Roxanne Krystalli

A love letter to Colombia, Part IV

eternally nostalgic
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Previously:  Return | Firsts | Memory | Solitude | Nostalgia | Graffiti | Needs | Narratives | Trauma | A love letter to Columbia, Part I | A love letter to Columbia, Part II

This was a summer of questions. I lived in them. I learned how to design and conduct qualitative research piece-by-piece.Inquiry became my home in Colombia. It was a summer of cómo and por qué?  I struggled with shifting from my previously service-based roles in conflict-affected areas to being here in an academic capacity, with asking questions without being able to immediate use the answers to implement an initiative that responds to needs. I asked myself what the service of academia is, and whether it is immediate enough and close enough to the source of the need for me to feel that it can be a true service. I watched my communities shift and the often-solitary-occasionally-lonely rhythms of academic fieldwork give way to a group of thinkers who would proofread my every word, assess the effectiveness and ethics of my every interview question, and give my Spanish translations their correct subjunctive forms. I will miss spelling my name on the phone. In Colombia, I am Rossan, as Roxanne is too untenable. I will miss the workers at Auros, my neighborhood copy-scan-fax store. They, too, are part of the routines of my research, and I can tell they are perplexed by the formalities of the process. I credit them with having taught me how to say 'stapler' in Spanish and with having helped assemble my every consent form.

And then I was silent. When the questions died down and the music quietened, I found myself sitting alone on the Cartagena city walls. Colombia can be uncomfortable with solitude, and Cartagena is a city that demands affection. It is a country of two and many, one in which you can always squeeze in an extra seat at the table or an extra person in the airport line to say goodbye. This summer has blurred the lines between solitude and loneliness, raised the cost of distance from loved ones, and lowered the barrier to entry into becoming a loved one in the first place. This country is full of loved ones, my loved ones. It is full of love.

I have felt small this summer. It is the kind of smallness I crave, the kind that emanates from being humbled and cannot be corrected by high heels. I have felt lighter too. I have laughed more easily, stumbled more confidently, made mistakes less shyly. When I'm abroad and alone, unshielded by familiarity or company, I say yes more. I dare more, especially after midnight when the words fall out of my mouth without fear of the Spanish subjunctive.

***

I sometimes feel about Colombia like a photographer who only wishes to capture her lover's dreamier side, all the while aware that another side exists, having pushed up her fingers right up against the underbelly. I cannot definitively reconcile my memories of Colombia, those of almonds and rainbows, with the memories Colombians have narrated to me. I know they exist side-by-side, almost unfolding in parallel universes. I understand that the differences in the hues of these narratives partly emerge out of my biased eyes: those of a Colombia-loving foreigner whose multiple layers of privilege circumvent many glass ceilings and shield her from some of the challenges of life and work here. I do not wish my fondness for this land to render me blind to its injustices or to push the many conflicts that continue to unfold away from the capital to the periphery of my own vision.

At the same time, I am hopeful -- not out of ignorance or bias, but by choice. I choose to be hopeful because I have met so many Colombians who are, who believe in Colombia, who have dedicated their life to peace. During one of my interviews, a human rights defender explained to me: "We push and ask questions, even when it feels as though the mountain is not moving. Why do we do it? Because every day when I get out of bed to do this work, when I see more of us committing to it, I can feel the space for impunity shrinking. That is enough, even if I can't see it. I believe it is there. I believe it is shrinking. When you believe, you have no choice but to keep working, to keep pushing."

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By the time you read these words, Roxanne has returned to Boston, which she (also) calls home. Her field notes from Colombia may have wrapped up, but her adventures will continue, in life and on this page.

A love letter to Colombia, Part III

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Previously:  Return | Firsts | Memory | Solitude | Nostalgia | Graffiti | Needs | Narratives | Trauma | A love letter to Columbia, Part I | A love letter to Columbia, Part II

I worry about Bogotá's rigidity, about the -isms that come up in every interview: machismo, classismo. Most are born out of certain expectations that are etched into the lives of the few -- expectations of where to live, where to eat, where to go out. Not complying with them, or flagrantly defying them, is met with palpable indignation. Can empathy grow in sheltered spaces? Of what service can narrowness be, other than protecting the interests and lifestyles of the few?

And then I meet the people who break the mould. Last Friday, I was the only person with done-up nails and high heels in a room full of anthropologists. I have come to cherish both the irony and the awkwardness of this, surrounded by Colombians in jeans and Converse who were there to patiently walk me through the process of grave exhumations. Some of the most transformative moments of my research were the ones whose profundity extinguished all room for artifice. In many ways, these are the stories that cannot be told. They are not my stories, or this is not the medium for them, or it is not yet the time to tell them. Even in their untellability, I realize that allowing these narratives to cross my path continues to fuel my faith in humanity.

The responsibilities of storytelling were on my mind this summer, in terms of the responsibilities of the storyteller to the people to whom the story belongs and to the reader. I have watched my own role constantly shift, as the different capacities I have occupied in conflict-affected areas compete for attention: conflict manager, gender-based violence specialist, academic, researcher, listener, writer. Storyteller. It is an ever-evolving contract between multiple storytellers, and it requires finding my own place in the universe of intersecting narratives.

***

I will carry the contrasts in my heart, with appreciation for moments that fracture your expectations, for the moments in which appearance deviates from reality. There was the time I was followed by a policeman for five blocks near the Presidential Palace, only to learn that he wanted to find out if this señorita was married and, if not, would she go out with him? Or the time a whole group of policemen in Cali gave up their seats at the tienda for two sleepy gringas looking for coffee before the city had had the chance to wake up. Or the numerous instances I have walked past the sports bar, Locos por el Futbol, only to hear "A Total Eclipse of the Heart" or another 1990's sappy favorite bellowing from the speakers -- with more than one man singing along. Or that other time during my solo meal in Usaquén, when the table of brunching men behind me spent twenty minutes discussing baby showers. There are moments that insert cracks into an image such that you can no longer say "all of these kinds of people are _______" in Colombia. Colombia makes you fill in the blank, and question the 'all.' It requires nuance and texture.

