Hello from the farm. Things are ramping up around here, and we are all knee deep in peaches, cucumbers, and even some mid-summer apples. The past few weeks we’ve gotten into a rhythm of hosting friends and hanging out with guests. It’s been sweet to have more energy on the farm, especially when people are down to jump in and work– the more hands on deck, the more time we have to pile in the truck and go to our local lake to swim, float, and bask in the sun.
That said, the world continues to feel heavy. I’ve been listening to the news and following social media around the recent murders of Black folks along with the surge of Black Lives Matter protests. Police are committing unacceptable and heartbreaking genocide against Black and brown people in America. The continued resistance and community-led actions against this violence are inspiring. When I travel to the Bay Area weekly to work at the farmers’ market, I almost never see or hear acknowledgement of either the murders or the resistance. That’s not okay. Yes, we are all going about our lives, some of which are impacted significantly more or less than others by systemic violence. But how can we go about our lives to the degrees we need to, while also acknowledging violence and supporting resistance against it?
A frequent conversation Eli and I had with hosts on our road trip was about the level and type of political awareness and engagement in rural spaces and on land projects, particularly around white supremacy. People had many different perspectives on living rurally in community, and how that relates to oppression in the rest of the world. A note of clarification: most of rural white America’s families have been working class for generations. The majority of people Eli and I met living rurally in community don’t share that background, but instead have class privilege and often had migrated from cities.
On one community’s shared bulletin board, we saw several people write that they felt the community was devoid of racism. (“Sidenote,” the ~90 person community was almost entirely white). In another, we spoke to a couple young people who felt concerned about racial struggles and issues centralized in urban areas, but weren’t quite sure how to connect with the issues while living so geographically separately. One of them said he saw the micro-culture he was helping to create through permaculture as his connection to movement work for justice — that he hoped his work could be part of the foundation for the post-revolution world.
A part of me rolls my eyes at the aforementioned young man’s hope of laying the foundation for a better world. But in humility I remind myself that I am among abundant white leftists who have at least once taken up residence in a gentrifying city and promptly jumped into activist communities to oppose gentrification. Contradictions are real and they don’t delegitimize a cause or the work around it. The mass migration of young white people (queers especially) to gentrifying cities doesn’t feel quite right, but neither does the growing sentiment of escaping to utopian white communities in the countryside. Of course, POC-led land projects and rural organizing spaces exist — I had the privilege of visiting a couple including Soul Fire Farm, and was inspired and humbled by the integrity and resilience of their work and presence on land.
Our lives are connected, our struggles are connected, our liberation is connected. How can those of us living rurally or otherwise in insulated communities stay engaged and support movement work? In what ways do our “alternative” communities enforce systems of oppression and in what ways do they challenge them? What would it mean to create communities that aren’t just insulated alternatives, but rather, communities that are inclusive of populations most vulnerable to capitalism’s harms? And what does it mean to challenge systems of oppression while occupying indigenous land?
I appreciate the questions my friends, community, and networks ask, and the support they offer to push me beyond my comfort zone. I continue to think and feel a lot about state violence, institutional racism, and the avoidable loss of black lives. I am grateful to be able to struggle in connection with others, and share support in the ways I am able.
the following is an interview with my friend mana as part of my home project. i met mana through my partner eli. eli and mana used to live in community at earthaven, which mana calls home today.
What’s your name and where are we today?
My name is Mana and we are in an eco-village called Earthaven in the United States of America on a lovely spring day.
Is there a place you consider you home of origin?
My home of origin is Holland, the Netherlands. That’s where I was born and where I lived the first 27 years of my life, in a small farming town about 20 minutes outside of Amsterdam. I feel like I had a rural and a city upbringing.When I went to high school in Amsterdam, the kids there thought I was a farm girl, but back in my town, I was more like a town girl.
When you think of that home, what are sights, sounds, smells that come to mind?
