Quillwood Podcast

QP4: Telling the Full Story, with Grace Aldrich and Emma Redden

February 01, 2022 Eric Garza Season 1 Episode 4
Quillwood Podcast
QP4: Telling the Full Story, with Grace Aldrich and Emma Redden
Show Notes Transcript

Grace Aldrich and Emma Redden founded the Full Story School and produce the Freedom Means Podcast. In this episode they talk with Eric about talking to children about challenging topics, the relationships between practice, perfection and performance in our communication, and building agency and honesty into our conversational praxis, among other things.


  • 00:00 - 02:36 — Episode introduction
  • 02:36 - 06:43 — Grace and Emma introduce themselves
  • 06:43 - 11:41 — Emma and Grace introduce the Full Story School and Freedom Means Podcast
  • 11:41 - 22:51 — Talking to children about challenging topics, and building trust by not lying
  • 22:51 - 29:14 — Practice, perfection, and performance in our communication
  • 29:14 - 37:18 — Language and dissociation
  • 37:18 - 40:44 — Building agency and honesty into our conversational praxis
  • 40:44 - 53:15 — Resisting the language of separation
  • 53:15 - 55:20 — Episode wrap-up

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Eric Garza: Welcome to the Quillwood Podcast. I am your host, Eric Garza. Today's guests have spent years exploring how to talk about challenging topics... with children. Grace Aldrich and Emma Redden founded The Full Story School to educate teachers and parents about how to talk with children about race and racial violence. We broaden the conversation we have today to include other big issues like climate change, for example. They also host the Freedom Means Podcast, which is totally worth listening to, where they role play some of the conversations we will talk about. I will put links to the Full Story School and the Freedom Means Podcast in today's show notes.

Before we listen to the conversation that I had with Grace and Emma, know that this podcast is brought to you by Quillwood Academy. Through Quillwood Academy I offer courses, reading groups, and workshops to help people just like you learn to navigate today's changing world. The next reading group that is coming up is on Sherri Mitchell's beautiful book Sacred Instructions. Its orientation is scheduled for February 5. I also have a few Apocalypse Cafés that are coming right up. One is scheduled for Thursday on February 3, another Tuesday, February 8, and the next one is on February 12. These are community building events that are formatted similarly to Climate Cafés, and Death Cafés. If you want to learn more about, or register for, these or other Quillwood Academy events, visit quillwood.org. You can find all of them in the offerings menu. You can also, on the Quillwood Academy website, sign up for our email list and stay abreast of upcoming events that way.

I mentioned show notes earlier, so I should probably tell you where to find those. If you go to quillwood.org, click on the Quillwood Podcast in the offerings menu, and then click on an individual episode. You can find the show notes there. That will include episode outlines, a list of links and resources, and transcripts.

Now with all that out of the way, I hope you enjoy the conversation that I recorded with Grace Aldrich and Emma Redden.

Eric: Emma Redden and Grace Aldrich, thanks both of you to joining me on the Quillwood Podcast. I want to give some space for both of you to introduce yourselves in whatever way you think is most appropriate.

Grace Aldrich: Thank you so much.

Emma Redden: Thank you for having us, Eric.

I can start. I'm Grace, and I'm originally from Boston, Massachusetts. And I now live in unseeded Pennacook territory, in what's known as Southern New Hampshire. I grew up not talking about race. When I moved to New Hampshire, I think it was events in 2014 that started me on the path of seeking more information. When I saw the difference between my experience of highly televised videos of unarmed black people being killed by the state, and having a black child. And I also have a background in bodywork, and have been very interested in trauma and how it shows up. I also do storytelling, and think about how the story of race is ascribed to bodies and how that shows up in the body. That's a little bit.

Eric: Yeah. I'm guessing, and I think I remember you mentioning an allusion to this in one of your podcast episodes, that you are familiar with Resmaa Menakem's work.

Grace: Absolutely. It shaped a lot of what we do.

Eric: Yeah. I'm also finishing up—we were chatting right before we started recording—but I'm also finishing up the nine month Somatic Abolitionism program with Resmaa. We had our last big call this past Saturday, and we'll have a little closing ceremony this coming Saturday.

Grace: Yeah, he has helped me to access a lot of the information I've held and use but didn't have a name for. So yeah. Great.

Eric: Emma?

