nothing is still on earth

a t4t love letter

author’s photo of a canefield when doing some filming with their girlfriend

nothing is still on earth is a love letter written by artist, ada maricia patterson.

dedicated to ark ramsay, a writer (and ada’s girlfriend), the letter reflects on the love they share and their complicated relationship to barbados, the island they were born to.

with a tangled weave of references, nothing is still on earth jumps between discreet and dangerous teenage memories, the writings of nella larsen, steven universe quotes, the mysteries of canefields, characters in an unpublished novel, sinking feelings around sinking islands, and bastardized queer theories.

hoping to rehabilitate their relationship to a place that was once left behind, this love letter asks what it means to heal together after having survived apart.

dear ark, 

 you wrote me a letter maybe a year ago. maybe a little longer than that. i can’t remember  what you wrote in it but i remember it was the first time seeing your handwriting. that letter  made its way across the atlantic to find me, from some midwest city i’d never heard of, to a  home in rotterdam, though you sometimes think i’m in denmark. i’m happy the letter didn’t  go to denmark. 

i’m happy i didn’t go to denmark either. in the left of my room, i’m reminded that i found a  secondhand copy of nella larsen’s quicksand at the bookstore the other day. i don’t need to  read it again to remember how desperately helga crane kept moving just to stay alive. just to  stay where she belonged; that is, on the move. her flights led helga to denmark, among other  places and people, and it was only her fleeing that ever felt right. she could not bear to settle,  lest she get caught in the snare of other people’s expectations, pulls and desires for her, which  clung to her like… yes, quicksand. 

to my right sits saidiya hartman’s wayward lives, beautiful experiments, which i carried  with me back across the atlantic. its epigraph, lifted from that same quicksand

she was, she knew, in a queer indefinite way, a disturbing factor. 


i couldn’t anticipate yesterday. 

i couldn’t anticipate that a wander through the canefields would take us back to farley hill. it’s  funny—and by funny, i mean harrowing—how a canefield can take you where you didn’t know  you needed to be. i couldn’t anticipate the time travel of canefields—that they could lead us to  a farley hill now and a farley hill 9 years ago. 

i am reminded of the place of canefields in your novel and how they hold hidden worlds of  possibility. how your passage through them could be a transformation in itself. how each journey, each dangerous move your characters make always feels like a crossing of cane, even  when there’s not a field to be seen. 

remembering your novel, i am reminded of faridi returning to the island—returning from the  dead—risking a lock of red teeth sinking into her, just to find the fragments of herself still  haunting the grounds. 

that canefield led us back to farley hill—one of our haunts—to pick up all those pieces of  our little former selves. all that once could’ve been. all that is now no longer possible. and so, we love each other now, in one of the only ways possible; grief. 

i can only really see that dilapidated playground slide through the kanga i made for you. to  wrap that memory in kanga is to condemn it to a cloth. you can hold it and it might even keep  you warm, but a blanket is not a portal home. even its real counterpart is now condemned, a  faded laminated printout heralding: 

“danger! out of order!” 

yes, it is out of order. 

i remember toni & etta chasing hurricanes—toni, thinking that storms could help him surface  all those drowned and unspeakable truths. i remember that they only ever left his thoughts  scrambled, fragmented and scattered. and i remember how those storms just spat him out not  knowing, how they just left him swirling and smalling-up with more and more hurtful silences.  he could follow their directions, sure, like the ungenerous dos and don’ts of co-star, but  he could never really make sense of where the storms were taking him. 

and yes, we did live dangerously. 

i refuse to remember who lee edelman is but our queer death drives looked like drunken rides  through the slipp’ry slipping hills of the east coast. we might as well have been driving across  the coral. our queer death drives always pulled us to the harrowing swirl of the atlantic and  other kinds of distressed edges.  

i told you yesterday that these edges are the only quiet places i know 

for people like us.


i find another kind of quiet in re-watching steven universe (again). do you remember lapis  lazuli? do you remember how she was trapped in a mirror, how her gem was broken and how  she could no longer fly? do you remember how she took the world’s oceans and raised them  to a spire, miles and miles into space? she was just trying to get home. she couldn’t fly and she  just wanted to leave. 