The sights and smells and sounds are very much of the fields around my house. My parents moved in to a new neighborhood of row houses when I was a baby. It was all very straight, but right outside my neighborhood was still fields of green where they farmed. Now that I’m 40, they’re also neighborhoods, unfortunately. Back then it was still fields that birds inhabited. There are smells of manure — there’s actually a Dutch verb for it, but it’s misting cow poop on the field, which is just a delicious smell to me. One of my mom’s friends said she wanted perfume of that because she liked it so much. The sounds are definitely birds. Me and my friends used to go field tripping in all those fields and go on big adventures and try to find bird eggs and we were full of amazement about all those sounds. The spring in Holland is explosive. It goes from nasty gray to sudden full life like a Disney movie. Everything just starts to come alive, like tiny little baby ducks and baby geese and baby fish and baby lambs and cows. It’s the best season of the year in Holland. Those sounds and smells of everything coming alive is home.
What ways have homes that you’ve visited, made, or been a part of — how has that resembled your home of origin in feeling or physical quality?
Looking at my life, being a grown up, traveling, and visiting lots of different places, there’s always a similar thread to how I was raised — there needed to be strong connection to nature.
I traveled to New Zealand and Australia and Spain and other European countries and the United States and there was always this feeling: I want to hear and smell nature as much as possible. I love visiting cities — the honks and cracks and sirens — but it doesn’t make me feel at home at all. The home part is always like, let me hear the birds, let me wake up with the sun in my face. The things I remember from living in Australia for a couple years are the sound of the kookaburra, the jungle, the roar of the ocean, and the smells of the trees. That’s always been the link to feeling really at ease in my soul, and feeling at home in places.
You said when you’re in a city that it doesn’t feel like being at home. So when you do feel at home, how does that feel in your mind, body, soul?
There’s the feeling and connection to nature, but there’s also the people. I feel like I could create a home on this planet wherever but I have to have a group of people with me that I can depend on and work with and share support with and have a life together. I have a family now, two kids and a husband, and the four of us couldn’t do it on a lonely street. I feel incredibly that my home is my neighbors and my friends and my community. I can also see that those people can be interchanged with a different group of other people. Not my family though. I don’t want any other kids or a different husband necessarily (laughs).
Home is intertwined with a combination of feelings inside me, like, I wanna feel free to explore nature right outside my door, and I wanna feel super connected to my people on a daily basis. When I walk outside my door and I sit and have a cup of coffee with my next door neighbor, that’s home to me. Just immediate and approachable and really… there.
Can you tell me a little bit about Earthaven, your current geographical home?
I’ve lived here for nine years, and I think I’ll live here another nine years. This is an eco-village in the mountains in the Blue Ridge mountains of the Appalachia of the East Coast of the United States. It’s a rural village of many homes, about 70 people or so — we all live pretty close together on a plot of 325 acres. We believe in dense population, and leave a bunch of untouched nature. We farm some, but only on the flatlands, and we leave the steep hills for birds and foxes and whatever else roams here. Actually we don’t like foxes too much cos they steal our chickens… (laughs)
I see a lot of my neighbors’ buildings, and I usually can hear their conversations, and I can hear their kids. I can hear the dinner bell of a community co-op kitchen close by, where about five members always eat together. My kids run into my neighbors’ house all the time and vice versa. There’s a constant mix of people. Right now it’s very quiet and I can hear the birds. It’s morning where the sun’s really warm and there’s trees everywhere. We live in the forest. There’s a big mountain behind me where my house is burrowed into the mountain, so that feels very cozy.
I feel like when some people choose to live rurally, they’re intentionally seeking isolation. It seems like that’s very much not the point of being here in this community.
For sure. The importance of being together out in the woods is that element of, we’re all together, way the F out there. (laughs) If it was just one family way out in the boonies, we’d be incredibly isolated. We’re doing this together. Together we make a life. There’s cookouts, and dances, and morning market, and scrabble night, and singing night, if you want to, or you can be totally by yourself if you’re not into all that.
What I really appreciate about living together is being supportive when something goes wrong in a crisis or health situation. I’ve had two babies born in my house here on the land, and then the support that comes through that is just such wealth, and that makes me feel so at home. I didn’t have to cook a single meal for three weeks straight after I had a baby. Everybody took care of everything.
My best friend in Holland was in the process of dying so I had to fly back and forth between here and there. Usually you can’t just up and leave your kids and your husband behind and go travel to Holland that many times. But I could because we had such a strong support network of friends and neighbors who jumped in and took care of my kids and some financial issues, not just once, but three times. So the wealth is very spread out.
That’s amazing. You touched on a couple things I was interested in asking you about, in terms of how they impact your relationship to home. One was coming from Holland to the US. I am also curious about having the boys.