And yet, the often heart-warming contrasts cannot allow me to forget about the shadow economy of fear, in which boundaries are overstepped or invisibilized. Many of my interviewees use 'invisibilize' as an active verb: to render invisible. 'To (forcibly) disappear' has been another active verb that has punctuated the narrative. The hierarchies of privilege that define other aspects of life here also determine fear, risk, and danger -- with human rights defenders often finding themselves at the bottom. I have been conscious of how my own layers of privilege color my experience and provide an extra layer of protection in most instances: I am a foreign, Western-educated woman who is affiliated with a US university and is not fully embedded in the realities of advocacy in Colombia. I am also conscious of how the human rights defenders I have interviewed rarely use the language of fear directly. They speak of 'risks', 'danger', 'threats', but rarely fear itself. I seek to learn from their example as I sift through trauma, both vicarious and my own. In the moments of human connection, of asking the questions and recording the answers, of finding beauty, of experiencing learning or vulnerability or hope, I, too, feel less afraid.

Next: Conclusions from biased eyes

A love letter to Colombia, Part II

Previously:  Return | Firsts | Memory | Solitude | Nostalgia | Graffiti | Needs | Narratives | Trauma | A love letter to Columbia, Part I  

I will miss the jasmine tree, whose scent transports me back to Jerusalem and to every home I have loved.

My favorite moments under the jasmine tree unfold around 7.30 PM each night, when the security guards of the K-9 teams allow the bomb-sniffing puppies to run around the park. For ten minutes, if you are lucky, you can catch dogs sniffing each others' butts and wagging their tail as a sign of affection, not violence. There are more such dogs now than during my last time in Colombia, or maybe I am more attuned to their presence. This realization makes me cherish the whimsical butt-sniffing even more. When the security guards notice me smiling, they will sometimes oblige and give their German shepherds a cuddle. I know they are performing for me, but in so doing, they unite my Colombian universes: a single gesture blends a reminder of the conflict with unbridled affection.

The affection is unavoidable here. Desire is one of Colombia's many currencies. This is a country that touches and stares and whispers 'belleza' as you walk down the street. This is a country of princesas, and preciocas, and amorcitas. All these epithets are gendered in ways I cannot bear to ignore and, in the same breath, I cannot be cynical about calling someone mi vida. My life. When my assessment of the culture of affection becomes too rosy for my Colombian friends, they remind me of how fleeting and broken love can be here. They remind me of the men who are perros -- literally, dogs -- and of the men who cheat and of the women who cheat and of the ones who don't call and of the ones who call you princesa for two weeks before they disappear into thin air. They speak of rigid expectations, often crushed, that define the reality of a challenging love, that render longevity in romance difficult. On a rosy day, I will remind them that these quandaries of life and love are not confined to this land.

On a keenly aware day, I, too, feel choked by the rigid conceptions of masculinity and femininity. This is one of the countries in which I most notice the performativity of gender and how narrow the expectations of what it means to be a man or a woman can be. On a flight to Cali, I noticed every single woman had her nails done. On the same flight, a passenger asked me if this is my natural hair color. When I nodded yes, she asked me why I don't like to go to the hair salon to get 'this beautiful hair' straightened. Sometimes, I feel as though I provide Bogotá with its only messy curls. Sit at Juan Valdez long enough and you will observe there is a uniform for women here, one of many: leggings, tucked into boots, topped off with a leather jacket. And straight hair, of course. I am torn between finding these expectations suffocating and appreciative of a type of beauty, between finding them endearing and superficial.

I worry about Bogotá's rigidity, about the -isms that come up in every interview: machismo, classismo. Most are born out of certain expectations that are etched into the lives of the few -- expectations of where to live, where to eat, where to go out. Not complying with them, or flagrantly defying them, is met with palpable indignation. Can empathy grow in sheltered spaces? Of what service can narrowness be, other than protecting the interests and lifestyles of the few?

Next: Wherein, amidst the rigid expectations, I find hope.

A Colombian vignette

eternally nostalgic

For the rest of Roxanne's dispatches from Colombia, you can wander over here to visit her field notes.

I am sitting alone. This has become a recurrent motif of my time here: girl in coffee shop, pen in hand, notebook in front of her, in anticipation of the arrival of the next person she will be interviewing for her field research. I notice my solitude is alarming to many Colombians. It invites whispers or even subtle pointing. Colombians point with their lips, as though they are kissing the air. I sit and wait, in the company of pairs of lips extended quizzically in my direction. At lunch a few weeks ago, my solitude was so perplexing that a whole family decided to join me and inquire about my status here: What brought you to Colombia? Where do you live? Why don't you sound Greek if, as you tell us, you are Greek? You have a boyfriend? Ah, then why are you here alone? I cherish the questions and the solitude alike. Steeped in other people's narratives and quotes, always alone in a coffee shop, it almost becomes an imperative to appreciate the research process and its rituals.

My interview subject arrives and my status in the coffee shop is restored. The collective relief at the apparent end of my solitude is palpable. The interview commences and the irony is not lost on me that we are discussing the darkest corners of a conflict while we are accompanied by carrot cake and surrounded by delicate paintings of women dancers. Perhaps we need the delicacy, fragility, and beauty in those moments. Perhaps, otherwise, they would become wholly indigestible.

Halfway through the interview, a man interrupts. I had noticed him looking at me earlier, pointing with his lips. He introduces himself as a poet and his friend as a philosopher and I think to myself that this is the stuff of Midnight in Paris, written by Woody Allen's Colombian alter ego. He doesn't even apologize for interrupting what I know he knew was too official-looking a conversation for a place that cozy and casual. "My friend over there and I over-estimated how much wine we  could drink. Would you like a glass?" Moments later, before I have had the chance to say yes or no, my interview subject and I continue our conversation about conflict in the company of two glasses of rosé wine.

As the interview wraps up, the poet (or maybe the philosopher?) gestures back towards me. "You know what it means to have a man buy you wine in Colombia?," he asks. I think to myself that it probably means the same thing as in the rest of the world, but I simply smile. "You have to buy the next round!" I decline, as another interview awaits me, but I offer another smile. "You know what I love about you?," he asks me. "You have this giant, world-powering smile one moment, and you look totally serious the next. Smile-business, smile-business. You flip like a switch. It's almost psychotic."

You know what I love about this country? That it never leaves you truly alone. That it inquires, prods, points till it is satisfied. That it jars you and fills your life with contradictions, with dancers and carrot cake and rose and conflict and trauma and contrasting memories. Most of all, I love its interruptions. I love the proverbial poet in a bar who will complement your smile, call you psychotic in the next breath, and in the breath after that, be gone, having returned to his own story.

