I've been grappling with space and where exactly to write. Where can I escape the temptation to grip each moment of the news cycle? Where can I find reverberations of others' pens, thoughts, foot fall who have gone before me and go around me into this space of searching for and making work?
As some of you know, I'm working on a new release. This piece examines the shock of being an American in the US and also in the world. I've locked myself in a cabin overnight, brooded on airplanes, gazed into Skype, and now I'm breathing the word-filled air of New York Public Library.
I became ravenous a few months ago, heading up to an old Mennonite campground at the foot of a small mountain in rural Virginia. The hunger ripping through me was to understand the roots of this space that is white America and how it became as solidly convicted about its place as controller in society. With gratitude, I took with me a chapter from The Invention of the White Race, sent by a dear friend and collaborator Sholeh Asgary.
Admittedly, when I returned to the US from Northern Ireland a few years ago, I wasn't prepared for what I saw, what I met. I was gutted by the apathy of most white people over what was happening in Ferguson. I couldn't understand the divide, having grown up in a mostly white community in Virginia before spending 13 years in Northern Ireland. I certainly found my education there and when I moved to California in 2014, I could see reflections of division and historic segregation, income differences, etc, and a standard held up that wasn't at all relevant to society.
The new project that I'm releasing in conjunction with 4 other artists is the piece of work with which I have struggled the most to date. Recording began in December 2016 in Tiny Telephone in Oakland, California. We're at the point of mixing right now and I'm meeting with collaborators and producing material for the upcoming multi media, multi artist release.
So I find myself needing the right places, haunted by history, in order to write the text for the book that we're releasing. I'm not sure how else to fill up the pages of a piece that is both personal and public. In any case, I'm grateful for that space. And I'm looking forward to sharing this work with you and to say more about it in coming months.
Finally, it’s raining.
I remember days like this, where the sun is a ceiling light behind a clouded fixture: murky light, but light, nonetheless.
And you can go outside.
I’m finding New York this time of year is more of a door-to-door city. I’m understanding the need for bodegas on every corner. I’m seeing the logic in honking like hell when traffic is stuck.
It makes even the most optimistic of us short-tempered and lethargic. Humidity, that blanket that is less like a much needed night in with hot cocoa and more like an unwelcome sudden burst of suffocation mixed with the detox of a Stella Artois induced hangover. I must admit, I could be a bit perplexed by my temporary life in Brooklyn, but really I’m more comfortable around city demographics. Still: I miss the earthiness of the countryside. (City earthiness usually has the tinge of ammonia to it.)
But today it’s raining and so the city is alive and people are out using their legs to walk rather than running up a perplexing A/C bill.
I “moved” to New York in early July, but a week in I left for California for 3 weeks. I had a heraldic 2-day return to New York and then went to Virginia for work, love, and tears. After 4 days in the city, I went this weekend to Baltimore for a wonderful 2-day pre-wedding extravaganza and henna party.
Do I live in New York?
Tell me: what qualifies as living somewhere?
Tell me: why do we try to live in a single place?
Tell me: why some people are birds, why some are bipeds, why some are tripeds or quadrupeds, why some have no legs.
Tell me: if you are a winged human, why staple-nail-drive yourself to the ground?
Even birds need homes.
So I’m nesting in New York. I’m beginning to think of “home” as the place where I’m nesting.
If you are settled on land: welcome the birds to your heart. They are fragile, but they see things from a different view, tossed by wind, sometimes ending up in places they didn’t intend. Sometimes that place happens to be in your line of sight... or your heart.