It’s definitely been very hard to say goodbye to my homeland. It’s funny how I became so much more nationalistic. I appreciated Holland when I lived there, but then I moved away and I was like maaaan, I miss it! And Holland is so awesome and where’s my licorice and where’s my liberal views! That got amplified. Missing home has definitely been an element that I’ve lived with more and more. When I first moved away, if I would talk about going home, that would mean going back to the Netherlands. Over time, when I now say I’m going home, I mean this house and this place. So that’s shifted. It comes with some grief. I still feel I have two homes, and that my homeland will never change.
My home, though, is where my heart is now. I’ve invested for nine years in this place, and I’ve created a home here. I wouldn’t feel too comfortable moving away from here back to the Netherlands; I don’t know what my life would look like. I think that ties in a lot with having kids. To see them experience this place as home amplifies my sense of home. I love for them to run out of the house and run to the creek, and go find crawdads, and throw rocks at a bird, or be interested in bugs. Nature is so direct for them and they’re so safe here. They can run and be gone for eight hours a day and I feel safe and that they’re not in any peril. I know not a lot of people in the entire world have this special way to raise their kids and that this is an incredibly special privilege for us.
I get the picture from some of your stories that you used to be more nomadic. I’m wondering how that has changed as you’ve put roots down here, and if having a family has impacted that.
I was a convicted traveler. I wasn’t gonna settle down or have a family at all. That was not part of the plan. For a good 15 years it was my philosophy to be a nomad and have no children and support the planet in its growth of whatever kind. I was more of an activist. I made my home where I was, in my truck, or in a tent. For the first four years in the united states, me and my husband were living out of a truck. We had our routine down. It was very satisfying and I didn’t want anything else.
I lost my dad at 30, and that started rattling the cage a little bit, and then at 32 I was starting to feel something. I’m like, what is this feeling? Is it a wanting-to-settle feeling? It was pretty scary. I remember having a recurring dream of a front door I wanted to close. I needed more privacy, because I was couch surfing, and always on somebody else’s turf, and always enjoying other people’s hospitality. I would volunteer for years on somebody’s farm through this organization called WWOOF — willing workers on organic farms. I was always on other people’s land and I was wanting to be on the other side. What would it be like to have people come visit me and have coffee at my table? I couldn’t really talk about it. I was way too scared; I was never gonna settle.
I couldn’t change very radically at first. Baby steps. I’m a carpenter, so I built a yurt for us that had a really pretty, very small front door. It was 21 foot across, which was a huge space for us. We knew we wanted to live with other people and so we had this plan of visiting five northeastern communities. We went to go investigate and we never left the first one we visited, which is this one — I’m still here, at Earthaven! We just stopped looking, ‘cos it was such a good fit.
Sounds like you went with your gut.
Yeah. We put up our yurt at a spot here at Earthaven, where we lived for a good three seasons, then we got chased out by mold. We eventually bought this house that was for sale and had no running water at the time. Then the thought of kiddos came up. We thought, if we do home births, we better get some running water. We might even want hot running water, whoa! So we renovated. Two weeks before I gave birth in my own home, we had the first hot running water coming out of our kitchen. That was exactly on time.
I was forced into settling for sure. Having a child creates a whole new experience of what it means to choose to settle down. It’s challenging for me because I’m a nomad still, but I’m dealing with it gracefully. Still learning. We always have the dream to bring the boys on the road with us and do some service work. We’re homeschooling them, so we don’t have to take them out of school. That would be my dream.
I’d love to hear more about what it was like to give birth in your home.
Home birthing is nuts, don’t try this at home. (laughs) Sounds incredibly romantic with candles and homemade soup and stuff, but it is crazy. I didn’t do it once, I did it twice. The thought behind it was hey, women have been doing this for thousands of years, so why the heck do I need a hospital? I got this. So I got a midwife. In North Carolina, it’s slightly illegal to do home births, so we had to lie to the authorities and say we were doing an unassisted birth. It felt nicely radical, trying something slightly under the radar. The first birth was a regular 12 hours, but the last two hours my babe got stuck. In the hospital they would have cut the baby out, no doubt about it, but in this case, I got a lot of praying and support from my midwife. Everybody was like: you got this, you can do this. My midwife said that for two hours straight and I believed her, and I pushed him out, and I thought I was dying and my baby was dying. It’s crazy to think we did it again, knowing full well that was a slightly dangerous situation, and realizing also, we’re willing to take a risk. We’re 45 minutes away form a hospital so that’s too far away for irregulaations. But also we were trusting that there’s been slightly dangerous situations for thousands of years and women can do this. It is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but you just need to have a coach who coaches you through it.