Slippery words of another tongue

eternally nostalgic

Every so often an article catalogues untranslatable words from around the world. For example, as this Matador Network piece tells me, mamihlapinatapei means "the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start" in Yagan, an indigenous language of the Tierra del Fuego. According to the same article, the word 'tartle' in Scottish refers to "the act of hesitating when introducing someone because you have forgotten their name." And then there is my personal favorite: saudade. Not quite nostalgia, not quite longing or yearning, not a blend of both. There is more to saudade---and perhaps its magical grip lies in that untranslatable space the other words do not quite capture. I grew up in a word-loving family, with Greek as my mother tongue. Tallying up the score of Scrabble games with my father exposed me to double-digit addition and to the perennial "is that a word?" any game of Scrabble inspires. Studying for the SATs as part of the process of admission to an English-speaking university in the United States exposed me to a whole other family of potential Scrabble words. While I excelled at the questions that required knowledge of words with a Greek root, I struggled with the ones that required test-takers to pair an animal and their young. What do you call a young lamb in English? What do you call many doves flying together? The kind of knowledge that one acquires in her childhood when English is her native tongue was foreign to me. And so at the age of 16, I scribbled on flashcards: "An ewe is a baby lamb." "A calf is a baby cow." "A constitution is a group of doves, a pride is a group of lions, a pack is a group of wolves."

The realization of my own English fluency sank in when I began to dream in English, when the English words started seeping into my subconscious, displacing the Greek ones. When I started learning Spanish, or German, or even fledgling Arabic and Hebrew, I noticed that there came a moment when the precious few words I had mustered would find their way into my dreams---or, indeed, my nightmares, as that one night in Bogotá when I dreamed that I could no longer speak a word of Spanish in front of a room of 750 ex-combatants would attest to. I still maintain my connection to my mother tongue and actively try to cultivate it, even when there are few people with whom I can speak Greek in my daily life at present. I read the Greek news, and I return to my favorite book of Greek poetry by Odysseas Elytis when I am homesick for Greece or hunting for inspiration. And still---I can feel the words slipping away as soon as the language of my dreams shifts away from Greek.

It is not just the words that slip; it is also the fundamental functionalities. For a long time, I spoke 'professional Spanish.' You could ask me to lead a conflict management training and I would produce polysyllables comfortably. Put me in a bar surrounded by Spanish speakers and I would be effectively mute. The casual rhythms of a language often lag for me. I long for familiarity with those words that break the stiffness. When I aspire to fluency in another language, I hope for those words of wit and smiles, the teasing words or casual words you only learn by living somewhere and listening closely for motifs and idioms. The more of those I accumulate in a language other than my mother tongue, be it in English or in Spanish or otherwise, the more the informal Greek slips away from me. Put me in a bar in the Greece of 2013 and I would struggle with not having the ease of conversing naturally like a young person who knows she can find the word that best describes what she wants to express---the perfect word for saudade or mamihlapinatapei.

When I first arrived in the United States as a college student, I felt the impact of words in Greek. "I'm sorry" was a concept I understood by relating it to its Greek iteration: συγνώμη. "I love you" was Σ' αγαπώ. It was as though I experienced the full weight of those words only if I uttered them in my mother tongue. "I love you" did not feel intimidating in the way that saying 'Σ' αγαπώ' for the first time did---because I associated the nerves of young, unuttered love with Σ' αγαπώ and not with "I love you." Saying 'I love you' in English initially felt like performing in that way that speaking a second language often does, thus robbing the words of their full power which only existed in Greek in my mind at the time. After living in Guatemala and Colombia, I became conscious of the many linguistic iterations of "I love you", of the difference between Te deseo and Te quiero and Te amo. Despite the beauty and benefits of multi-lingualism, I never quite want the impact of αγάπη to fade---I never want the Greek iteration of words to feel more foreign or distant to me than the English word 'love.'

Every time I arrive at a new country for my job, there are words I am immediately curious to learn how to say. Empathy is one such concept, as are the words that express gratitude or respect or compassion. English is the default language in which I think now; every new word learned in a foreign language gets translated in my head to English before it's fully comprehended. And much as I celebrate fluency and linguistic curiosity, a little part of me grieves for the Greek words that quietly slip away.

*If you have a moment, look up my favorite untranslatable Greek word: filotimo -- φιλότιμο, as telling of my mother tongue as it is of my people.

Boston: Stories of compassion

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Earlier today, explosions rocked the Boston Marathon, resulting in deaths, injuries, and widespread fear through the city I now call home. I have never quite known what to say in the wake of a tragedy and my inclination has always been to say very little and, instead, to watch, to hope, to hold humans in my heart.

As phone calls and text messages started pouring in, the irony was not lost on us or on most of our friends that we have had to do this before: The shock after a bombing, the cycle of calling and texting, the confusion, the indignation at injustice. The brain has a way of linking these experiences together and every image of the blasts in Boston calls back the sounds of blasts in Uganda and Gaza and Bogotá and Jerusalem.

We are safe, and blessed with love---and, as we heal, we count those blessings.

Boston is a home so full of compassion that the Red Cross blood banks are full, only hours after the events transpired.

Boston is a home so full of compassion that some marathoners ran straight from the finish line to the hospital to donate blood.

Boston is a home so full of compassion that Bostonians are opening their homes to stranded runners, spectators, and their families who may need a place to stay for the night.

Boston is a home so full of compassion that in my graduate school community, within minutes of the explosions, students created a spreadsheet to track down runners and spectators, offered one another rides to get out of the blast zone, tracked down those who were momentarily unaccounted for, and held one another in kindness as we struggled to process what happened. Boston is a home full of humbling compassion.

The Atlantic is compiling these stories of kindness here today, and it is to these that we turn for hope in the wake of tragedy.

So now we wait. We share meals and feed one another. We watch TV together because companionship alleviates pain, and we turn it off when solace and quiet serve us better. We resist the inclination to judge or to jump to conclusions or to spread rumors. We photograph the beautiful sunset, or walk our dogs, or fold the laundry, in search of beauty or normalcy in the face of injustice. We shower our first responders with gratitude, and we are thankful for those who keep us safe and informed under these circumstances. We hold the wounded and those whom we have lost in our hearts, and open our hugs to those still in shock or grieving. We mourn together, as a community. We look for the light in our collective home. We ask questions, with patience through the slowness of the answers. We extend compassion. We love. We keep our hearts soft, stirring for hope and for the stories that will continue to fuel our faith in humanity.

