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At Home in Transition
I have a map in my head, but on the terrain of my body I’m lost.
What did it feel like to read the tweet about the article detailing the increase in freshwater in the Arctic? Did it feel like something changed? Or did it feel the same, with the train rattling by in the dark, someone feeding the cows a few fields over, half a moon in the sky and a worry about where home is now.
This year summer was just something we had to get through. I was writing another newsletter for this week, about something other than the looping thoughtstorm on location and feeling displaced I keep returning to. But these thoughts always resurface when I’m traveling. I don’t know which coast I’m cut out for, and I don’t know how long I can go between them—I would prefer not to be rootless—but I like the perspective I gain on both of my homes from the back and forth.
If you live in the northeast, you’re in a constant state of judgment of other people’s weather. Air quality in California? Sooty. Flooding in Louisiana thanks to hurricanes? Levee-busting. Excessive heat in Tucson? Debilitating. It makes no sense to New Englanders why anyone would live anywhere else. Winter would be the rejoinder, except that they’ve become so well-adapted as to be lost without its presence. I’m guilty of this. I love the snow, and every short, dark season I spend without it I get more and more confused, powder-sick even though I’m not a skier, a migrator dispersed without the soft depression of tracks to follow back.
I remember feeling most at home when I still knew nothing beyond a small town, though I know I wrote in journals about leaving forever. This also means I felt most at home in-place when I was not yet in-transition. I think about what I had then—a secure sense of place that I felt crammed into—versus what I have now—a strong sense of self, a lover and a growing career, without a place to put it. Is it just a product of age? Of growing away from family and finding oneself? Is it overeducation? Is it a product of living in this evolving now of evercrisis, which seems to repeat faster and faster, clearing out the corners where residue of place could have been found? Is there just less ‘place’ to go around in late-stage capitalism (I hate using this term because who knows what horrors await us still, but it’s zingy). Or is it just my own stubbornness and resistance to being rooted wherever I am?
I find myself in a bodyworld of my own making, having spent so much time internally and physically building myself, that when I look out onto the world I’m lost. Maybe this is the way it is for anyone who writes and thinks about their place in the world too much, who toggles between rural and city, who can’t decide where to stay for long. When I’m in Portland, I dream of the farms I grew up with and the quick paths to treed places, but when I’m outside the city limits I see the spreading plague of Trump signs and Thin Blue Line flags the size of houses flying above car dealerships. (And yes, I know this is happening here, too, but not as often, and usually it’s “bused in” from outside the city. Is this an excuse? Maybe.)
Increasingly I turn to the smallest moments on which no other person can intrude. The semiwild unripe apple puckering my mouth. The perfect rosette of sheep dung on the rock. I want to dissolve myself in the solution of small sensations. If this is a winnowing or a waxing I don’t know. Really that quote should read something like ‘maps grow useless over time. i’m most at home in the country of my body, and out in the world is where things seem most strange’.
What I’m Reading
Even though I finished it a few months ago, this space is overdue for a shoutout to John Elizabeth Stintzi’s novel Vanishing Monuments, out earlier this year from Arsenal Pulp Press, because it so beautifully explores many of the themes of memory and home and gender that I think about often. It was a busy spring, so if you missed it, don’t worry you can go and snap it up now!
I’m also very excited to be back to my home library in Portland, building another queue, including Silver, Sword, and Stone: Three Crucibles in the Latin American Story, which I’ve been excited for since reading Álvaro Enrigue’s rave review last year. Socially-distanced library pickup, here I come.
What I Wish I Was Reading
I’d love to read others on their struggle to find a home, or home-feeling, especially from trans writers.
Know something that sounds like this? Writing something like this yourself? Get in touch!
Future Tense Books is open for no-fee manuscript submissions for fiction and nonfiction until October 1
Uncanny Magazine is open for both fiction and nonfiction submissions, up to 6000 words. Pays $.10 /word
The call for papers is open until January 15, 2021 for issue 9.1 of Trans Studies Quarterly, the “t4t” issue, guest edited by Cameron Awkward-Rich and Hil Malatino. First-person accounts, shorter essays, opinion pieces, poetry, and artwork will be considered in addition to scholarly work.