The second one took an hour and a half and he fell out of me, so that was great. I barely got dinner in my mouth when I had a baby. I was like ohhh, whoa, this is how you can have a baby also? It doesn’t have to be just horrible! It can just be excruciating and hard, which of course giving birth always is. That first experience of giving birth and being so humbled by the experience of being close to dying… I’ve never ever ever been this close to another realm. That experience put a definite twist on life. Like a change from one day to the next into somebody completely different who then needed to be settled. It helped me become more humble.
Wow, thank you for sharing. I’m gonna ask you the one question I’m asking everyone: in what ways are you seeking and making home, and in what ways have you found home?
How I’m seeking home is strengthening my relationships — being available to my friends and seeking help when I need it. Understanding that my social network is the most important part of a home. That’s what I strive for, to feed those relationships as much as I can.
It’s the same answer in how have I found home — in relationships. I’m so blessed to be in all these really intimate relationships. We have a good friend who comes over for Sunday morning breakfast — she’s my chosen sister, aunt to my kids, and part of the family. She introduced this rule — she said, please don’t ever host me when I come into your home, don’t ever think you have to put on a smile for me. Come as you are, and if it’s in a shitstorm, then still show up. You never have to entertain me or be anybody else than you are. I’m there, you’re there, and together we’ll just eat some bacon. You do not have to be in a good mood to be in relationship. That was so strengthening and that’s been my motto for a lot of relationships here and that’s been different from the friendship I used to create — which was like, I go see my friend over dinner with a bottle of wine, and we talk about each other’s lives and have a good time, and then it ends, and then I go home. That’s been different for nine years here. It’s absolutely not able even, to be like that with my neighbors. They see me in absolute misery, they see me in absolute joy, they see me in mediocre, they see me when I’m grumpy, and vice versa. I see them in all their moods ,and that’s what I want. That’s what I feel is the most precious about being at home.
I’m definitely aware of wanting to also have special private space, so I chose not to create a home in a co-op where you’re surrounded be a lot of other families or people at all times. I’ve lived like that before. That was great for the time I was in it, but raising children, I need some breaks. I need some times to be totally alone. I still have enough co-parents out there that are the parents of my boys’ friends. We do raise each others’ kids, but not to the point that we wake up together in the same house. I think that’s where I drew the line, that’s where I want my privacy, so I get to be in my nuclear family within a community, which is about as ideal as it gets for me. I get as much social touching and interaction as I want and then I can retreat in my own home. There’s so many co-decisions in a consensus-based ecovillage, where you’re making decisions all the time together, which I’m very passionate about. But I want to also say, and now I’m done, and this is my rule, and this is the only thing that goes, and I’m gonna go to bed now.
And you’re the mom.
I love that— you don’t have to be in a good mood to be in relationship. That’s such a succinct way of putting it. Is anything else coming up for you in the course of this conversation?
Since I’m a carpenter, I can forever build on my house. That’s the dream come true. to actually have this building to fiddle with, and it being, I’m not in debt to a bank, and it’s all just an incredible blessing. I’ve never wanted to rent a house ‘cos I wanna take walls out and that doesn’t really fly. The actual building of the home is within this building is really important to me. I don’t know what I’ll do with myself when I’m actually done building this building. I’ll start over.
You think you’ll be done?
Never. Because probably by the time I’m done with the addition, it all needs maintenance, cos owning a home also comes with having to constantly having to maintain it all. Refresh the beams, and the rafters, and put new gutters on. No, we’ll never be done. That’s definitely this yummy aspect of living off the grid on your own turf. I can do whatever I want with my house!
the following is an interview with my friend alex as a part of my home project. i met alex several years ago on twitter (where she tweets under the moniker @perverted_creep) and we conducted this interview in austin, texas, where she’s lived for the past several years.
What’s your name, and where are we today?
