Nest Feathers, or, Virtual Welcome Mat in the Shape of a Large Sheet-Metal Pineapple.
The first known New-World exposure to pineapple was through Christopher Columbus on his second trip to the Caribbean where it was found graciously prepared on the volcanic island of Guadaloupe amid gently stewing human remains. From here, it became a symbol of hospitality in the colonies and early America.
“One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper, in time and in others’ minds.” –Alfred Kazin
It seems fitting to cut the ribbon on a new blog with a few reflections on holding space. The job of relocating to a different city has bled seamlessly into furnishing this site, into hanging an online gallery with new work, into licking the proverbial envelopes of online address change forms. In picking up paint to christen a new live-work space with west-facing windows and pre-installed shop lighting I blink for a moment in looking for a hexidecimal value instead of a color name on the lid, and carry the cans in the service door of our building while briefly considering palatial Second Life estates, a tower of termites, the collected skills of our neighbors, a smoldering bind of sage. Streets and alleys of the industrial district outside unfold as well as a clattering choice of social media avenues with which to simply say hello to friends living worldwide, a few blocks away, or in my own house.
Either I have never felt at home anywhere, or seem to find home everywhere I go. I’ve never been sure which. It might be both. Drawing a front door in thin air and chalk anyplace there’s wireless has always appealed to me like the rolled canvas of a bedouin tent town, a gilded gypsy caravan, life at sea. In an online crush of sound bites and bled boundaries it feels luxuriant and vaguely sacred to hold space like this. It’s the slow food of social networking, where I’d rather invite you for lamplit seating and smoky black tea than exchange fries-with-that bliplets in passing. This journal is titled in hiragana because it feels like a placeholder, a visual cue to the Japanese words I learned as a child that I can no longer read but always seem oddly familiar, some personal linkback ur-language to a cherry-blossom world populated by hina matsuri and a tiny pet turtle, by peach boy and the rabbit in the moon. The meaning of the words seems less important than slowly tracing the shape of the characters themselves, rolling and unfolding smoke-like through long mysterious columns in the oldest storybook I own. Have you ever visited a place that was special to you as a kid, walked through weeds grown up under a rusting swingset or crawled through a drainage ditch on the edge of town to find a mark in some corner you’d long forgotten about? Initials faded on the trunk of a tree, or some hasty fat-fingered memorial in concrete?
Home can be a state of mind. Where we create it is sometimes arbitrary.
We had a housewarming last month combined with a birthday combined with the completion of a newly-built house bar and bathroom remodel in the theme of Indian Wedding. “It’s so nice to have this place back,” say the housemates after sordid details of the former occupant and a long line of taletelling regarding prostitutes out back, the homeless, the meth addicts running generators in the living room after the power had been cut. Six years,they say, since they’ve felt comfortable here. We talk about Hiroo Ononda, the silver spray-painted human foot found in Lake Merritt, the pilot episode of Firefly. The houseguests tell stories of slingshots and the feral dogs of Nasiriyah. We should have a party and build towering Jello aspic molds of baby squid with googly eyes glued onto them. We should open this bottle of Bulliet. I am home.
I miss the country and the sky, the unreality of the sea, and hover between mentioning it at all or packing away two years’ worth of growth in favor of now. Some lessons are better when absorbed, less tempered while in progress by re-telling and reframing, remembered more for their content than details. I’ve found myself taking more photos over the last however-long. I’ve found myself less interested in words.
I try to be aware of projection, the mental metaphors we build around ourselves, that drafted as if by unseen architects attempting to hatch structures of the mind on a physical plane. I try to be equally aware of the feedback loop our choices also reinforce within us, for better or worse. Many people say the most inarguable definition of home is the feeling of being at home with oneself, anywhere in the world, in the present moment. Without it, all external searches for home will be just that — a search. I try to be aware of the difference.
Looking to remember centering and simplicity I stationed myself at the literal end of the earth, by the ocean with nothing left under feet or tires, at the place of our evolutionary shift from gilled things to breathers of air on solid footing. Here I relearned also how to breathe, and to regain solid footing. I watched the weather, watered plants and new friendships, chopped wood, looked for whales, dealt with the rains. The house grew around me like a skin, a brick-and-mortar garment, a landsuit of sorts, a host entity. I believe to a degree in the mana of space, the ways a structure will speak to one like a living thing with its own systems, needs, and anima inherent. Again here too, I believe in the tendency to see ourselves ghostwritten in the many things we create.
What I never expected was that this endless upkeep was having an effect on me as well. I enjoyed being there as much as anyone would; it was beautiful. I felt strong and healthy. But a certain fuzziness remained as to what my place was. I could not see the slow but steady effects of relearning to hold still and tend to something. It worried me slightly. I suspected I was failing at life. I could only see a lack of Important Doing, which left me uneasy. But I was still there. With every window repaired and thumb hammered I was making home with myself just as surely. I changed my diet, slept better, reinstated a sitting practice. I stopped looking for a place in my old life, accepted some unmendable fences, chanced to love, reassessed the things I needed and bucked up with nose to the wind to create something new. I mended drafty corners in my conception of self-worth and retrofitted this single occupancy temple-thing through digging post holes and lifting feed. Most days the satisfying things were the simplest; a favorite coffee cup, the crows, a sunbeam. Logistics dictated the time there wouldn’t last, but perhaps this left me all the more able to honor it well.
With boxes packed and the power out early, I spent my last evening there at the pace of hands and things human. I cleaned down woodwork, wrapped plants by dusklight, walked the long road in the fog, took in an elemental night made of horse shit, salt air, howling wind made of tall tales and ghost ships, and started one last fire which seemed to flicker through a heavy-lidded half-dream to rise up Thothlike in its iron housing and say
You are given your words back. Use them wisely.
Hopefully I don’t forget this type of mindfulness, a better feel for the things I need in a day and the grounding to be found in folding linen and the lovingly mundane. I’m sure I will, a bit of it. That place changed me in a lot of ways, and I’d like to think mostly for the better. I am grateful and stupid lucky for the people who took me in and considered me family, for the collected community wisdom I was able to absorb, for my resourceful, ingenious friends and their dee-eye-why way of doing. I am closing the door on this chapter with respect and love, and carrying through with good intent to the next incarnation taking shape as a quirky, happy warehouse and cozy sense of family. We do dishes, make dinner, tend to four pets, trim the houseplants, prop buckets under the leaky skylights. I am fortunate. I feel right at home.
This is home.
As was the last
and every moment in between