A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

A copy of Alicia Elliott's A Mind Spread Out on the Ground with granite and dry grasses in the foreground, and pine trees in the distant background.
near Maxson Trailhead, Me-Wuk, Yokuts, Mono lands, August 2022

Alicia Elliott is a Haudenosaunee writer whose essay collection A Mind Spread Out on the Ground I read this summer. I keep returning this passage:

“We untangle the threads of history and treat the wounds we find underneath. We listen to one another, support one another, resist our impulses to rewrite one another, to steer one another. We try to understand our distinct physical, emotional, spiritual and mental needs and meet them as best we can.”

The passage is from Boundaries Like Bruises, and while the essay is about a particular, intimate relationship (about her love with “a settler man”), it also offers a vision for our broader “we,” that these could be promises and practices that we offer one another.

I think about “the wounds we find underneath” and how challenging it can feel to consider healing them. There are wounds we carry individually, as families, as communities, as societies. It’s significant to me that Elliott uses the word “treat” rather than “heal.” To “heal” suggests that the wound should be closed up, resolved– and the larger and deeper the wound, the more daunting this can seem, the more impossible. To “treat” the wound, on the other hand, is to offer an ongoing act, open-ended; the wounds may not heal, but we will continue to practice care regardless.