I’m Alex Link. We’re in Austin, Texas at Secret Beach.
What is a place you consider your home of origin?
Chicago, I guess. But I’ve always felt my real home of origin is California. I was born in Santa Monica. My parents were living there because my dad was getting his master’s degree at Pepperdine. The story goes, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake freaked my mom out a lot. Once my dad finished grad school they moved to Illinois, where my dad’s family is from and where my mom spent a good portion of her adolescence.
It sounds like you felt connected to California in spite of moving to the midwest at a very young age, and I’d like to hear more about what pulls you there and makes you feel like that’s your home.
I always have loved the ocean. I love the sunny warm weather. That’s something you don’t get a whole ton of growing up in the midwest. My family was just in Chicago for for eighteen years until my parents divorced, when me and my brother and sister were in our 20s. When I was a teenager I wasn’t getting along with my parents and I felt stifled by my life. I just wanted to get to California. I wanted to get as far away as possible.
When you think about home, are there sights, smells, sounds, feelings, sensory memories that come up for you?
When I think about home, I tend to think of the kitchen in my childhood home. That was the place that we spent a lot of time in. We had family dinners every night. The alternate entrance to our house was through the kitchen, where you’d go in if you were familiar with the house.
How do you feel when you think about being in that kitchen?
It brings up a lot of painful memories. I was doing EMDR — eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It’s a therapeutic technique that targets past memories and explores them with the goal of resolving trauma associated with that, and re-orienting problematic beliefs that arise from those memories. I did a lot of work in EMDR surrounding two specific memories that had their focal points in that kitchen space. I see that kitchen as a place that says ‘home’ to me, but also makes me feel like home wasn’t ever really my place. I always have felt displaced from the concept of home, because I’ve never felt super at home in what was ostensibly my own home as a child.
It seems like you’ve been doing a lot of intentional thinking and healing from that. I’m wondering how addressing that feeling of displacement has manifested in your life today in your relationship to home.
I’m still looking for my real home and finding pieces of it on my journey. I think home is something we create for ourselves through the things we take with us. Finding [my partner] Trevor and making a home with him has been therapeutic because it’s allowed me to think of a new way to approach home and family, another word that’s closely associated with home. I still feel restless and nomadic and like I’m trying to find my place. It’s not a specific location I’m looking for, but rather a confluence of feelings, space, and comfort — creating a place that is a source of respite and comfort when other places aren’t.
I’d love to hear your most hopeful vision of home, whether that’s a really amorphous thing described by feelings or a physical space you can tangibly imagine.
I want to have a house that has enough space where people can feel comfortable just coming by. I’ve always dreamed of having a really open home to people who need a place to hang out or want to go somewhere to feel comfy for a while. I want to make a place where people can feel the way that I never really felt. I want to have a welcoming space that creates community and that people know they can go to if they need help or if they just need a break or a kind word or a meal.
It sounds like a lot of your vision of home has to do with providing a home space for others, even if it’s a temporary one.
Yeah, that’s something that’s really important to me. I haven’t figured out exactly how to do that yet. I’m still taking care of a lot of my own shit. I don’t know if I want to have kids, but I’m sort of preparing myself to become a parent. What that means to me is to be able to be giving of myself in a way that is mutually nurturing. A lot of my life I’ve been giving of myself in a way that exhausted and depleted me, and I think part of having a home is about being giving and caring and nurturing in a way that sustains you and revitalizes you.
I think that’s really important, for relationships to be mutually nourishing. As we were talking about earlier, you said you spent much of your life caregiving in ways. As you’re going through this process of figuring stuff out for yourself, what have you come up with in terms of how you can have a home that is more mutually nurturing?
I feel like that dream is still really far off for me. Part of that vision includes me being older and a bit more settled, you know? I still feel like I’m not that at all. But when I think about spending time with you or my friends who I feel close to even though we don’t live in the same space, I realize the internet is my home in a lot of ways. The ways the internet has facilitated me cultivating long term relationships with friends, even when there’s lapses in communication — that’s the way I envision having my home in physical space, as well.
It seems like that would provide a sort of consistency when a lot of factors in your life might not be consistent as far as where you’re living or what you’re doing — having that way of staying connected.
