Untitled photo


This searching message has stayed with me for years.

I don't know who Dorian is, or who has their birthday today. Possibly everything was fine, except that someone was momentarily annoyed he missed their party, and they happened to be standing near a utility box that had a can of white paint nearby. Perhaps Dorian showed up for brunch the next morning, contrite and with a wonderful gift. I shouldn't make up stories that assume the worst.

But I doubt that that's what happened.

This message is in a bleak spot, under a crumbling elevated highway that cuts across the lake-edge of the city. To live nearby means you either have practically everything or almost nothing. To be standing in this spot means either finding yourself entrapped by bad urban design, with no safe way to proceed against the valuable flow of high-speed traffic, or else to be specifically looking for this kind of hole in the city.

It was taken at the end of September, way back in 2018.

I hope everyone was okay.

There's been so much loss.

When this is all over – or at least settled in – I'd be grateful for a national day of mourning. One day to collectively pause and recognize everything that's changed, and how much it has hurt. November last year the profound friend who was with me when I recorded this photo ended his experience with cancer; in the previous May my eldest brother was suddenly gone. Solitary grieving is so hard, especially knowing that my loss is so much less than others. Two spouses lost their partners, four amazing kids lost their dad. And on that same day in May a handcuffed man in Minneapolis was murdered by one cop while three others watched.

When I hear people talk about "recovery" it's invariably about some abstract measure of financial activity. As if that's what matters.

There's so much more to recover from.

So much more that needs to be built back, better and stronger. Recognizing the entire range and spectrum of loss and its trauma, from the personal to the societal. To recognize the harm we've endured, and minimize the harm we cause. To valuing Black and Indigenous lives. To recognizing that the people making their homes under highways and in parks deserve better than hostile architecture and police raids. To treating addiction as a health issue, not a criminal one. To paid sick days, and to a livable base income for everyone. To stopping the massive damage that so few are doing to so many.

To know that the people you care about are happy and somewhere safe on your birthday.