I’ve been a pulmonary refugee for some time, and have been obliged to join the geese and the butterflies and head to less acute climes when the native cold comes on. It’s probably extended my days. I was ongoingly grateful for the respite, and uneasy about the clear disfigurement of the locale that mass migration of the seasonal kind inflicts. My reasons for going weren’t any more noble or mandatory than anyone else’s. I couldn’t get clear of the tourism thing. I did two podcasts on the matter with Chris Christou’s End of Tourism. The trouble of the thing doubled down.

Half way through the pandemic, as I was writing A Generation’s Worth, I saw a bit of graffiti in town, in foot-high letters: PUT ON YOUR FUCKING MASK GRINGO. I’ve toughed out the winters since then.

Now an invitation has come to Kimberly Johnson and myself to bring our kind of reckoning in real time to Maui, in the soot of last month’s calamities. The invitation comes from a lifelong resident of the place, someone who makes medicine in times of trouble. Kimberly has her own qualms and calibrations for this invitation which you can read on her site. For me, there’s no arc of intention that bathes the proposal in automatic goodness. We’d have a lot of work to do. There are piles of bad faith opprobrium awaiting, genuine misapprehension, all the rest.

Here’s why – after plenty of weighing the thing out – I’m going: someone on the ground figures that what Kimberly and I have seen and done, separately and together, might be useful in a time of trouble. And troubles abound now. Drastic diatribes about the troubles abound too.

I am not nor never have been persuaded that grief is a global constant, inevitably occurring, welcome or well understood. When that notion’s around, that’s globalization speaking. An awful lot of well intended people can’t pry grief from sadness and depression, anger and trauma. Grief and grievance are joined at the hip, more often than not.

Birth work and culture work and death work (where Kimberly’s work and mine find each other) have a lot of kinship, and that kinship’s medium is grief. Elderhood’s in short supply. Modernity’s taken care of that. Grief unmediated by elderhood is lethal business.

I’ve written elsewhere about the sanctification of grievance, the holy grounding of righteous grudge. Here I’ll say that acres of conciliation have to be walked before reconciliation has a chance of taking root. And conciliation is the act of sitting at table, an acknowledgement of genuine, historically unsupported equity and mutual recognition governing the fellowship. Not sameness. Worth. God-givenness.

I offer this as a sometimes-farmer: Burnt earth has fecund motility. There’s mystery to go with the fugitive mercies.

Stephen Jenkinson

Founder of Orphan Wisdom