and remember when she regained her flight? her once familiar homeworld was no longer  there to be returned to. it only existed in memory. 

and do you remember how she ended up bound in a hateful relationship, held at the bottom of  the ocean, beneath the crushing weight of water? 

lapis reminds me a lot of faridi. her affinity with the ocean. having power over it, and feeling  its power over her. always feeling trapped. always leaving. always on the run. 

to be trapped in a mirror: you are trapped in other people’s reflections of yourself. they can’t  see you. they can only see what they want of you; that is, they can only see themselves. and  when she couldn’t shine back what they wanted of her, she was cast aside—dead enough. 

to be trapped underwater bound to someone else: you run so far out—off the coast, off  the grid—you don’t realize you’ve been treading water. you don’t realize you’ve already  drowned. you’ve drowned and the lack of oxygen is making you dream. you dream that life is  livable in a midwest town tethered to someone with whom love is just another memory. you  dream that you can breathe underwater. and maybe you can. you’ve made it this far. 

i want to resurface a conversation between lapis and steven: 

lapis: no matter where i go, i’m trapped. 

steven: but you’re not. you’re not underwater. you’re not in the mirror. this time  you’re free.  

lapis: but i’m still on earth. 

steven: yeah, but nothing is still on earth. everything’s always changing. this isn’t  the same world that held you prisoner, not anymore. and i know it doesn’t feel like  home but maybe that can change too. i know you can’t go back to homeworld but if  you stay here, it’ll be your choice to stay here. 

i know you can’t go back but, if you stay here, it’ll be your choice to stay here. i know you can’t stay here but, if you go, it’ll be your choice to go. 

i feel a bit of both of these when i think about you. 

on a playground slide that wasn’t always condemned, 

on a playground slide that has always been dangerous 

because of the danger we incited there 

part of me wishes we could’ve stayed there, 

part of me wishes we could go back there. 

and all of me knows this is, not only selfish but, impossible. 

and all of me knows to go back there means to condemn the both of us  to all that wordless hurt, to live hardly-living lives. 

and for the hardly-living, 

a life is only worth living 

by driving deathly near the edge. 

and so, we both had to leave all of that behind. 


drifting back to steven universe for a little moment, do you remember peridot? do you  remember how she was excommunicated from her home for disobeying orders? 

i want to surface a little exchange between her and steven: 

peridot: i don’t have memories of it, just feelings. i know i can never go back to  homeworld but, it’s hard not to have some feelings for where you came from. but it’s  fine, i have something different now. 

steven: what’s that? 

peridot: you know… you guys.

there is something about this place that had found itself sunken into us, that we had found  ourselves sunken into. the sense of isolation was so saddening to read in your novel, because  i’ve known it. because i’ve lived it. thinking that the only way out was alone. 

i stand by my suggestion to foreshorten the title to “red teeth”. it is not just about the island.  it is not just an island. when those teeth sink into you, starfish severing their own limbs from  unbearable dysphoric conditions makes perfect sense. they are trying, at all costs, to get away  from the danger. but this danger is not some kind of hounding predator; it is the very water  you’re living in. it is the very world you’ve been born to. 

so, when faridi and toni learn to survive in singularity, an older, more tender and broken-up  clod of myself resonates with such a complicated soreness. when places like ours teach us to  survive on our own, to get out on our own, when the time finally comes to heal, when the time  comes to live, we find ourselves back in the grip of those teeth, thinking it all must always be  done on our own. i know i said this yesterday but i want to resurface it as a gentle reminder to  us both: 

nobody said healing had to happen alone 

i’m happy we can be here for each other in our healing. it really feels like the space we hold  between us can be our own gentle place

with a flashlight love that keeps the waves at bay, 

with a canefield love that moves us wherever we need to be, 

with the complicating, clarifying love of hurricane survivals and 

with the kind of love that outlives condemned playground slides and foreclosed island futures,