This essay was originally posted on Stories of Conflict and Love.

In fear of Spring

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In late July, as I was photographing a friend's hands clasping pebbles from a Greek beach, I pronounced myself a "summer person." I did so with the awareness that being Greek and being a "summer person" was, practically, a tautology, but I declared myself one with certainty: "Definitely a summer person," I said, and I was off to the water once again.

By late October, as I was pointing my camera up at a tree whose red leaves reminded me of everything I missed about New England autumn, I had changed my mind. "I'm a fall girl," I declared.

Not even for the sake of a writerly analogy can I pretend that by mid-February, as I was trudging through the post-snow slush, I was a full convert to Boston winter. And still, something about the sound of synchronized snow shoveling interrupting the piercing quiet after a heavy snowstorm that resonates with me. Eljiah caught on to how fickle I was with my attachment to seasons and remarked, "You are, apparently, an all-seasons girl. I don't want to hear it. You love summer, and you love fall, and you love winter."

And then there was spring.

I felt it today, that familiar anxiety of spring, as the world was in mid-thaw, snow droplets dripping into gutters. Buds are fighting to burst out of tree branches. The galoshes that felt essential yesterday felt incongruent today. Everyone was drinking iced coffee, even though it was still only 30-something degrees. We were drinking iced coffee because we recognized the kind of undeniable sunlight that inspires, if not requires, iced coffee, even if our fingers were reluctant to crawl out of pockets for long enough to hold on to icy plastic and a straw.

The sound of leaves crunching under boots or of synchronized shoveling or the smell of sunscreen -- those are the associations that have a different effect on me than the advent of spring. It is not that spring lacks the beautiful imagery. Sundresses would be offended if my memory did not celebrate their return, as would lemonade and porches and lemonade on porches. Rather, spring carries a more anxious weight.

I remember the spring when I myself had to thaw. I remember seeing almond blossoms and realizing the depths of my grief.

I remember a spring so full of loss that I did not even realize it happened until it was mid-May and I was sitting on a lawn in three sweaters, sweating next to a picnic basket under the weight of my obliviousness.

I remember another spring so full of questions that I could not yet answer and so full of terror at the uncertainty. I remember the glory of the spring after that when I slowly befriended vulnerability and gently carved out room in the lemonade-on-porches vision for red wine.

I remember a different spring when everything felt distant and remote. I had not had to fight through winter that year; it was another one of those years when I lived in the perpetual summer and darkness of work in conflict zones, whether due to calling a desert my home or the Equator. Perhaps spring felt less of a triumph when I did not have to sit through the short afternoons of a February or the slush of a December Wednesday; perhaps that is why everything felt unattainable that one spring.

Spring catches me by surprise. I can feel fall coming and ease into it. I can taste the crisper breeze, the bluer skies, the pashminas giving way to cardigans giving way to jackets with hoods. Winter sashays in slowly too, with the increasingly frothier beverages, with one neighbor lighting her fireplace and then another and then the whole neighborhood smells of fireplaces and snowflakes. Spring bursts out of trees and emerges from under layers of clothing with a speed that finds me unprepared each time. There is a bird chirping outside my window while the snow melts, and I find myself begging for a bit more time under the heavy covers to reflect, to put the pieces in order, to stave off the grief, uncertainty, loss, or fear of the above, to be ready for spring, just-this-once.

Therein lies my discomfort: There is something disquieting about feeling like your emotional state is out of step with that of your universe. The spring break inspired catalogs and commercials tell me it's almost Denim Shorts Season and my favorite candle store no longer stocks "Leaves" or "Vanilla Hazelnut Doughnut" because the shelves are full of "Sunscreen Mist" instead. Ready as my legs are for the caress of sundresses on bare knees, my heart needs more time to match the collective exhilaration. So allow me to linger here a bit longer, under the weight of a panda hat and a knit scarf and in the company of a foamy chai latte -- hot, strawless. Let me hide a little longer until I am ready to face the blossoms. And, should I ever feel compelled to point a camera at said blossoms and exclaim anything, you will know that it will likely be another declaration of being a girl of the seasons.

The homes that inspire nostalgia

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We first met when I was on the cusp of nomadism and she was on her return voyage. I was about to embark on my first true field work in conflict management. I did not know it then, but that year would hold memories of Egypt, Uganda, Colombia, and Guatemala. Her journey stretched from Liberia to Indonesia and Boston to the Hague. We both swam in the pool of conflict management professionals, spoke with our hands, loved every baked good we met, and shared a passion for wander and wonder. In many ways, she inspired my own path with her courage, whimsy, curiosity, and attachment to service and to making impact. Meeting her kindled my faith in humanity---and sparked my consequent overuse of the term.

We are now sitting at her dining table in Washington, DC, five years later. She and her loved one built the bench atop which I am perched, and everything else in the house too. Even if she hadn't given me her house number, I would have picked it out among its companions. It is the most colorful house in the street. Everything in it is a colorful product of love too, carved with care out of wood, nailed together, splashed with the hues that matched their personalities. "We built the bed in which you are sleeping," she says smiling. People dream better in home-made beds. They ought to.

She is a different kind of adult than I am, I think to myself. A whole other league of adulthood, the kind that comes with one's own photographs hanging from her walls (in frames, I should clarify, since my own amateur photos hang frameless and in disorder). I scratch her cat's belly, as we talk about the conversations we used to have when we first met. We are still connected by those same threads, by conflict management and service, by a wanderlust for Iceland and the Bolivian salt flats alike. We joke about our loved ones' addiction to cycling, we revisit talks about neuroses that field work in some of the world's most active conflict zones could not mitigate. Peeking into her life makes me nostalgic for permanence and leaves me longing to caress wooden surfaces with an appreciation for the art that transforms them.

I used to live here too once, but the girl I was when I lived in Washington is different from the girl who returned to it now. It was the before era: before field work, before I knew that a lot of my life would unfold on the road or in conflict zones, before I grew attached to cameras and stories, before I had discovered much of what I now consider my life's work---in many senses, before I experienced what I now consider my life's many blessings. When I left Washington, I left with excitement, not out of frustration with its admittedly elevated sense of self-importance, but out of a craving to leap to the next phase of life and the novelty it had in store. And much as my memories of Washington were full of light and merriment, I did not consider it the kind of home that would inspire nostalgia.