Emma: Yeah, he's definitely a teacher of both of ours. My name is Emma Redden. I am a white, Jewish woman. I live in northern Vermont, on Abenaki land now called Burlington, Vermont. I'm a preschool teacher. Grace and I are community educators, we work with other preschool teachers, mostly. My racial identity has been formed by growing up in Vermont. I had lived here most of my life, and as a young white child I grew up in pretty intense residential segregation in Southern Vermont. And there are a lot of very invisibilizing stories I grew up with, but a strong and unspoken one was that race was irrelevant when we're all white. And as I grew up, I increasingly understood not only how untrue that was, but how dishonest that was. And now—I'm a preschool teacher in Vermont, again—and what does it look like to be with young children in the place I grew up, but trying to tell much more honest stories, from a young age, about where we live, what has happened on this land before we were here, what continues to happen, and what it means to be in our bodies in this country, as kids and grownups.

Eric: You mentioned stories, and that's going to lead into my next question. The two of you have the Full Story School, an organization that the two of you have founded, and also produce the Freedom Means Podcast. I wonder if you would be be willing to give an introduction to both of those things.

Grace: Emma, you want to start with that?

Emma: Sure, I'll give a brief overview, and Grace you can fill in where you want to add. The Full Story school is a project Grace and I made together. It's a community education project, so we work with groups of parents, and larger groups of teachers on thinking about their relationship and skillfulness and resilience and practice around talking honestly about race and racism to young children. And we found when we were doing that work that people were pretty intimidated by, and ultimately very, very moved by role playing. Trying to stay in character and have conversations with other grownups to prepare for having conversations with young children.

I think this work is so emotionally charged that it's really helpful for the first time we say something not to be in the moment. For some of these words to have moved through our bodies and come out our mouths first, often with other grownups. Grace and I would also get feedback that when she and I role played with each other, people were like, Oh, my gosh! It resonated. It really worked for people. So that was the genesis of us thinking about, What would it look like to try to a little bit more formally to role play with each other scenarios that either have happened to us or that people in our lives have shared with us.? And not just talk about why it's important to talk with young children about race or give strategies, but to actually try to get the words out of our mouths. And we do it imperfectly, but I think we have found a lot of meaning in the relational practice of, Let's just try to say what we would say, and sort of see what happens. So in the podcast we have a scenario, we each role play as the grown up, and as the child, and then we process together how it went and what we felt like went well, and what we are reflecting on...

Grace: I love that part, too, because it's also comes back to the body. It's one thing to conceptualize things and to understand them in the theoretical or philosophical, academic way. And it's another thing to practice. That is very freeing, to understand that as a parent or a teacher, in general, talking to a young child that you don't have to get it perfectly the first time. There are ways that we come back to conversations and expand, edit, things like that. And I think one of the biggest things I recognize when Emma and I started working together is that when you come to a group of people—and we've mostly been working with people in New England that are mostly white—and that everybody has a different framework around race, so you know that the full story is not there. So the role thing is sort of what happens at the end of our journey with a group, and the beginning process is a lot about getting people on the same page. Giving them some more historical context. And that also brings in the body, because it brings up so much emotion. Some people experience a sense of betrayal. They had no idea about some of these things that are true about our history. And then there's grief that comes out. And so we also work with them on building body practices to help them regulate, and then they can better accompany children in learning about the history. So that feels really good. And I think it's a healing way to build community. So that's another aspect of it, that we're really enjoying and grateful for.

Eric: I listened to, at this point, almost all of the episodes of your podcast, I think I skipped one of the bonus episodes. But you know, you mentioned...

Emma: Eric, my Tiger King episode with some of my best work. I will request that you return to it...

Eric: I will return to it

Emma: It's serious business, Tiger King.

Eric: Certainly, the stuff you did on racism, all of those episodes were magic. I think what I enjoyed most was the mixture of seriousness, and then as you role played, the person who was playing the child would make comments that are perfectly fitting, and of course, you're both in a good position to do that. I don't have children of my own yet, and I don't spend a lot of time with young kids since the pandemic started, because people have been isolating. But I've also appreciated, in addition to the conversations you've role played about racism, the one you did on climate change. I think it was, Are we going to be on fire? was the title of that episode. In addition to recognizing all the challenges that revolve around racism and prejudice in the United States, which are certainly not limited to the United States but I think we have a particular flavor of that here, I'm also very cognizant of a lot of other problems that have global impacts. And a lot of the people that I engage with are like, there are age groups of people that we talk about these things with, and there are age groups of people that we don't. What are the consequences of us doing that? I know it comes from a good place, they want to protect young children, air quotes around the word protect. One of the things I would love for us to spend some time on is if the two of you would be willing to share your thoughts on that very issue. Are there issues, challenges, problems that should be off the table? Or can we put those things on the table and just be very conscious of how we frame those?

