As I sit quietly watching my six-year-old great-grandson deciding, with a whimsical intent, where to place the next piece of his Lego project, I wonder about the world he will be in as he grows, and what part he will have in creating it. He is already learning computer coding while I, nearing eighty, still approach this conceptual labyrinth with nervous wonderment. I muse upon the news from the day before—pandemic, riots, social discord, immature pandering from politicians—then remember the little girl sitting on the bus in front of me later that day, giggling with such unfiltered joy and delight as she played with her doll, oblivious to the concerns and hopes mirrored on her mother's face. The contrasts are compelling, accentuating the continuum nature of our existence, the dynamic interplay of our yesterdays with today, today with tomorrow, and beyond.
I wonder if, when adults, these children will be asked to designate their race on a form, they will be prompted to simply write in “human”—or if the question will be considered at all relevant by then. I wonder if they will enjoy the opportunity to simply grow and more easily fulfill their inherent potential, without the hindrances of war, poverty, disease, greed, or intolerance.
I wonder if they will have the benefit of a Peace Department instead of a War Department or a health-care system that is seen as a human right, a climate restored to sustainable levels, a society that respects the sacredness of each individual and works to perpetuate it
I wonder if they will be able to benefit from what unencumbered access to many technologies, still in their infancy today, may bring—fires able to be put out with sound, sea-water desalinization, nuclear waste transmutation, 3D stem-cell organ transplantation, on and on—yet also be able to balance that with an openness to the latent mysteries of creative, compassionate imagination.
In contemplating which, if any, of the gifts of our present hopes and dreams will be passed along, I realize that the concept of 'beyond' is a gift, in itself providing a framework for the fulfillment of these hopes. And I am reminded of a saying by George Santanaya: "The world is confused, deluded but shot through with love, glints of courage, and laughter....and in these, the Spirit blooms, struggling toward the light amid the thorns."
-Gabi Corsaro, Lake Oswego
Beyond our Ken
When you’re a Swallowtail butterfly, considering breakfast, your world is this parsley plant where you flutter, exhausted, having just laid your eggs.
Zoom in a little further and you’re, say, a virus—1/1000th the size of a grain of salt— swimming along a sinus, looking for a lung, a place to put your feet up and settle in. Making plans with your friends to burn this sucker down.
These tiny worlds exist happily beyond your perception of them. All dang day. Since forever.
Now zoom out past your imperfect body and your troubled mind, past the Oregon grapevine in your yard and the Doug fir next door sharing underground mycelium with all the other living things on Earth, past the cloud cover and the Cascadia Line, past the Sisters and the Dippers and the Belts, and out past the furthest reaches of our measly human-centric telemetry. Here you are again, beyond perception. Beyond comprehension.
A Beatle once said, “Life goes on within you and without you.” Another one said, “Maybe I’m amazed.”
Do you feel amazed? Unnerved? Insignificant? Magnificent? Then have a seat right
here next to me. Or do you just want to go back to bed? Go ahead. It’s raining and you’ve got plenty of IPA.
-Rebecca McCroskey, Eugene
Dances and Gardens
Beyond sinks like a stone in my gut: everything is different now, for everyone. This difference means that the chance for beyond is real. After Covid, fossil fuels, and reparations. But inside I must keep it, until the time arrives. Soon I will sing, but the effort would be wasted now, destined for the perpetual funnel where voices descend under the din of the rich and powerful. Sometimes I whisper though, like when ladies lifted their skirts to reveal blue stockings, like now.
Just as the earth reveals soul in the expression of nature, people reveal soul in their art. That’s why a garden and a dance are a perfect art-nature union. A twin telling of nature and humanity in abstract form that defies words. In a garden, nature is master and gardener is servant. This is a just hierarchy. Servant gardeners participate in soil building, which is the ultimate canvas for the unknown. From it, what will grow is beyond our imagination, inevitably a work of human-nature connection laying bare true priorities, like clean water, smokeless air, and labor for an indelibly non-corporate, non-white master. In this union, beauty is made. A beauty that provides, cares, and reciprocates. In a dance, music is master, and dancer is servant, whether music be a bird singing, a mind racing, or a symphony. We nurture our body-soil with a deep longing to communicate with other humans beyond the corset of words. In fact, we just want words to go naked, to expose the waterfalls of feeling underneath. We dance so our souls can touch, mutualism may be born, connectedness sealed by a ritual that cannot be rendered obsolete. Our bodies are the closest to nature we’ll ever be. We dance to garden our bodies, so that they can provide—but for the soul rather than the belly.