Teetering in heels outside the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, I recognize bits of the self I was then: I was an obsessive list-maker, and I still am. I was the kind of girl who could write down thirteen to-do items, and cross them all. Part of me still enjoys ticking the boxes, literally and allegorically. In other senses, I have shed layers of skin since I left Washington. I have embraced uncertainty and developed a new comfort for it. I have appreciated vulnerability; in brave moments, I have deliberately put myself in vulnerable places with an understanding of their merits. I have marveled, marveled ferociously, demanded marveling. I have made more room. I have not carved furniture, but I have carved out space for loving, dreaming, and marveling.

And now that I am back, this time for a career trip with fellow graduate students interested in conflict management, I am marveling at a home that inspired more nostalgia than I thought it could. In between career panels and site visits, I duck into my old neighborhood bookstore. I used to stop there every single day on my walk home from work, even if nothing in the shelves had changed. The bookstore was a ritual I kept, a nostalgia-inspiring ritual that planted the seeds of marveling. Between a lunch and an informational interview, I pop into Teaism, wanting bubble tea. I giggle when I remember that they call it 'pearl tea' here. My memory had edged this lexicon out. Taryn and I sit side-by-side at Hello Cupcake, devouring cream cheese frosting. Dan and I have breakfast at Busboys and Poets. Halle and I share an almond croissant and cappuccinos at Dolcezza, which was not there when I last was. Some of the women by my side have been constant presences, on email and in teahouses, at a distance or side-by-side. Some of them are new to this memory, having sprung from shared field experiences, correspondences, school orientations, or serendipity.

This marriage of the worlds feels less foreign than I had anticipated. I practiced nostalgic eating, nostalgic bookstore browsing, nostalgic walking, nostalgic subway riding. Life was not Instagrammed when I had left Washington; all of it looked less romantic. It was not yet possible, as Cheri Lucas would say, to "enhance the mundane", "to disguise the mediocre." Surprise nostalgia is a privilege because it is as though a former home springs from the depth of your memories to claim its place in your life, to demand to be remembered lovingly. Or, at the very least, to be remembered---which, in my life, is by definition a loving act.

For all the tables we danced on

eternally nostalgic

These words sound better to the tune of this.

"we've lived in bars and danced on the tables hotels trains and ships that sail we sim with sharks and fly with aeroplanes in the air"

- Cat Power, Lived in Bars

"It is always important to dance."

This phrase recurs in my friend Jonathon's book, as a life philosophy that merits reiteration.

I had never thought of dancing as something that invites the adjective "important" until I moved to Guatemala, where Jonathon and my friendship was born. My Guatemala was steeped in importance and imperatives, in trauma and injustice. It was an outsized kind of importance, the kind that shows you the limits of your knowledge and highlights the boundaries of what you can do to understand mass atrocities and serve their survivors. At no point did I feel qualified for the tasks required of me in Guatemala; and even if in some universe, I were qualified to perform the tasks themselves, no part of me was prepared for the emotional weight, vicarious trauma, and ceaseless heartbreak.

It seems curious, then, that Guatemala was where we danced. We danced with vigor and with no shame, with no reservation and with gusto---every single time, with gusto. We danced on beaches and atop volcanoes, in living rooms and on coffee tables. Perhaps that was the place that inspired Jonathon to posit that "it is always important to dance."

In my homeland Greece, dance is barely a contact sport. Fingers may graze each other, but for the rest of it, you are on your own. You are fully responsible for wiggling your own shoulders, moving your own knees, swaying your hips, without the help of hips glued onto your own. Much of what I love about dancing in Latin America calls back to my original conception of dancing. While salsa and merengue inspire more affection than my native Syrtaki, they evoke jubilation and look like hugs in motion. It is perhaps these preconceived notions of mine about dancing that made "grinding" an enigma when I arrived at an American college campus at the age of 17. My idea of dancing involved synchronized skipping around, jubilant bopping, wiggling and nodding along and smiling, endless smiling---and maybe doing all that atop a table or two, yelling Opa! for good measure.

Rediscovering that obscure genre of dancing in Guatemala felt like a homecoming---a realization that when the workday came to an end, others would wish to join me for a round of salsa or a wiggle on top of a table. Others felt, like Jonathon did, that "it is always important to dance." The Guatemalan table-dancing marked me in ways that became impossible to forget, delivering another imperative: to continue dancing, with gusto, everywhere.

And so there was the summer of 2012, on a Halkidiki beach in Greece, with some of my best friends, sweat dripping down our faces, sand on our feet. There were hoarse voices and tsipouro and broken glass and stomping around and knowing every word. There is a beauty to dancing in your own language.

There was the first Los Fletcheros concert, put on by the illustrious band of my beloved graduate school. This, too, came with ample stomping and hugging---so much hugging. Every dancing experience comes with its own soundtrack. If there were a soundtrack to my Los Fletcheros this year, it would be that of nostalgia: The Killers, Mumford & Sons, MGMT. It would be the soundtrack of youth.

This past weekend, Los Fletcheros performed on my graduate school's annual ski trip, a tradition imbued with wine, flurries, and more kissing than a library typically inspires. Graduate school dancing reminds me of all I have loved about Greece, Guatemala, and everywhere in between: it is affectionate, but not intrusive; jubilant, but (ehm, usually) not sloppy. It is undeniably alive. This is what has motivated me and Taryn---jokingly, I hope---to want to open a club called The Graduate Student.

True to our graduate student selves, Katherine and I danced on a windowsill. Friends kissed in the background. Yet other friends nearly spilled drinks on the band. Thirteen of us left our cards at the bar. Who-knows-how-many actually collected them the next morning. We went home with the wrong jackets, each other's scarves, or no jackets and scarves at all.

We all need hugs in motion, sweaty faces, hoarse voices. All hearts need to move, and be moved. And, courtesy of Los Fletcheros, I am starting my life this week with an extra dose of whimsy. This column is called Eternally Nostalgic and, in some senses, I feel that this reflection is doing its namesake an injustice. Can you be nostalgic about an experience that you just had---an experience which you are, in effect, still having?  Los Fletcheros inspire a different, sweeter sort of nostalgia: a nostalgia for the moments in which you felt truly alive. An ode to whimsy, if you will.