Grace: I think the first thing that pops into my head, as you know, not every child gets protected. Only certain children get protected from that information. And that the vast majority of the questions that we discuss on our podcast come from children. So I think that the way we think we are protecting children, or wanting them to be able to be children by not sharing with them, is actually us wanting to be stay children about particular issues. And yeah, I mean that that's just off the top of my head but Emma, you can...

Emma: I don't think there is an age where lying to children about their own lives ever is okay. Grace and I are really influenced by the work—I talk about her all the time, but I feel like she always needs credit: Jill Macfarlane, who's a grief counselor who works at The Sharing Place in Salt Lake City. She's been an incredible teacher to me. And she talks about when you don't tell children the truth about how someone died, essentially they have to grieve twice. They grieve whatever story they hear the first time, and then they ultimately grieve again when they find out actually what happened.

And she always would bring it back to trust. How do you trust people who lie to you? And I think devastatingly the thing to me that's connected between all of these conversations, if we're talking about climate catastrophe, if we're talking about racism, if we're talking about late stage capitalism, all these things is they make people die more quickly. And, they unequally distribute the speed of death, depending on how many resources you have, and what you look like and where in the world you were born. What do we have in this crumbling, terrifying world, if we don't have trust? That is one thing we actually can genuinely offer. There's so much we don't have that much decision making power over, but we potentially do have power to make decisions around how we're going to relate to other people in our lives, and especially our children. Young people in our life who arguably are in even more precarious parts of their lives, because the world hates children. If we can't even give them the opportunity to have a real relationship with us, their caregivers, what is left then?

So for me, I live in Vermont right now, it's 46 degrees outside and sunny. I'm 29. I'm not very old. When I was a child, it was freezing cold right now and we were playing in the snow. Every child in Vermont right now is having a lived experience that it's 45 degrees outside. And maybe maybe that's all they've known, but their body is experiencing climate catastrophe in this very moment that I'm talking. And this is their world. Everyday it's going to get worse for the rest of their lives. So that's our context. We didn't choose that. They didn't choose that. And yet that is the world they're living in. So I'm interested in, What are protective factors in in this world? And I think relationships and trust actually are huge, are unbelievably important. And if I believe that, I can't justify lying to them about anything. I don't care what they're gonna ask about.

How much detail I go into, and what exactly the conversation sounds like, they can guide. I can give them one piece of information, to answer a question or to initiate something. Jill Macfarlane talks about Kids ask questions when they're ready to hear the answer. If they want to keep talking about it, I'll keep talking about it. If I want to say one thing about how I'm scared that humans are burning gases that are making the air warmer, and that's making people get sick or not have safe places to live or something, I can say one sentence. And if they don't want to talk to me about that, if they want to play egos, okay, I can take that lead. If they're really interested in what I'm saying, then we can continue that conversation.

There's a million ways to have a conversation. And children's age is relevant to that, but also just where people are developmentally. If you put three three year olds in a room together, some of them could literally say three words, and some of them could have the vocabulary of a 10 year old. Even those kids I'm having different conversations with. So I think we have conversations based off the kind of information we're getting back from the other person. But that doesn't mean some people get lied to and some people don't. We have conversations based off the knowledge we have about the other person, regardless of their age.

Grace: When we're talking about lying to children, it makes me think about the gaslighting that something isn't going to happen or that we're safe that is underneath that, feels like an unspoken request to for children to erase themselves, or to or to be erased. And that is often my experience being black in an almost all-white state. There are these frequently unspoken requests for me to erase myself and my experience. That's something that just perpetuates the same forms of oppression that we've built over centuries. And the other thing is with things like climate change, that we're all in together and will increasingly affect us, all of the attention and awareness that it requires of us, if we're not going to explain it, or be in relationship with it to our children, that means that that's all the time and awareness that we can't be with our children. We're creating less and less of a relationship with the children in our lives, there's less and less room to have a relationship with the children in our lives, if these big issues take up more and more space, and we can't communicate about them.