Beyond are dances and gardens. This is where capitalism dies, where racism births courage to self-reflect and correct, where sexism surrenders to humanism, when classism falls to its knees at the farm table where all eat like queens, where everyone’s life is a dance that sculpts the world. Dances and gardens are the portal to the beyond. And the beyond itself.
-Gina Angelique, Talent
In May of 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that its previous decision against nonunanimous juries doesn’t apply retroactively. I couldn’t help but think of the future that will change for some incarcerated Oregonians and the injustices that will live on. The past in the present and the denial of a future. Brett Kavanaugh’s majority opinion stated that “conducting scores of trials years after the crimes occurred would require significant state resources”—scores of mostly racist convictions, by design in Oregon’s White supremacist legal system.
Kavanaugh’s reasoning isn’t surprising. Oregon doesn’t have to overturn scores of racist convictions because it would cost too much. The criminal legal system in the US favors “finality” over justice and “order” over upholding its own constitutional laws. The simple fact that a case has been concluded is at times reason enough not to overturn it, placing incredible burdens back on those who have been convicted, making appeals nearly impossible. Often this practice protects the prosecutors, police, and judges who violate human, civil, and constitutional rights of Black, Arab, Muslim, Latinx, and API citizens; undocumented immigrants; disabled people; poor people; and Indigenous people. Indigenous people are also made more invisible through incarceration, by being mislabeled as Latinx or other racial classifications as part of White settler denial that Native people are still here.
I’m opting out of the phrase “wrongfully convicted,” because I want to highlight Oregon’s racist ways of cheating to get convictions at the same time that I want to avoid upholding the notion of ‘rightful’ convictions. I don’t believe police, prosecutors, and prisons keep us safe or bring about justice. While the conversation about so-called wrongful convictions can expose a lot of deeply-embedded structural unfairness in the criminal legal system, facing the settler-colonial and anti-Black history of the US and of Oregon shows that this system isn’t broken; it was designed to work this way.
Many convictions are won through violating the right to a fair trial, and this is still emphatically true if the accused person did what they’re accused of doing. Incarceration violates human and civil rights, even if the person did what they’re accused of doing and their trial itself didn’t violate their rights.
The future of Oregon must be an ongoing reckoning with its past, for a future beyond prisons.
-H. Rakes, Corvallis
When I was a little girl, Beyond referred mostly to the Future. Now those of us in our final years find ourselves also facing the Past. Beyond is no end of remembered anecdotes, family history, and fascinating stories from the Old Countries to our own lifetimes. We can re-experience (or feel them for the first time) as we write down our siblings’ experiences as well as our own. There’s not enough time in the day, the year, or even one lifetime to run out of memory-gifts from the Past Beyond that are not only worth sharing but also encourage us to re-enjoy the Past as we preserve tales for those in the Future Beyond.
I was surprised to find that there are also many other Beyond experiences available, which are sometimes gifted to us even in this lifetime, including categories that may never have occurred to us.
Two personal examples: Years ago, my best friend awakened me in the 3 a.m. darkness by repeatedly stroking the back of my hand. I was shocked to experience no fear at all, as I suspected that she was about to join the Great Beyond. I told her I’d always love her, thanked her for our friendship, and said a tearful goodbye. At daylight, her husband phoned long-distance, informing me of her passing at exactly 3 a.m., my time. Since then, I and others I’ve met have shared similar experiences. This is not as weird or rare as we might think, but comforting, a glimpse of the peace to come in that vast and likely varied Beyond.
The second example: I was answering questions from Gracie before I realized she was a wandering spirit who said she wanted to live in my house. After being shown the way to The Light, she never came back again. Originally I was surprised that none of these experiences ever seemed scary, even that original completely surprising visit over thirty years ago. When that first one happened, as a normal person frightened even of the dark, I was very grateful for the gift of serenity, and I thanked whoever might be responsible for my calmness, allowing me to function and learn instead of being scared out of my wits.
I believe there may be many presently unknown Beyonds available to each of us. The world is rich with incidents for learning, enjoying, and sharing.
-Lena Schrieber, Lincoln City
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