Neighbors Comic Series Landing Page
Part 1: Discomfort
Part 2: Distance
Part 3: Sympathy
Part 4: Empathy
Part 5: Experience
I am pretty proud of the writing in Chapter 5, and how it feels in comic form.
I am a little worried about the writing coming up in Chapter 6. But I have another week to wheedle it into something more coherent.
This is probably the hardest blogpost to write because 'home' is a thing in progress and a thing in flux and a thing I'm all too uncomfortably in the middle of figuring out.
But maybe, too, were a lot of us in the Bay Area. Or any other big city. Trying to figure it out.
And maybe, too, are a lot of us who are immigrants, or children of immigrants. Who were born right here but feel the shadow of the spectre of being 'othered' again. For always.
There are scraps of drafts from Neighbors that have been filed under 'new story' because they are not this story. But they have to do with displacement as a refugee and journeys of choice(?) as an immigrant and the root shock that Dr. Mindy Fullilove describes and how the sorting of America stirs it all back up again. There are stories in my future about (literal) housebuilding and (poetic) homebuilding and (ritualistic) nesting. But it is a slow process, a process-in-progress.
Strange things have happened this year, and I feel constantly in motion. I haven't unpacked since February and won't for another couple months. At the same time, I am getting better at making temporary homes feel like home. I can set up my desk and my workspace and find refuge in the writing. And I do feel grateful for the places I have landed.
Relatedly, I made this data visualization of my movement over the past summer, which only tells a quarter of the story. But it's fun and validating to see it in graph format.
Maybe I will just leave you with some lots of fragments of other people's writings about home, which I have found comforting:
"On each section of my trip, I'd tell myself, 'I'll feel better when I get to the next thing.' Sometimes the thought, 'I'll feel better when I get home,' creeps up, but I banish it."
"What is Being Charted Here?" an interview with poet and dear heart Jennifer S. Cheng. Can I just quote the whole article? I find such comfort in Jennifer's words. I often have a tab of something or other open in my browser, almost as a safety blanket.
Rumpus: Where do you live now? Would you call it an “American home”?
Cheng: Lately I have been living in a home that feels like it has been swallowed and thrown; a body mauled, devoured, disclosed, leaking.
Here is the part I want to put in multiple parentheses because how do I answer this question today except with heartbreak and anger? I wished to believe in America as an aesthetic collaboration—a wild experiment of people of great difference struggling to make a home. But “American” is its own multi-layered term, and lately I have been thinking about what it means and more importantly who decides: Is it a passport, a birthright, a desire for a freer life, or the fact that one stays, forgiving its sins or in spite of it all? Is it how closely the color of my skin approximates that of its “founding fathers” or of the people who were on this land before that? Is it the loss of an accent or that we all have one? Is it its history, more terrifying than our textbooks say; capitalism and an unquestioned faith in self-interest; or the intention, hypocritical and failing, to be a place of equity and humanism? Is it a constant negotiation of myth? Maybe my real hope is that this country, in comprising exceptionally of difference, is an opportunity to be a place where there is no monolith at its center, no normalized dominant culture of power. At its worst, America has always been a place of oppression, hegemony, colonialism, greed; but the best of its people have sought to make it less so, to address its wrongs, to make it a home for disparate homes, huddled masses, tired, poor, wretched, homeless. I realize it is optimistic to want to claim “American” when it does not always want me, but the idealist in me wants to assert that my home is more American than the president’s home.
Rumpus: At the end of the acknowledgments, you thank the “Invisible House.” Is that a house that exists in your imagination, or is it a partially real place? Can you describe it for us?
Cheng: It is, maybe, the home we are all longing for. In the book I allude to the strange wave of homesickness I feel from time to time—it is a sensation of hollowness in my gut—such a specific but inexplicable longing that I can only assume somewhere is a home that fills it.
"CREATE A NEW RITUAL: Something sneaky about times when we are deleted: you start to lose track of the thread. This past week as I settled back into my house and my routine, I just walked in circles asking myself too many BIG questions—questions that frankly did not need to be answered or pondered at all. I find creating a new ritual, something meaningful, can help you touch base with what really matters. It can help you ground yourself to something again."
Been reading, slowly, slowly, The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, which quotes others writing about home in a reflective spiraling cocoon inspecting familiarity.
"In his novel The House of Breath (p. 40), William Goyen writes: 'That people could come into the world in a place they could not at first even name and had never known before; and that out of a nameless and unknown place they could grow and move around in it until its name they knew and called with love, and call it HOME, and put roots there and love others there; so that whenever they left this place they would sing homesick songs about it and write poems of yearning for it, like a lover;..."
"Housed everywhere but nowhere shut in, this is the motto of the dreamer of dwellings."
"Thus the dream house must possess every virtue. However spacious, it must also be a cottage, a dove-cote, a nest, a chrysalis. Intimacy needs the heart of a nest. Erasmus, his biographer tells us, was long 'in finding a nook in his fine house in which he could put his little body with safety.'...The more concentrated the repose, the more hermetic the chrysalis, the more the being that emerges from it is a being from elsewhere, the greater is his expansion."
And maybe that is where I will leave it. Because that is the thing I should, if I were braver, be able to write about today: the psychological toll that being without a home (if even for a flash, if even for a day) takes on a person.
And the expansive potential of beingness that exists today in every person without a home, whose nurturance would do wonders for the world, if we were able to provide a home for everyone.
The story...or at least this story called Neighbors, continues next week.
Let me know if there is writing about home that resonates with you and that you think I would like, too.
P.S. I am hosting an online writing circle for Inner Circle members this Sunday, October 1st from 2-3 pm pacific time. If you want to join us, you can always up your pledge to $10 for this next month and drop it back down again later. We will be reading and writing and sharing some time together. I am looking forward to connecting.