Eric: That inspires me like one of the—and I turn to a number of different people for this—but one of the things I've been interested in is some of the messages that have gone out there about elderhood, and how fewer and fewer people see people who are older as elders in a way that we might fantasize about some traditional societies doing that. And I wonder if exactly what you're saying is part of the deal, is that we've grown up with these people that we might think of as elders once they get older, and once we grew up, but they've never really shown capacity to sit down with us and talk about tough stuff. So we've kind of internalized this idea that we can't go to them for that. And if we've internalized that when we were young, why would that change as we get older, and as they get into their 60s and 70s, and beyond?

Grace: It's interesting, because it's like it's connected to that, something Bayo Akomolafe has said, someone we were talking about being fans of. He's talking about the danger of hope, in that, you know, glossing over things or charging forward down the track that is not working. And that, if we are putting our blinders on, and looking at that, then we are making ourselves obsolete. So we actually can't offer anything to a younger generation, we just have to convince them to look down through the same tunnel we're looking.

Eric: The two of you laid down so many different threads in your introductions and your response to that first question, but one of the things that you mentioned that I would love to return to for a bit is the idea of practicing these role plays and practicing these conversations. And I don't remember which of the two of you said this, but I think one of the two of you said you're not going to do it perfectly that first time. And I think a lot about this idea of perfection, and how much this can hamper people from just putting a good effort in. I think this whole construct of perfection is fantasy. There is no perfect conversation. I don't know if this is a question, or this is just a comment. I guess there's a question in here: How do we adjust people's relationship with perfection so that we can take away some of the fear of trying?

Emma: That's a beautiful question. I think my first response to that is, I don't think we're so attached to perfection if we believe that every part of our life necessitates constant revision and repair. And it's only when we aren't committed to those two things that perfection seems so important. There's lots of thinking about its connection to white supremacy culture, and all these pieces. And I think that, for me, the desire to get it totally right the first time really, really relaxes if I relate to it as, There's no way it's going to ever be right. But I'm going to, each time, put my best, most clear thinking and feeling into it and know that I will make mistakes. And that's the beauty of relationships is that they aren't these finite things. If I think about children—I don't have a child of my own—but my kids in my classroom, when we're going to school together, we see each other every day. I could go back to that conversation every single day. They would probably get pretty irritated, but that's possible if I felt like that was necessary. I think this piece of a commitment to constant revision and repair in our relationships and in our language with each other, and young people, alleviates pressure for me.

Grace: It feels so ironic because I feel like one of the best ways to alleviate a need for perfection is to just be around children and observe them. Like to do something perfectly? Put a child in the middle, and see how it goes. That is sort of like the joke about parenting, when people who don't have kids say, I just would never ever, ever be like that in the grocery store. And then you have kids, you're like, oh, actually... You think you now things, and then the kid is like, why is the sky blue? You think you have everything down and set, and then they ask questions that blow everything up. So I think, just being themselves, that is a such a huge gift that they bring to us. They're not going to eat a cookie perfectly. You know, they are beautiful examples of praxis. That's their job, you know?

Eric: Yeah, bringing a lot of this highly academic, perfectionist thinking right back down to earth.

Grace: Exactly. Exactly. There's so much joy there, there's so much more play available. There's so much healing they bring to us.

Emma: I think what you're saying to, Eric, about the language is, I think in some sort of racial justice spaces there's so much... How do I want to say this... I think sometimes our relationship to the words, I'll say this as a white person. I think as a white person, sometimes my relationship to the words can distance me from the actual emotional experience of it. I sometimes feel inclined to have some sort of performance of knowing all of the words, as a white person. And Grace and I, over and over and over, when we record the episodes together, like the emotional impact of talking about this, completely stripped down to actually what it is, and to these words that are not SAT words, like they are share, and ask first, and make a body stop working, and important, and listen to. These very deep, very, very relatable ideas that make it much harder to hide behind the language, and for me make the emotional experience of it right there, which has been a real gift for me, I think. I don't want to live in a place where I'm talking about racism as a white person as an act of virtue signaling or vocabulary demonstration or something. And that can seem tempting sometimes. And when you strip that away, and you try to explain some stuff to a three year old, you're using a different set of language that, for me, is much more grounded.