I want people to know they can always count on me for a spot to stay, or a weed to smoke, or just to hang out and talk for a while. I definitely envision my home as being a space of constant conversation, and not just drunken small talk or shooting the shit. Trevor is always great at digging deep. I admire that about him. He has been a positive presence in my life and in the lives of people who’ve come into contact with him.
Frequently when people come to our home they tell us they feel very comfortable, like it’s an environment where they don’t feel like they have to be anyone other than themselves. That’s been hard for me, to feel like I can be myself at home. It’s hard to feel like you can be yourself anywhere when you’re not quite sure who you are or you have a lot of things from your past that are telling you not to be who you are.
It sounds like Trevor is an inspiring factor for creating and being in the home you want to be in. I’d love to hear more about that, and other forms of inspiration that fuel you and inspire you to help make the home you want to be in.
He definitely inspires me because he doesn’t shy away from the stuff that’s below the surface, and he’s taught me that the things that are going on below the surface are often what need the most attention because they can be the hardest to get at. He’s really great at understanding people. I feel like I have often let my fears about what people think of me distract from really connecting with people.
And it seems like connecting with people is a focal point of what you hope for in your home. I’d like to ask you the one question I’m asking everyone, which is: in what ways are you seeking and making home, and in what ways have you found home?
One way that I’m seeking home is that we have active plans to move to California. I feel like it’s more of a place for us than anywhere else. As far as already finding home, since I’ve been with Trevor for the past several years, I’ve been able to get in touch with who I really am in a way I’ve never thought I would be able to do. A big part of having an understanding of home is having a space inside yourself that carries that understanding where you can feel comforted and whole.
I associate that feeling a lot with God. My religious faith has been a source of a lot of comfort and understanding of my place in the world. I haven’t found my spiritual community yet, but my personal relationship with God and Jesus helps me feel like I have a spiritual home. It provides me with a huge sense of peace.
You’re the first person I’ve talked to who’s talked about both the internet and God as being homes, and those both seem like interesting and important places for you personally to find home, because those are things you can have pretty much anywhere you go.
They are! I need relationships like that, where no matter where I go I can still carry them with me. I feel unsettled in a lot of ways. I think part of that is growing up as a queer kid in a straight world, you often don’t feel like you have a place.
How has your queerness impacted your relationship with home?
I was in the closet for such a long time. In a way, being bisexual makes it easier to stay in the closet, because you can get along well enough as a ‘straight’ person, and all the ways that people talk about bisexuality and all of the tropes about being fake or indecisive, so I just ignored it for a really long time. I treated it like it was a personality trait or a matter of preference, like liking a band. Once I started really confronting my feelings about my own gender identity and sexuality, that was when I had to start thinking about a lot of other stuff too. It brought up a lot, and it’s taken me a long time to sift through all that and decide to be real about who I am.
What else has come up for you in this conversation about home?
I really like the song “This Must Be the Place” by Talking Heads. (singing) Home, that’s where I want to be, but I guess I’m already there…
Home can be wherever you are if the feeling is right.
i’ve begun farm work and am enjoying getting my hands dirty (and sticky) with peaches, berries, veggies, apples, and more. peach season has just begun, but with 40+ varieties of peaches to make the next few months flavorful, things are getting juicy around here. btw — i’d like to make the promise that i will avoid cliches and wordplay around peaches and other fruity matters, but honestly i’m not willing to give that up.
eli has led the peach processing/preserving efforts, and we’ve worked together to make peach/olallieberry jam, dehydrated peach chips (intended to be fruit leather, but turned out to be a rather crunchy delight), and frozen peaches (for future smoothies and baking).
the past week’s wildlife highlights include:
gobbling at the wild turkeys who wander around here (i hear they gobble back, but i personally haven’t had luck with this yet)
freeing a very frightened tree frog who we discovered perched and sliding down the inside of our kitchen window
a large gray fox creeping and darting around the meadow by our house, possibly eyeing the very oblivious miss mary bloomers (the one veteran farm cat/mouser we have around here)
no snake sightings yet (rattlesnake or otherwise), though i can’t say i’m disappointed…
it’s been relatively mild weather since we’ve been here, although today has changed its tune as the temperature climbs to the high 90s, and it’s supposed to be 100°+ starting tomorrow. but you know it’s time to end a blog post when you start talking about the weather, right?
to finish off this post, i’d like to introduce what i hope will be a regular series: freaky peaches!
