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The Ghosts in My House

The Ghosts in My House
All photography used in this issue is by Kaylee Christenson

I meant to write about Tucson. Tucson, my happy place for the last decade. A crystalline desert dreamscape wherein I collect treasures for the shop, frolic with my friends, see familiar faces and always, always discover something new.

All these years, Tucson has been my lifeline to The Land of the Living amidst a mid-winter slog . A surefire place for inspiration and renewal, which is strange because I hate being in large groups of people. You will not catch me at a festival, and when the only bathroom option is a port-a-potty I can most likely be found at home. Yet I feel as at home there as I have anywhere.

Now it’s been over a month since the desert and I haven’t written anything, and I suppose it’s because this year was different. The genocide on our screens didn’t stay in my phone, and there were times that I was surrounded by so much beauty and could think of nothing but horror.

It’s enough to make you wonder what you’re doing, no matter what it is you’re doing. I find the sourcing and selling of gems and minerals incredibly meaningful and enriching, full of purpose and magic. And yet, my mind returned again and again to images of women screaming over the bodies of their mangled children, men lifting rubble, carrying their loved ones, naked and humiliated and tortured, starving, making bread from animal feed and and drinking from puddles, a little girl calling for help from a car full of her dead family members.

When I asked my rainbow obsidian vendor how he was doing, we both talked about how business was slower. “But how lucky we are,” he said, “we could be in Gaza right now.” It was the only moment at the gem show where the state of my mind and my outside reality aligned.

This year in Tucson, I felt insecure and discouraged, overwhelmed and overstimulated. I found it hard to stay present, hard to be patient, hard to get excited. I was more discerning selecting crystals than I’ve ever been, not so easily dazzled by splendor or captivated by beauty.

For the first time ever, I felt like maybe these treasures were better off sourced and sold by someone else. Someone younger and more energetic who uses TikTok and doesn’t feel the weight of the world on their shoulders.

This is a mentality I discourage at gem shows at all cost. It is insane, in a sea of abundance, to submit to the illusion of scarcity. Crystal shopping with many different people has shown me that in the same room we will likely all find and choose completely different things, but the buoyancy that kept me afloat felt far away.

What lended levity in the heaviness was a beautiful house full of loving friends and a petting zoo in our backyard, feeding apples and carrots to horses and goats. Being treated to lunch by our vendors who’s houses we’ve been to and who’s families we know by name, seeing photos of their children growing, finding meaning in the way that we are keeping each other supported. And of course the crystals which, no matter how deep in the dark night of the soul I find myself, always drag me into the light and fill me with awe. I remembered how they do the same for ya’ll — and perhaps that was my most important reminder this go-around, that this does all mean something. As I change, as something in me dies and something else is reborn, crystals once again make it with me through the fire.

Lately, I’ve been moving slowly. If I do a full day of activity, it must be followed by a full day of rest. I’m spending the remainder of the day working on my will, an appropriate Pisces season activity when it feels like everything is trying to kill me. I cook meals that I can eat for a couple days in a row, feed the birds, tend to my animals and my house and the spirits who live inside of it — a little girl who plays near the kitchen door, a young man who “sleeps” in the den. I feel deeply connected to nature and the language of the invisible, but to nurture that connection right now is to be in mourning for the world.

Back at home with all the crystals, I’m glad they’re here and I’m glad I got them. They’ve filled my house with magic and the pop up shop filled my house with love. They’ve sparked my curiosity and have me researching and thinking and feeling inspired again. I love deep diving into their meanings with you. I know they were meant to pass through my hands and into yours, and most days that is enough.

This week, an active duty serviceman burned himself alive in front of the Israeli Embassy. His last words were Free Palestine. His name was Aaron Bushnell. I will never forget his name, just as I will never remember the names of all the children killed in Gaza, only that if I were to attend one of their funerals each day I would be at a funeral for the next thirty years.

There are many ways to resist at a time where resistance is the only option. You can self-immolate and scream until you can’t anymore. You can be a mourner at the funerals, bearing witness and keeping the world’s broken heart beating. Or you can insist on sharing beauty and magnifying joy at all costs, even when it feels ridiculous and trivial, as a way of keeping the candle burning in the window on a dark night. To signal the future that you still believe in her, and you hope she still believes in you, too.

May no one else need to burn for the liberation to which we are all entitled.

Your comrade,
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  • Samantha Lazar

    May those ghosts continue to protect you!

  • Fionnuala

    In tears as I read this, feeling so helpless and useless in the face of the annihilation of Palestinians. Thank you Bakara for your honesty and bravery in reminding us again and again of the need to bear witness and speak out, to mourn the atrocity and to break down in the face of overwhelming grief while finding solace in connection and love. Love, Fionnuala

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