Eric: Yeah. And that was actually one of the things I was thinking about as I was listening to the episodes of Freedom Means. You mentioned a lot of those words that you use in your role play scenarios. And another word that you use a lot is safety, and feeling safe, and talking about that. I've had this conversation in many contexts, and the Oddkin group that I have in Bayo's class right now, we talk about this a lot too, how sometimes people will use all kinds of really sophisticated language as a way of escaping their body and body sensations. It's a way to get out of the body and up in the head. And that is a very common defense mechanism or coping strategy when you're talking about challenging topics. It seems to me that there's value in developing the capacity to stay with that in our bodies and not flee into... And I'm not at all dissing critical race theory, but there's a lot of highly academic language used in that realm. And I wonder if at least some of that—certainly not all of it—maybe represents or creates an avenue for escape that maybe isn't as useful. I'm speaking as a white bodied person, too. We need to use language that lets us stay in the body so that we can build that capacity.

Grace: Right? It makes sense to me. And as a massage therapist, I'd say it doesn't go away anyway, the body is holding on to it. It is collecting. That's the way we gaslight ourselves. That's the way we pretend we are someplace we are not. It's not compassionate to ourselves, it's not humanizing to ourselves, when we are able to talk about devastating, devastating things without being touched.

Emma: And for me, I want to recognize that the work of those folks who use big words, many of them have been teachers of mine. I want to be clear that I feel deeply, deeply grateful for that work, because many of those folks offered me an understanding of the world I live in and of myself that I am forever grateful for. And so for me, especially when that work is being done by black folks, indigenous folks, I don't think it has to inherently be a form of running away or numbness. I do think sometimes white folks, myself included, use it like that. So I just want to acknowledge those words helped me deeply understand how I could talk to a three year old, and I would not be able to talk to a three year old like I do without having learned from many of those folks in that language. I just want to acknowledge that.

Eric: Yeah. And I didn't want to make it sound as if I was skeptical of all of them because of that, because obviously I've benefited from a lot of those same books and authors. And this actually makes me think of practice. And I think Grace, in your original answer to the first question I posed, you mentioned practice, and the risk of practice is that we're going to get good at something. And so I think we have to be very thoughtful about what we set ourselves up to be good at. And obviously we have these dissociation mechanisms, thinking of polyvagal theory and the freeze response, that's evolutionarily conserved for a reason. Because there are situations where having that as a skill can keep us alive. But we don't want, if I use some of Resmaa Menakem's words, we don't want that to be the only toy we have access to in our toy box. We want to be able to play with other toys too, in skillful ways. I think a lot about some of the different ways that I practice, and how I'm diversifying my practices so that I have access to a lot more toys than just the dissociative ones, recognizing that the dissociative ones can be really useful and important sometimes.

Grace: Right, that is it another survival practice that is necessary. And I think it's unfortunately overused, and also can benefit the story of white supremacy. And that I feel like so much at the root and origin story of whiteness is about separation, being able to separate yourself from your body, from other people's bodies, to maintain security in some form or another. But—and we were talking this week with another group of teachers—about duality. Descartes did us wrong! That is an illusion. And as a body worker, that's what got me into that work is that they aren't separate. So having an array of approaches helps us integrate all of the information.

Emma: Yeah, I think for me Resmaa Menakem's work has been really important in my understanding that an actual threat and a perceived threat could feel exactly the same my body, but it doesn't mean the danger to me is the same. There are times where my body goes into freeze when it's responding to an actual threat. And that actually was is a pretty good strategy for it. There's other times I've gone into freeze when I'm responding to stories about race, where regardless of how much I might feel like I am dying inside, I am not dying. The thing that is happening is actually something that brings up that response, but is actually not only not dangerous to me, but actually an incredibly important moment of someone telling me the truth that feels really, really hard to hear. And I still might have that same feeling then when I'm alone at night and I hear a thud outside the door. But one actually could be dangerous to me, and one actually isn't. So I think Resmaa Menakem's work also has been really deeply important to me and thinking about how do we relate to our bodies in a way where we're students of them, were paying really close attention to them, we're gathering information from them, but that information we're gathering is being sifted through an analysis in our minds of What is the thing that feels terrifying? And is it a story that certain groups of people are dangerous? Or is it an actual real threat in front of me?

Grace: Leaving children alone to navigate these stories is so harmful. I think I said this a few times during the podcast process, but one of my favorite quotes by Gabor Maté is that children are not traumatized because they are hurt. They're traumatized because they are alone in their hurt. The way we don't accompany ourselves gets reflected in our relationship with children.

Eric: That brings to mind the issue of agency for me. We can we can sit either when we're young, or now that we're grown up, we can sit with a lot of hurts if we feel like we have at least some agency there. And I guess another question I'll pose is How do you give kids a sense of agency when you're talking about some of these issues of racism, issues of climate change?