“What happened in Orlando is not new, because we, people of color have a history in the US of never mattering. We have a history of enslavement, we have a history of exploitation, we have a history of criminalization, we have a history of violence. And that is what happened today. This attack was years in the making and based off of hundreds and hundreds of years of oppression and violence targeted towards queer and trans people of color.”
i think about violence a lot. violence inflicted by individuals, violence in the name of justice, violence as a means of upholding systems of oppression. i feel aware that violence occurs all the time every day in its many forms. as an involuntary survival technique, i stay numb. but with the news of the 50+ person massacre in orlando — at the gay club, on latinx night — something in me cracked. 80-90% of my friends and chosen family are queer, i have been to gay clubs and bars galore across the US, and for once i could not numb out.
of course i am filled with grief and heartbreak for everyone who was killed. for so many queers, our friends are our community, our foundation, our family. people lost their entire families to this act of violence. simultaneously, i am filled with rage and dread knowing how this loss of queer lives will be exploited for bigotry and state violence. the news stories made me shudder — between paragraphs describing the tragic events were resolutions for increased police presence at pride events and in gayborhoods, and immediate portrayals of the shooter as an ISIS-aligned foreign threat. because an american man with american values wouldn’t commit a mass murder in the name of hate. nevermind that he was american born, an admirer of the nypd, a long-time GS4 employee.
i sobbed periodically throughout the day. didn’t have it in me to pretend like i was okay. found gratitude for my ability to feel. was reminded that the sense of relative safety i experience navigating the world as a queer person is due primarily to my whiteness. was reminded that this kind of sorrow and fear is what black and brown folks live with every day.
i know that while this was an extreme event, LGBTQ+ people of color experience discrimination and violence all the time. i know black and brown trans women of color are murdered with regularity and without note by the media, the general public, and much of the LGBT community. i know that this massacre is just another symptom of the homophobia, racism, and misogyny that is ubiquitous in this country. i know that this kind of violence fuels discrimination, policing, and prisons, and i know that’s true in reverse as well.
i am holding grief and sorrow for the people killed, their loved ones, their community. for those of us who found our homes in queer spaces, and whose sense of safety has been diminished or destroyed. for muslims (and perceived muslims) of all sexualities and genders who will suffer as a result of islamophobia. for the shooter who killed all those people. it takes a life full of misery and self-loathing to cultivate that kind of hate and act on it.
my wish for queers is that we make space to grieve, hold each other in love, and challenge and resist the narratives that others will assign to this tragedy. we are resilient like so many gay, queer, and trans folks who have come before us — shamelessly and unapologetically true to who they were, even when their lives were threatened. hold your people, hold yourself.
after a couple weeks of power-resting in the north bay post road trip, and a week in charlottesville, virginia to celebrate eli’s sister’s wedding, eli and i have made it to the fruit farm and are in serious nesting mode before we start work next week. it is a lot of work to be unpacking and settling in, but also sweet and rewarding. i am finally carving out a physical space to be home after so much time in unstable or otherwise temporary housing, and being so on the go.
it’s much hotter than i’m used to here, though it’s only gotten up to 92° since we’ve arrived and it sometimes gets ten degrees hotter. i have a healthy fear of dehydration ever since getting heat stroke at cheer camp my senior year of high school (better believe it), so in anticipation, i’ve acquired a camelbak and am now that guy walking around with a sporty rubber nipple dangling over my shoulder.
so far, i’ve had nothing but pleasant experiences in town. i tend to project queerphobia onto people in non-queer spaces — for legitimate reason, having experienced lots of it in my life. my queer bubble has served me well in my adult life, helping me to discover and express myself, and feel at home in my own body. but, moving out here was a conscious choice to move out of the queer bubble, and i am working at not projecting assumptions of any kind onto people who do not have the same identities, experiences, and understandings that i do. i’m sure my interpersonal experiences out here will not be 100% peachy, but so far the people i’ve interacted with have been personable and welcoming.
oh, and the peaches. peaches were already my favorite, and i didn’t know they could get better. they are the kind to drip sticky juice down your chin and fill your mouth with waves of sweetness. i can’t write that with a straight face without also thinking about all the possibilities for fruity erotica… but i digress. i am eager to share the delicious and juicy homegrown fruit here with friends who can make the trip to visit!
the following is an interview with my friend julia as a part of my home project. we recorded the interview when our respective eastward and westward road trips crossed paths in truth or consequences, new mexico. yes, that is a real town.
