Almond-scented bubble bath

Almond-scented bubble bath is a list-poem first written after I co-hosted a month-long international residency in 2017 for more than 60 activists, artists and social innovators in Slovenia. The residency was an invitation for the group to sit with the question: how can we live together differently in face of unprecedented social, economic and ecological global crises? [see: https://www.gorcaearthcare.org/summer]

There were incredible teachings that emerged in this residency – some very joyful, many very painful. We have hosted smaller residencies in 2018 and 2019 since then and incorporated what we have learned in the process.

The poem below represents what we were taught when we insisted on the hosting principle of “giving people what they need”. The poem offers a list of what people felt was essential for them to feel safe and happy during the residency.

Poem: Almond-scented bubble bath

a bubble bath
almond scented bubble bath
sugar and cream
sugar and cream
towels
towels
more towels
coffee
coffee
better coffee
validation
pat on the back
audience
applause

a way of not feeling empty
a way of not feeling shitty
a way of not feeling guilty
a way of not feeling privileged
a way of not feeling worthless
a way of feeling important
a way of feeling empowered

a cup of coffee?
sugar and cream
warm water
warmer water
hot water
pecans
wallnuts
sunflower seeds
cigarettes
smokes
tobacco
a lighter
a bigger lighter

shaving kit
washing detergent
clothes softener
borrowed shorts
borrowed t-shirt
a long string
a rope
a skateboard
babysitting for my kids
so that I won’t miss any opportunities

coke
pepsi
juice
lemonade
wine
praise
manioc flour (coarse)
black beans
pinto beans
chick peas
meat
different meat
tastier meat
chocolate

vegetarian food
vegan food
paleo food
kombucha
coffee
your stories of pain
white sugar
brown sugar
icing sugar
validation
butter
salty butter

compensation for historical violence
redemption for whiteness
my self-image celebrated
a way to “move forward”
a way to feel “pure”
a warm fuzzy feeling
recognition for a heroic act
affirmation of innocence
affirmation of virtue
yoga
chi-gong
your favourite furniture for my kids to paint

a hammock
more sugar
olive oil then
nutella
your time
your trust
your labour
a selfie with you
mosquito repellent
your ears for my stories
your praise

sesame paste
peanut butter
an elastic band
herbal tea
your attention
to be the centre of the group’s attention
more coffee
better coffee
a charging chord
trauma compensation
financial compensation

shampoo
shampoo for dyed hair
your brain
conditioner
a fan
a larger fan
a safety blanket
a bedtime story
some tucking in
some coddling
some cuddling
your body

a sewing kit
clean socks
hugs
your computer
your analysis
an adaptor
your phone
your leadership
your internet
a laxative
medicine for diarrhea

your loyalty
your dreams
all my perceived entitlements met
baby spinach!

Post-script:

Through experiments like this, we have learned that, since we are immersed in a hyper-individualistic, consumerist and comfort-seeking social culture, it is very difficult (for all of us) to discern between needs and wants and to interrupt addictive patterns of consumption. This includes the consumption of food (especially sugar, coffee and fat – or alternatively “healthy food”), of “stuff” (material comforts and distractions, including technology) but also of relationships, experiences, spaces, labour and knowledge.

We are taught to see the world as a supermarket of sensations and the interruption of that fantasy, without which we cannot work towards something different, is not necessarily something people would willingly choose to do.

Our last residency was marked by a heated argument over a perceived need for baby spinach (which was unavailable due to a draught). This argument prompted a change of hosting direction: our residency programs now include fasts during the day (and no coffee, sugar or alcoholic beverages on site) as an invitation to de-center our consumptive addictions, to declutter our existence, to discern between distractions and important stuff, to disinvest in harmful desires so that we can have the time, vitality and metabolic guidance to show up differently to the difficult work we will need to do together.

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