content warning: brief mention of sexual violence, other violence, sad
I come from California’s central coast. It was a land of strawberries, broccoli fields, cattle ranches. My parents met working in tomato fields as teenagers. My mom birthed me when she was 19.
We lived in a housing tract called Tanglewood for five years when I was little. I found out recently that my house was less than five miles from Casmalia toxic waste dump, where gallons and gallons of toxic waste got dumped and put into the air in little particles to help it evaporate quicker, while I lived nearby, and they did a lot of violations, spraying the chemicals into the hills.
My mom’s mom worked in agriculture also, pollinating flowers. These people were Mexican-American. My mom’s mom died very painfully at age 52 from lymphoma. I don’t remember her. My mom died at the end of January, from cancer also, at age 63.
Today I went to get an ultrasound because my lymph nodes have been swollen and sometimes sore for a few months. I had blood tests also, my doctor trying to see if I have cancer–I’m 43.
I was in the room, waiting for the tech to come back, wearing a hospital gown, wishing my mom was there with me, or Ming, but pandemic means I was alone. As the tears leaked out, my eyes were itchy and uncomfortable, but I didn’t wipe them because I didn’t want to get germs in me from the door handles, lobby pens, waiting room chairs.
I feel angry because I was sexually violated as a young person, which makes me extra scared of the vulnerability of the nudity and trying to stay still as the worker presses the ultrasound thing slightly painfully against my body in a private area.
I feel angry that agriculture could be a sacred, beautiful thing of Earth and flowers and feeding everybody in the best ways, but it’s ruined by capitalism, and my relatives died for that.
Who decided spraying poison on our food, then eating it, was a good idea anyway? Or let the Mexican-American people work in those fields, because who cares.
I feel angry that housing was cheaper, out there by Casmalia, and I breathed a bunch of nasty chemicals from the toxic waste dump.
We could prevent some cancer to begin with, but instead we poison everybody, then spend decades and billions of dollars to treat the illnesses caused by convenience and getting the most yield with the least cost. Wellbeing be damned.
Ming drove us home, after my ultrasound was done, and I looked by the road and saw the trash there, napkins and plastic cups, empty bottles of whiskey, and thought how so much suffering is caused by the disconnection from Mother Earth, the death that comes with it, the sadness of loss.
I could drink whiskey because my mom is dead and I want to hurt less, or because I’m scared as I wait for my doctor to tell me what the tests said. Instead I cry and write this blog post.
I asked Ming what I could do with all this anger. I said I could garden more, so we could eat food that’s not poisoned, but I feel like it’s too late.
Not to mention the Trinity Site, thirty miles from where my mom’s mom was born in New Mexico. I don’t think she was still there when the first nuclear bomb exploded, but Ming guesses that site was chosen as a place that already wasn’t pristine.
It’s racism, capitalism, patriarchy. Nothing matters more than making rich guys richer–not clean air, clean water, health, life itself. The rich people aren’t working in those fields or living by that toxic waste dump.
My mom’s mom was born in an adobe house with no address. They made their homes out of earth. I’d like to go inside one and see if it’s damp and dark there, lie on the dirt floor, lay down my pain, and let my tears flow into the earth, apologizing to her.
Oh, Mama. I wish you could have gotten old. I’m very sorry.