This has been an unbearably hard 24 hours. I woke up yesterday, hungover from the election. I’d had only three hours of restless sleep and (as a result) a small seizure. (this is something I don’t talk about very often in public, my epilepsy, but it’s part of my reality– my preexisting condition- and why Obamacare needs to exist). I had to find a way to tell my kids (who crashed around midnight) that Trump had won. I had to make breakfast, and get them off to school.
Then I sat down and wept.
After that, I took a shower, did the dishes. I checked my work emails, and called a friend. We met for lunch and wandered around in a daze. Useless. But it was better to be together, sad, confused. It was better to be not alone.
It helped to be in East Atlanta, which is, in this home-away-from-home, a family to me. A bubble. It helped to go to the coffee shop and see friendly faces, to have people reach out and pat my back, hug me. To know we’re all feeling this, together.
Back at home, I found myself thinking about Orphan Island. About this book I’ve written. Because when I set out to write it, and described it to people, several of them said, “Oh, it’s a dystopian book?”
“No,” I said. “I think it’s a utopian book.” And truly, that had been my goal in writing it. The dream of a perfect place. It’s a book about an island, an ideal island, where kids make and do and live with joy and comfort. It’s a lovely place, the island. Full of wild kittens and strange sunrises and starfish fields and ripe fruits. It’s the kind of world we want for our kids.
But here’s what I’m thinking about today– the ISLAND only exists as an isolated reality, as a place apart. The world OUT THERE, beyond the mist, that world is still going on (in my head, in the backstory), and it isn’t perfect at all. In some ways the ISLAND’s perfection is necessitated by the imperfections of the world OUT THERE. The island is created by the imperfections of the world OUT THERE. Almost as a negative, an inverse.
Now. This morning I’m rested. I’m not weeping. I’m drinking my coffee and thinking about the OUT THERE and the ISLAND. I’m thinking about how we live in the OUT THERE, the real world. It’s hard to understand sometimes. It’s painful. But it’s true. And…
The OUT THERE necessitates the ISLAND. The brutality and injustice of this world we inhabit demand invention, creativity, dreaming. The reality demands that we imagine something better, and then find or craft or birth it.
And that is what art is for. Art is the island. We write and paint and draw islands. In doing so, we offer reprieve, and we incite hope. Most especially in our children, we incite hope. Or we try.
Yesterday, I had to tell my children Trump had won. They had to go to school and see their teachers openly crying. They are scared.
Today, I will do something different. Today, I will tell them a story. I’ll create an island for them. A world they can dream of, and want to inhabit. So that maybe, in four years, when they are teenagers, they’ll be ready to bring it to life.
Full of wild kittens and strange sunrises and strong leaders and fair laws and justice.