right. Evan had heard her secrets.