So, who are you and where in the world are we?
My name’s Julia and we’re in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, in room #8 of the Charles Motel.
What do you think of when you think of home?
I think of the blanket I’ve had since I was a baby. Whenever I move to a new place, I bring that blanket with me.When I think of home, I think of coziness.
I think of a lot of different places. I think of where my family lives in New Hampshire, ’cause being with my mom and my nana feels like being home. And I think of my aunt and uncle’s house in Maine; I’ve spent a lot of time there. Everywhere I’ve lived feels like home, which I think comes from having parents who didn’t live together. I have separated parents, so I guess in that way I’ve sort of had to be adaptable and have home be wherever I was in that moment.
I can relate. So, you’re in the final stretch of a three week long road trip. How have you been making home while on the road?
I sort of don’t feel like I’ve been making home on the road. There were three or four nights when we stayed with friends in Tallahassee, and that felt a little homey because having a bed I can sleep in repeatedly feels like home. But I haven’t had enough groundedness and presence, because there’s so much going on. I’ve been working, and also hanging out with people, and with another person the whole time. I feel like I’m a bit less present than I would like to be right now. So maybe home also comes with having a space that’s comfortable enough and cozy enough to be able to just relax into it and be really present.
I admire how you’re able to find a sense of home wherever you go. Do you have an ultimate vision for what you want home to look like, or where you want it to be?
I like to travel and I’m excited to have a home I can always come back to. Living in the bay doesn’t feel stable in that way. It’s not really sustainable. But I am excited to have a long term home I can really make my own. Like, physically build things in a way that looks and feels really cozy. I’ve been thinking about that. Like, do I want to live on the west coast, do I want to live on the east coast? Where is home going to be ultimately? There’s a chance I’ll move back to Maine in five or ten years, because I can see the ease with which I could make home there that doesn’t quite feel possible in the bay.
Community is a big part of home for me as well. It’s not often I feel lonely, but occasionally I’ll feel pangs, and that’s the the worst feeling to me. And I don’t feel lonely much at home.
A big part of my vision for home is having comfortable space where I can welcome friends and family to stay for as long as they want. I envision having home space where every summer I can invite friends from all over to come for a long weekend and we can just stay up for 36 or 48 hours straight, and have a bonfire and make food together and hang out and sing songs — a giant slumber party, outside!
I grew up on a lake in the woods so that deeply impacts what feels like home to me. In summertime I would sleep on this big screened-in porch. The days were really long, and I was a young child, so it was still light out when I would be going to sleep. And I’d hear the loons on the lake and the pine trees and hemlock trees rustling all around me, and the water sloshing at the shore. It was the best feeling, so I think actually reproducing that is what I envision for home.
That sounds so magical!
It was so magical! It’s funny, because when I was growing up, my family was absolutely chaotic, just like a shit show, and yet I have really cozy, fond memories of home. It was a magical place to grow up.
What do you feel when you think of being at home?
The sense of familiarity and ease, and having things in order and having some control over a space to a certain degree, even if it’s just a small space. For the last month or two I lived at the Fort[collective house in Boston both Julia and Freddie lived in], I moved into the closet room, and I loved it because it felt like being in the helm of the ship. There was not a lot of space and I could put everything in just the right order. There’s this part of me that actually likes being able to carry out a vision in a way that has some order to it.
In what ways are you seeking home, and in what ways have you found home?
Everything I do is seeking in a process of seeking home. Even when I work and save money, I do it with the idea of creating home. Now, but also in the future. Because that’s the thing that I most want: to have a space to welcome family and friends and anyone who needs home space.
Community for me is a big piece of home. I like living with people. At every place I’ve lived, I’ve learned something new about creating home. Like, just seeing how different people exist in their kitchens, or in whatever spaces they’re in. I love that. I’ve learned how to cook so many different things from living with people. I’m really excited to have a home so that I can open it up to other people to come and share it with me.
I feel like home is everywhere I spend any period of time. I really do. I have not lived anywhere for more than a year at a time, in a decade. But all those different places where I’ve lived feel like home to me.