Grace: I think we have examples all through history of the way people have stepped into their own agency without evidence of how their future will manifest. One of the things that we share in our podcast is a story about African women boarding the ships in the transatlantic slave trade where they would braid seeds into their hair in hopes that they would find land where they could live sovereign lives. Standing where we are, we know that here I am a black woman with agency. So it worked. So I think when we take our narrow lens and project it onto children, children have the ability to envision and imagine that is often lost when we become adults. So I think that's one way. Look into the past for examples of how people who didn't have agency gained it, and then encouraging the imagination and vision abilities of children that are inherent in them that when you put yourself in the story, and help write a story, even if it is not something tangible in front of you yet, it builds in your body, and you start to build that in your body. And that's a way to feel grounded and in command of your life.

Emma: Grace, that's such a beautiful answer. Thank you. Yeah, I keep coming back to the same thing, we tell them the truth. I don't know how we have agency over incomplete truth. Agency means that children have an ability to try to make decisions, and it's really hard to make decisions when you don't know what the context you're making decisions in is, and you don't know what the choices even are. As Grace said, children's access to their imagination, in so many ways, I think is so much more deep and genuine than mine is. What could it look like for me to do my best to tell them the truth? And then what kind of choices do they see in front of them with all of the information?

Eric: One of the things I wanted to go back to, and you mentioned this Grace in your most recent response, is connection, and reinvigorating, acknowledging that connection that we have to other people. And something I've been thinking about a lot is that it's not just a separation of one group of people from another. It's also this idea of extracting the human being from this web of life that we are intimately tied to and couldn't survive without, and then proceeding as if that imagined separation is a real thing that we can capitalize on, and monetize. I guess the question that emerges from that is, Is that issue, that disconnection something that we can bring into conversations with young children? And what are some of the ways that we could do that? What are the some of the ways that you do that, bringing in the more than human world?

Emma: Grace, will you share about Sy's work?

Grace: Yeah, I feel super lucky to live near Sy Montgomery, the children's author who is a naturalist and brilliant writer. We heard her interview recently about her book The Soul of an Octopus, and she shared, and shares a lot in her work about the different types of intelligence that animals have and how we can learn with that from them and what it is like to build relationship to different animals that don't speak our language, when we are quiet and try to connect with them in a way that they connect with the world. And the other thing that I think about is in our Thanksgiving episode we talked about the Mohawk and Haudenosaunee morning prayer, this traditional greeting to the family of the world. Before any important event, anything important is discussed there's a gratitude extended to all parts of the natural world. The verses really bring you into how connected you are, and how much you depend on everything else. I think we just literally need reminders in our face all the time that we're not that important. We're not that big a deal, in that way.

Emma: I'm really interested in this question and I think there's so, so many ways I can do more beautiful work around this than I do with young children. One thing I am really interested in is, pretty much every year—and this is really for me connected to teaching about the invention of race—most years we start with doing an evolution curriculum. Preschoolers are relentlessly interested in dinosaurs. It's like incredible phase that I've learned so much about dinosaurs. I think there's something very, very interesting about a world without humans with these other fantastical creatures. But when you study evolution... I mostly teach three to five year olds, and it's hard for me with a grown up brain to conceptualize huge amounts of time. It's extra hard when you're three to consider what hundreds of millions or billions of years means. And doing work around evolution I think is really interesting with kids because it's impossible to ignore the fact that we are just a blip in the history of this earth, and that the Earth had literally billions of years of life and changes and animals and plants and destruction and rebirth, without us. And so I think in a sort of deep but maybe not extremely explicit way, doing work around the history of the world to me is really connected to that. Because you can't argue that we're at the center of anything, when you look at the 3.4 billion years that we are at the very, very end of.

Eric: Yeah. And I'm reminded, Emma and I, we've known each other for a long time, but we most recently crossed paths down at the lake front when I was perch fishing and you had one of your very young friends with you. And that sparked questions and an interest in touching the fish. I don't remember if there was an interest in holding the fish or not. I think a lot about subsistence practices because it's something that's an integral part of my life. And it was an integral part of my life when I was very young. My dad introduced me to fishing when I was probably four. So I've always had that relationship with different forms of subsistence, and what kind of subsistence was most important in my life has changed over time, and broadened. I know it can be challenging for some people to have access to places where you can do those things legally and safely.

Emma: Eric, I'm interested in your answer to that question you posed to us.

