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Planting Foreign Trees

My sister helped me plant a cottonwood tree in my yard, and then my sister planted me.

J P is a tree.

제피는 나무입니다.

My blood is tree.

I spent 3 hours rooting in the earth with this cottonwood tree, which is not an indigenous species to New Mexico. I acknowledge that I am also a foreign body, an uninvited settler on stolen land. I perceive that my urge to encode ritual and story into land respects the land and connects human to place. Diaspora becomes un-alien through connection to land. I experienced joy being watered by my sister and rooting with this very young tree, and the tree taught me to grow and Be in my shape. It taught me to open fully to the light and possibility even when fear and peril is present. This very young tree also taught me something inexplicable - it taught me to die. It taught me that even in demise, my body will nourish those around me, particularly those I am bound to at the roots.

The trees have taught me so much, including that my shape and pace as a tree is an honoring of the Shape of Me: a person who is bigender and bicultural and a site of integration. They taught me that it is perfectly natural that My Jender is Tree.

A number of Asian people I am in community with speak of being perceived of as foreign, being in-between, floating in space, feeling voiceless and invisible, and ghostlike. This has come up in the stories shared in my project with Artists at Work called My Story is Golden. Many Asian Americans speak of the desire to root. The trees teach me to root in this time-space and tell me I belong. It is complex to root and stimulate indigeneity in the place we occupy as uninvited settlers on stolen land. I also perceive that the urge to encode ritual and story into land is our path to belonging.

I feel the strength of my community, the land, the trees, and the communal urge to root.

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