By Lauret Savoy, Roundtable Core Member
In “The Testing-Tree,” poet Stanley Kunitz wrote, “the heart breaks and breaks and lives by breaking.” So many experiences that make a life, even in more ordinary times, involve breaking or being broken, physically, emotionally, and in other ways. But how does an individual, a family over generations, or a community find courage to be broken and transformed by experience, and to believe it possible to retain a sense of wholeness beyond the breaking?
I came to know many child-forms of despair as a brown-skinned little girl in 1968 America; a child who had believed that her skin was made and ‘colored’ by Sun, blue sky, and the land until told otherwise with spit. As an adult, I’ve needed to understand what hardness leaves of our lives. For hardness in this sense is not harshness or severity. Not difficulty or insensitivity. Instead, imagine the quality of rock or stone to retain some identity and physical memory even though broken or fragmented repeatedly.
It might seem counterintuitive but such hardness can feed resilience over time, and be a vital wellspring for communities for whom distress has been a norm across generations, whether a ghetto, a barrio, a reservation, or impoverished rural area. Continue reading