Eric: Yeah, well, I guess my answer is probably integrally tied to subsistence, and thinking about when you talk about your ancestors, most of us—I'm making a generalization, because it's not always true—think of people. And I think really the only thing physically, in my body, that I got from my parents is not even a molecule anymore, it's a pattern, my DNA pattern. All the molecules that are part of my body have come from the things that I've eaten over the course of my life, mostly within the last three years, because that's about the amount of time it takes for your body to rotate through atoms and molecules and things like that. So if I think of where I come from, I come more from yellow perch, and red oaks (I eat a lot of acorns), deer, I come a lot more from those than I do from my parents. Those are more real ancestors to me, it feels like in my body, than my parents are. Which is not to say that my parents are unimportant, and grandparents, and on and on. I think that's another way of thinking about this broader issue of connection. Who are you from? Who are you made from? When you're three years old, you can argue that some of those atoms that you got from mom and mitochondrial DNA are probably still there. By the time you're 20, that's all gone and you're made of something else, you're descended from someone else.

Grace: Yeah, I think it is so much connected to the body, and coming back to the body. I'm always amazed in our conversations with grownups how you can access so much of the conversations with kids by going to history, connecting to history. And it makes me think about the systems that have disrupted it are ones that want to control our time, because if you control someone's time you control their bodies. It's not a coincidence that there's campaigns around CRT, and about that unspoken request to erase people, or erase history, or historical context.

Eric: Yeah, it does make sense. And I think that whole argument that's going on, it has been going on for a number of years quietly, but maybe in the last couple years a lot more loudly, is also about erasing things that leave certain types of white people very unsettled. It's about erasing sources of discomfort.

Grace: Yes, for sure.

Eric: And those two things are not unrelated at all.

Grace: And again, comes back to the body. That's where we feel the discomfort.

Eric: Yeah. And the different checkout practices that people have. When you've got power, one of your checkout practices that you get really good at is finding ways to tell people to stop talking. Finding ways to silence those people.

Grace: I've been interested in learning more types of grief practices that you can incorporate. That can look many, many different ways, but that it be deliberate, that we make time to hold that space. Grief feels many different ways, so just to hold that space as essential in antiracist practice. And the other thing that we do is hold space for joy, and other kinds of movement in our body. We sometimes do dance breaks in classes. It's literally to shake and reset, depending on how you dance. Some people get much more smooth, in a way to reset the nervous system, and it's a wonderful practice. And it's one of the few times in most adults day that they're moving without obligation of production, or through someone else's authority for some reason.

Eric: Yeah. You talked about movement practices, dancing and shaking and some of the different ways that people think of clearing out our immune systems. I think a lot about lymphatic systems, and how we have our circulatory system, which has this heart as a pump, and it moves the blood around. And our lymphatic system is at least as important as our blood because it's the fluid that removes all the toxins and excess hormones and all those things, but we don't have an organ that actually serves as the pump in our lymphatic system. That system evolved to use movement as the natural pump, and the lymphatic system has all these one-way valves throughout it so that fluid goes one way but not the other. Staying sedentary means a stagnant lymphatic system, and that has all kinds of cascading impacts in people's bodies.

Grace: Absolutely.

Emma: I did not know that about the lymphatic system. Thank you.

Eric: I feel like we are getting close to wrapping this up. I wonder of the two of you, either one of you, have any final thoughts you'd like to offer, or questions you wanted to pose, or comments you'd like to make?

Grace: Just being grateful for people in family and extended family. I just am so grateful for the day that I was introduced to Emma's work, and being able to work with her and how much I have learned and how much more access I've been given to my own heart and integrating all those things that we've been talking about. So, yeah, thank you. And thank you, Eric, for giving me the opportunity to say it, and record it.

Emma: This is going to sound like me and Grace processing our friendship, but Grace, I love you very, very, very much and doing this work with you has... It's impossible to imagine doing it without you. And aside from our work, like on record, Grace's an unbelievably incredible friend, to me and to the people in her life. So I'm deeply grateful for that Grace.

Grace: Thanks Emma.

Eric: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Quillwood Podcast. Again, you can find links to the Full Story School, and the Freedom Means Podcast that Grace and Emma host in the show notes of this episode. Head over to quillwood.org, go to the offerings menu, click on the podcast, and click on this episode and you'll find those.

That is all for this episode. This is Eric Garza signing off.

Until we meet again, walk softly and take good care.