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Holding Space for Living and Dying Logo, a large teal letter "H" with a house as the lower space

Land Acknowledgment: We acknowledge that this beautiful land that we call our home was forcibly and violently vacated of its original and rightful caretakers, the Iswa (Catawba) and AniKituhwa (Cherokee) peoples who have lived as relatives to the land for millennia and, through resilience and persistence, despite generations of state-supported acts of removal and genocide, continue to do so. We also acknowledge that the systems we benefit from and participate in are built upon generations of stolen lives and labor of enslaved Afrikan peoples and their descendants. Our intent in this acknowledgment is to strive to be adequate guests and occupiers of this land for its return to Black and Indigenous hands, and liberation from so-called “real estate” and land “ownership”. The ideas of Doctrine of Discovery, Manifest Destiny, and seeing the earth and all inhabitants as capital to be exploited, have ravaged peoples, cultures, and ecosystems for far too long. Learn more about the Indian Removal Act that dispossessed entire peoples while continuing to benefit us, as the settler-colonizers who live here today. Learn about and support the Cherokee peoples in Oklahoma and North Carolina. Learn about engaging Beyond Land Acknowledgment

The April Podluck migrated fireside for hotdogs, marshmallows, and conversation.

The May Podluck Is On!


The weather looks warm and clear between 6 and 9 tomorrow evening for our monthly outdoor PODluck. Bring your own picnic dinner or a dish to share, depending on your comfort level. Drinks will be provided. Feel free to bring friends, family, and fellow end-of-life colleagues, but please leave pets at home. 
May 18, from 6-9pm
34 Blue Ridge Ave in West Asheville

Afghan men practice writing in english on a whiteboard affixed to the living room wall.

From October until March, we donated our house to 9 Afghan evacuees as they were being resettled into their new lives in Asheville. During their time in our home, they were attending English classes, processing their work authorizations, and getting oriented to life in a new place away from their friends, family, and familiarity. 

There are so many stories and lessons to be reflected upon during the nearly five months hosting these nine strangers — strangers to us and to one another. Everyone told me to keep a journal while the Afghans stayed with us. But when you’re in the thick of it, nothing really seems worth writing down because everything is just happening all at once, and it all seems simultaneously worthy and unworthy of documentation. And certainly the last thing I wanted to do at midnight after spending so much time with them during the day, was to sacrifice what remained of my personal time in reflection. And I mean, it certainly seems at the time, how could I forget? But sure enough, the details slip away.

But occasionally, there are those moments that just stick. And you’re not quite sure how to describe them because there are so many factors that play into a single moment being extraordinary. I knew when I got home, I needed to jot down some thoughts from this particular experience so that I could later offer it the reverence and energy it deserved. I offer this one vignette below, written back in January. The names have been changed to respect anonymity.

I’ve been driving the Afghans around a lot lately – to school, errands, appointments – and it’s usually a car load, since they’re all just wanting to get out of the house for any reason. They’re attending English classes at the Community College, but currently their English is limited to the alphabet, “Ok,” “No problem,” and “Nice to meet you!,” which has become the catch-all phrase for almost any exclamation, most often delivered alongside an aggressive spike on the neighborhood volleyball court — admittedly some pretty top notch trash talk, regardless of your English fluency. As such, we can’t really have car conversations, so they love having the music up really loud, whether it’s their Afghan music over Bluetooth or just top 40 radio (I’m guessing the [often elderly] Catholic Charities volunteers don’t play the radio, or perhaps they keep it at a soft whisper). 
So, there’s a vulgar, but cleverly-written breakup anthem with a chorus that belts out “a-b-c-d-e-F-U!” It’s on Top 40 radio at least once an hour these days. So when this song comes on I turn it up extra loud at the alphabet part, and I say “it’s time to practice English!” And at the top of their lungs they’re all screaming, “A-B-C-D-E-F-G!!”
I haven’t corrected them, and they haven’t noticed that it’s not a G at the end.
And I’m so curious what they think this song is… like some kind of Sesame Street song or something to learn the alphabet?
The oldest of all, Ibrahim, is always riding shotgun. He’s career military, an MP. Thirteen sons back home ranging from toddler to mid-20s. He’s got a deep, commanding voice, barrel-chested, his hair slicked back, beard well-manicured, always has his shirt tucked in — you’d never suspect he’s illiterate in his own language, having never attended grade school.
When we’re listening to Afghan music, he will start to sing along with that fluctuating Indian vocal that’s popular in that kind of music (I don’t know what it’s called). But he’s really good at it and he has a really good voice, and it doesn’t sound anything like his speaking voice.
So last night, there was some older top 40 song from recent years, like a Katy Perry song or someone similar, that had a fairly long instrumental part. This is a moment I wish I had recorded because words can’t do it justice. Ibrahim broke into this melodic riff of that type of fluctuating singing on top of the top 40 instrumental and it sounded SO INCREDIBLE and the timing was impeccable and it all came to a crescendo at just the right moment that the song ended. Everybody in the car erupted with applause and a cacophony of praise in their native Pashto, leaning over the seat and jostling his shoulders like he had just scored a winning goal, and shouting a congratulatory, “NICE TO MEET YOU!!” in perfect English.

Five complete strangers just two months ago, ages 17 to 44 — lives intertwined by the forces of happenstance, imperialism, kindness, and Allah — experiencing a fleeting moment of sheer joy together on New Leicester Highway just after dark. Returning from an otherwise mundane Walgreens run for acne face wash, mustache scissors, and Just-For-Men black hair dye — essential tools for the few aspects of their lives still within their control.

Gabriel and Eve sit on a bench at Carolina Memorial Sanctuary on a beautiful, sunny afternoon.

The last time Eve was here in March 2020, there were rumors of a life-altering pandemic on the way. Eve was able to finally return to visit this past week and brought along her partner, Wanda, and their teeny dog, Stumpy.
Above, Gabriel and Eve sit overlooking Yvette’s grave at Carolina Memorial Sanctuary.

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