Reflecting on milestones: 2012

eternally nostalgic

This column first appeared on Stories of Conflict and Love earlier this week. I have always been attached to the process of documentation and the rituals of recording memories. Different notebooks have held disparate thoughts across eras of my life, with their pages threading together class notes on violent conflict in Africa to poetry to to-do lists to workshop outlines to endless nights of worry. For the past four years, I have lived out of a suitcase, shedding belongings and an attachment to 'stuff' and hoarding memories instead. The notebooks have been the only possessions of mine that have traveled everywhere, truly everywhere, stretching suitcases till they bloat. And even though they now sit neatly on a shelf in Boston, there was no arrangement or system to how they were organized. The only rule was that every page had to be filled before a new notebook was commissioned to be my wandering companion.

January 16, 2012 was the beginning of a new notebook, for no reason other than its predecessor running out of pages. On that day, I copied down Mary Anne Radmacher's poem, "Living Eulogy:"

Under that, inspired by Katie, I started making a list. Every year, Katie tracks goals she'd like to meet before her next birthday. Page 1 of this new notebook mirrored that format and, below Radmacher's poem, I started outlining my own hopes for 2012.

Some were laughably simple, almost thrown in there the way you write "laundry" or "grocery shopping" onto a to-do list: for the painless joy of crossing those items off. #12 on my list was "throw a party." There had been plenty of parties in my nomadic life. There was the table dancing in Guatemala---ceaseless dancing on tables, it seemed. There were the nights in Cairo when we all gathered in that penthouse apartment and sang our lungs out to Queen. I remember the night Elijah walked me to Tahrir to hail a taxi and I could still hear Bohemian Rhapsody in the background. But then the moving, the ceaseless moving, took its toll and the parties were mostly farewell parties, for me and for others. #12 on the list was not (just) about buying Solo cups and cheap wine. It was about being embedded in a community long enough, feeling its grounding enough, to host snippets of it in my home "just because." Not because anyone was leaving, not because it was a birthday. Because it was community.

And there were parties. #12: done.

#15: Take a night photograph I am proud of. You see, this one correlated to #25: Learn to shoot my camera on manual. I "knew" how to use my camera on manual. I taught photography workshops for crying out loud. But it always felt a little foreign. The photos always felt nicer on 'automatic'---as though anything nice in life ever came out of automatic. The night photos, in particular, always felt shaky. All of me felt shaky at times this year. Shooting the camera on manual, dragging it along and having the weight of its strap tug on my shoulder at night, was a challenge not because of its mechanics, but because of my own wobbliness. And then Milos happened. Greece and I have the kind of relationship that melts anxiety, such that this photo can be taken, such that elbows can sit steady and skirted legs can plant themselves firmly on salty ground and hair can billow in the wind and I can hold my breath long enough to defeat the blurriness.

#15: Take a night photograph I am proud of. Done. It is not a particularly original image. Add a cat into it, a skewer of souvlaki, and some cheesy reference to "Greece is for lovers", and it's a generic postcard. But it is clear, unshaken, and taken by me, and that makes it a cherished first. Done.

Then there were the trickier dreams. #21: Create a home. This is not a to-do item of the "laundry" and "grocery shopping" variety; it is not the kind of goal one can fulfill by focusing hard enough or trying harder or by finding the perfect rock on a Greek island onto which to perch her elbows to take a not-blurry night photograph. The irony behind this wish is that I did not expect it to be fulfilled until the fall came, and the suitcases were unpacked and put away, and I lived in Boston with the ability to firmly derive my identity from being a graduate student. Jerusalem snuck up on me. It insisted on not being ephemeral. It demanded lasting love. It required commitment: the purchase of the space heater, the unavoidable conversations with everyone on the street from the baker to the laundromat operator. The evaporation of any desire to avoid conversation. I did not think 2012 would hold two homes, but it did. Some would argue that the very existence of multiple homes speaks to the lack of a solid, meaningful one---but, in this case, I'll take the polyamory.

I cannot pronounce #21 done; no home is ever 'done', the process of making one is never complete---let alone the process of creating and sustaining multiple homes in one's heart. But #21 is the kind of item I would never like to cross off a list and pronounce 'done' in the first place. I simply wanted to know it was possible.

Some of the items on my 2012 wishlist stand unfulfilled, but I am determined to give them another try. See #14: Keep an ideas notebook. I have a noisy brain, the kind that I am trying to make peace with, rather than silence. Particularly in moments of euphoria, ideas zoom through it and most of them remain uncaptured, evading me in the moments of calm when I try to revisit them. When Kim sent me a notebook with "Ideas" scribbled on its cover in February, it seemed like the perfect moment to slow down and start jotting down the thoughts born out of elation or enthusiasm before they become too fleeting to ground. The pages of that notebook are still blank. I still want to try in 2013, because I want the mornings after ideas to be just as alive and enlivening. #14: not done, decidedly not done. But still salient enough, necessary enough to stay on the wish list for another year.

Then there were the wishes that remained unfulfilled, but I am willing to let them stand as such. They either became less relevant as the year passed or I grew readier to live without them. I never entered a contest (#7) with my writing or photography in 2012, nor did I send 12 handwritten letters (#25). I wrote new columns in 2012, including this one, and I published photo-essays, but I never quite went through with clicking submit and having my work evaluated by a panel of seriousness. I penned endless cards and thank you notes and Christmas wishes and Congratulations on your marriage, but 12 handwritten letters never quite happened. I could dissect why that was, I could investigate the desire behind those items in the first place, but they do not burn brightly enough any more to necessitate that. As such, #7 and #25: unchecked, peacefully so.

Unlike those items, there were those at which I failed abjectly, and disappointingly. #1: Worry less. In my final Gypsy Girls Guide column, on January 3, 2012, a mere day after my birthday, I wrote that I wanted 2012 to be the "year of the exhale." I knew then, as I know now, that a human being cannot go on worrying at the level and meticulousness that I do. I was aware that it was time to let go of some of the anxiety, of the post-traumatic stress, of the grief, of the intensity of conflict zones, of the emotional minefield of work that I did not know (or want) to do unemotionally. I wrote then:

It is not journeys I long for this year. It is not novelty or fireworks I crave, though I welcome all of this into my life and am open to it if it comes. In 2012, I am willing a quiet mind. In 2012, I want to banish Ray LaMontagne for Damien Rice and his belief that I can “look into my eyes and see that noone will harm me.” Some former smokers say that months after quitting smoking, an exhale comes and they breathe deeply, making it all worth it. In 2012, I am living for the exhale.

2012 endowed me with journeys, novelty, fireworks---and some exhales, too. But I was naive to think that those would come without more moments that cut an inhale short, trigger a gasp, or make me hold my breath till I turn blue in the face. Exhaling was beautiful and needed, but if I am to keep writing, and reflecting, and living with intention---as Mary Anne Radmacher would have it---then I need to learn not only to wish for the exhale, but also to master creating it myself and living patiently with the moments that render it elusive. I failed at worrying less this year. In the scheme of life, this is a more costly failure than having failed at other items on the wish list. I am slowly realizing that in my life, item #1 from year to year will continue to be Worry Less, until it, too, is rendered unnecessary. Until this wish has been scratched off the list, edged off by other priorities, sufficiently conquered, or---perhaps more realistically---until I make peace.

 

When the universe winks [or: Wagon Wheel]

eternally nostalgic

There have been times in my work with communities affected by conflict when I have longed for a stronger belief in a supernatural deity. I have been compelled to pray, to hope that someone out there is listening. At this stage in my life, my imagination of that "supernatural something" that resides outside of ourselves does not take the form of a deity. Rather, my belief can be summarized in the following phrase: The universe is winking.

You know the moments I am describing: In the face of adversity or great irony, of what seems like undue strife, something happens to reassure you that you are not alone, that the world is not laughing in your face, that life unfolds on a continuum and the narratives of joy and heartbreak exist side-by-side. And, if recent experiences with fragility have been any indication, the universe winking at me comes with a soundtrack---Old Crow Medicine Show's "Wagon Wheel."

The song appeared in my life during a relationship that may never have happened had it not been for grief, fragility, and emotional confusion in the first place. As Joan Didion advises in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, "we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not" and, in that vein, I need to extend compassion to the self who thought she could drown grief in affection and be blind to the traits that would make the affection shallow and the grief immutable. He hated my music. That should have been a clue. Anyone who hates the company that Cat Power and Brandi Carlile and Rachael Yamagata keep, anyone who cannot reconcile himself with my army of women singer-songwriters, is dancing on a different sheet of music than the one in which I live. So he made me a CD. [Pause for nostalgic indulgence in the quaintness of making someone a CD, not a Spotify playlist.]

Of all the tracks on it, Wagon Wheel jumped out. Even after that budding relationship withered, Wagon Wheel lingered as the soundtrack to a segment of life for which I never quite found the words.

***

Second day in Cairo. I met the girls on an email list of foreigners in Egypt looking for roommates. I met the boys on a sailboat on the Nile the night before, on my first day. Coincidentally also the first day of Ramadan, the first of many firsts. We are in the boys' apartment and I am alive with the exhilaration of belonging, with the relief of how quickly one belongs when she is a foreigner among foreigners, a stranger among strangers---all of whom wish to throw out that label and slide over to best friends already. One of the boys picks up his guitar. Wagon Wheel is the first song he plays.

That song came with me to Uganda... Sudan... Colombia... Guatemala... Jerusalem. "Points South" of all that. Now Boston. So did the guitar. And so did the boy.

***

Katherine's birthday party. Budding friendship, united by parallel narratives which---defying all laws of geometry---intersect as they unravel. The kind of friendship that fills your sails with gratitude, that makes you feel like the universe can wink simply by putting someone in your path. Her friend brought his guitar. Barenaked Ladies. The Beatles. Leaving on a jet plane. Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley.

And then, inevitably, Wagon Wheel. A room full of people singing the words along. The universe winked extra pointedly that night, to make sure I knew I was home.

***

My love for the song is immaterial. This is not the kind of song that one feels was written for her. I have never been to Johnson City, Tennessee, never picked a banjo. This is not a lyrical attachment. Rather, Wagon Wheel is my clue to pay attention. It is the way that I know that, even if I am trudging through the mud right now, somewhere out there the universe is winking. It is the music that plays, almost invisibly, to make sure that I am listening.

Imaginations of a different life

eternally nostalgic

I was between places, which is increasingly where I think I live. Between Guatemala and Bosnia, between two different worlds of heartbreak and solitary immersion into the work that makes me come alive. Between the confusion of fulfillment and immense human tragedy inhabiting the same universe. There is a level of experience that comes with floating in the in-between places and it comes with a dance of transience, reflection, and anticipation.

A dear friend asked me during that in-between place if I ever imagined a smaller life. "Can you do away with it all? Kick it into the sea?" We all like to think that we can. "No, really, I'm serious. Small house on a Greek island. White house, blue windows. That is your life. All of your life. Can you do that?"

There is exhilaration to living in the privileged overlap between the life you imagined and the life you are inhabiting. As a guest lecturer in my Processes of International Negotiation class yesterday, former Ecuadorian President Jamil Mahuad posited "sometimes, real life is more imaginative than imagination." So what if that imagination shifts? What if, enamored as you are with your current life, grateful as you are for it, you also harbor a parallel imagination of a different life?

In that life, you wake up on a Greek island. You are blessed to call that your homeland.

Your hair smells of salt, your eyes breathe of sea.

Your days are sun and waves, white-washed and bright. Your breaths are deeper, your fingers slower when they type. Or write. Maybe they remember to write, pen intertwined between them.

You remember what slowness feels like. You smile more easily, you drop your shoulders to their intended height, well below your ears.

You call yourself a writer. A photographer. A creative soul. The labels matter less; they become easier to claim. You create. You put the whole force of your soul behind your creations.

Your senses become more acute, and so does your memory. Greek islands are for nostalgia and remembrance, for making memories, for sometimes forgetting them.

You know that Greece, or the islands, is not the only place where you can do all of this: where you can claim the labels, and create, and drop the shoulders, and inhale deeply. But you also know that Greece gives you permission -- and permission is what you need to set yourself on this trail...

You fill your palette with wine and feta, with warmth and embraces.

You love. Amply. The only way there is to love.

You call that your life.

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How To Live Out Of A Suitcase

eternally nostalgic

I have always resisted "How-To" musings. Their prescriptive confidence tends to oversimplify life and obliterate its intricacies. Everything would feel manageable, if only you'd buy into Steps-1-through-5. Everything comes in neatly ordered bullets or numbered lists, always in increments of 5. The first time I read a "7 tips to a healthier closet" in a magazine, I nearly fell over at the violation of the increments of 5 bit. I used to love the structured life: the healthy closet, the happy living room, the robust plants. The magazine how-to's always paired adjectives and nouns in unusual ways that made me think that "if only I could follow the steps, I, too, could have a giggling patio or a witty sink or a resplendent relationship." Somewhere along the way, I met a wonderful man who refused to think in tight increments or in standardized measures. He sets his alarm clock to 7.03 AM or 8.57 or 9.14 because "life does not need to unfold on the dot." There are few subjects for which I'd change my feelings on How-To's. When Kim said "I'd like to commission a post on practical matters about living out of a suitcase," I knew this would be the How-To corner of the internet I could call my own. This is less a "pack pashminas-they are so versatile!" guide (though do! they are!), and more a reflection on how to navigate the emotional turmoil inherent in transitions.

Know your anchors. The are few life transitions that require one to live with one T-shirt, two pairs of underwear, and some jeans. If you are embarking on one of them, there is something grand enough ahead that makes the stinkiness worth it. Nobody ever uttered "I am so moved by the world right now but gee do I wish I had all my life's belongings with me!" If you are embarking on a different kind of transition, make peace with that which you cannot let go. It may feel silly to lug a stuffed panda bear across what used to be the Uganda-Sudan border, but if it is the connoter of memories, it gets a passport to travel. Some are attached to their cooking spices, others to their stationery. Figure out what will become part of your gratuitous weight and let it come along. Minimalism for minimalism's sake is a powerful way to glide through life---but it becomes more powerful if you figure out how to violate its tenets to make them more resonant and viable.

Put down (some) roots. For a book lover, keeping books on the shelf is one of the pleasures of a semi-permanent life. Nobody ever left in the middle of the night with tomes of the complete works of Joan Didion in her one carry-on bag (though if that happens, World, let me be the first one.) Walking past used bookstores with the knowledge that "we do not have room for books" or that we must resist everything that will weigh us down creates weight in itself. So, buy the books if you need to. Find a way to receive mail temporarily if seeing your name on an envelope brings you glee. You will find a way to pass the books on to someone who will love them, and to forward the mail, and to move all of yourself and your memories. Put down (some) roots in the meantime; transitions need not be mere parentheses in the narrative of life.

Method to madness. Google Reader is as embedded in my morning routine as coffee is in other people's. It does not matter if I am waking up in Boston or Jerusalem, if I have to go to work in an hour or class in thirty minutes. Browsing the morning headlines and reading my favorite blogs helps me feel connected to the world as it was before transition. It may feel small sometimes, or downright trivial, or such a hassle to hold on to routine and ritual when the rest of life is spinning around you. But it is those very routines that make it all slow down. If you are a runner, find a way to go for a run early on in your transition to a new environment. Do you write in the morning? Then, write, even among the boxes. Write your heart out. Do not let your camera gather dust in a box if its shutter clicking will make you feel more mindfully present. And, in the same breath, make room for the new routines that emerge out of a new life.

Carry the lightness with you. I used to think I excelled in transition, if that is the sort of experience one can master, until I set foot in my new apartment in Boston on September 1st. After three years of work in conflict and post-conflict areas worldwide, the possibility of staying in one (secure) (exceedingly comfortable) place for two years was intoxicating. I turned into a Nesting Monster. In the build-up to this move, I had lived out of the same suitcase for months on end, but the second that suitcase entered our new apartment, everything had to be unpacked. Immediately. And the furniture had to be built. And the boxes had to be recycled. Immediately. It was as though I had become allergic to transition overnight. Elijah humored me and assembled the dresser and the desk and the shelves in one afternoon.

Last night I asked him if he feels that our space is cluttered. Let me be clear: it is not. But, compared to our couch-free Jerusalem living room, the furniture feels imposingly permanent. Compared to the luggage I had in Guatemala, the knit sweaters feel bulky, even if Boston requires them.

As someone who failed at this, allow me to urge you to keep the lightness as long as possible. The transition will be over one day, and suddenly you will own 13 different pieces of Tupperware. Ask yourself where that came from, ask yourself if you need it. The fact that you have space to fill and time to do so does not mean that the roots of stuff will be the roots you thought you were craving. So hang the beautiful string lights you had been wishing to have in your space ever since you dreamed up permanence. And if it all starts to feel heavy and much, remember the time all of life fit in one suitcase and try to bring some of it back to that beautifully lit space you now call home.

Days undocumented

eternally nostalgic

I was a child of the pre-Facebook, pre-Pinterest, pre-Skype, pre-plus-one-and-like era. Our mode of digital anticipation involved waiting for someone's screen name to show up as Available on AIM or for someone to sign into MSN Messenger. Those were the acronyms that felt relevant to us. Beyond the availability of our friends to chat and the esoteric lingo that came with those conversations, we gleaned insight from carefully-crafted Away messages. Nobody was just "Away" back then, and---because we were 16 and, no matter how much self-importance we could muster, we were not quite busy---nobody was just "Busy" either. We populated Away messages with song lyrics and quotes, inside jokes and pointed messages full of the truths and feelings we could not utter face to face. In the past few weeks, I have felt the need for an Away message to hang on the door of my life---preferably one with a witty quote or Green Day lyrics for the full throwback and nostalgia effect. For the first time in four years, I am no longer living out of a suitcase. I own shelves. I have put nails in walls. I have shared coffee with people with the confidence that we will all still be right here tomorrow . . . and in 13 days, and in 4 months. My universe has been flooded with the kind of permanence of which I once dreamed.

Permanence makes me quiet. It is my love of "process" that has fueled my embrace of transitions with relative peace. I am intrigued by the little shifts: the packed box, the new photo on the wall, the coat hanging in the corner, the new bakery from which I buy muffins in the morning. Those become the markers of a new chapter, punctuated by a different routine, marked by different milestones. I document the process of moving, the process of saying goodbye, the process of making a home and then disassembling it as though it were made of Legos. The photographs freeze those transitional moments in time to remind me that life is not just the story of neat heres and exciting theres, but of clumsy in-betweens.

This time, there are no photographs of transition. My silence has been born out of impatience: an impatience to find a place for everything, and for me, and to have those places feel anchoring enough. I have not pointed the camera at the new corners that make a home feel like me, nor have I written about the new batch of muffins. I feel firmly planted here, bound to an address, magazine subscriptions, and a barista who knows my coffee order. I own possessions that make it impossible to pack up and leave into the night. Nobody left lightly with three coffee makers in tow.

Once an embracer of process, I am now embracing the photos not taken, the words not written. I am living in a blank away message, waiting for the lyrics to populate it, and for new processes to appeal photogenically to a pair of eyes perpetually in love with novelty. Inspired by Kim and, inevitably, by the 1990s.