calendars and geographies 4 – home
a series of paintings called “home”
I recently finished a series of paintings I call “home” with key images, symbols or landscapes from places I have called “home”. From my childhood home to Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Japan, Mexico, London and now Valencia. Some places were left out out of the series. I limited the drawings to places where I’d lived for longer than one year.
zapatista territory and home
The Zapatistas have been in the same geographical region for centuries and longer. They have a strong sense of home, territory and collective power, and this feeds their resistance and rebellion, and informs their ability and drive to organize.
I, on the other hand, have moved around for nearly the past thirty years. My sense of home is wherever I am in the moment. Certain landscapes can evoke emotions in me, but not the sort that would inspire to give my life in its defense. Although, I haven’t yet faced that, so I don’t really know. And my power, both personal and collective, is a wee depleted from the solitariness of distance working. London may have had its downsides, but one thing I value from my time there is the face-to-face collaboration that was present in my day-to-day life.
I want to belong to a movement with a drive and commitment to resistance and rebellion that is different (because ours would have to be) but similar in intensity to how the Zapatistas organise. We can’t, and shouldn’t, “photocopy” what the Zapatistas are doing, but we need to organize our resistance, while also modeling an alternative. If not this, than what?
One thing I admire about the Zapatistas is that they are clear about why they are resisting and rebelling: for the protection of Mother Earth, for their own lives, and for their territory. From the “why” flows “from what” – the bad government and corrupt corporations, and “for what” brings us full circle – for the protection of Mother Earth, their own lives and territory. That’s one reason why they are succeeding in their experiment in self-government despite on-going hostility and harassment: they have joined up the dots, they make a collective plan, do what makes sense for them, and constantly evaluate and up-date that plan according to the changing conditions.
One project in Spain that is different but demonstrates this joined up thinking and action in favor of Mother Earth is Ecodharma in Catalunya. It is an intentional community, with members from diverse cultural backgrounds, founded and organized around the values of Buddhism, and they live and work to protect Mother Earth through land projects, courses in radical ecology and self-directed retreats. A few times a year I have the good fortune of working there.
Like Zapatistas, they make decisions about how to organize themselves by consensus, and they also grow a lot of their own food and generate their own power. But they are not Zapatistas. I offer the community as an example of how to get creative with models of self-sufficiency, sustainability and nature protection.
Can you say this about yourself, and your community or civic body you feel a part of?
I can’t, but I’d like to. And that’s one of things that drives me to do Zapatista solidarity work. I want to make collective sense and take collective action to express my values and life choices in favor of humanity and the Earth.
So back to the painting/writing process and “home” …
First I made the images, which picking up and putting down the work, took about from about April to August. When a picture was finished I then I spent some time reflecting and writing about each period of my life featured in a drawing.
I tried to stick to three questions:
- What I had learned that was useful or life-giving?
- What did I wish had been different?
- What still requires more analysis or thought, or tender love and gentleness?
I did this process, to see what would come out, but also I hoped that I would uncover or view from another angle strengths and gifts I have to offer, as well as understanding and addressing weaknesses – either by finding new ways of overcoming them or accepting them.
Also I wanted to address a fear and doubt that clouds my thinking each day I write on this little Zapatista book. I fear I will get in the way of their story, that I don’t understand it fully or I will tell it wrong. I used the drawing and writing process to poke at my motivations and see what is there.
Some of my discoveries with this process were new, other reflections gave me greater clarity, and some things I just see again and again. Some repeated patterns deserve attention, and some I need to learn to be more self-forgiving and just accept – that’s who I am.
The Zapatistas are fighting for their territory and their right to self-government; the enemy is the State and the big corporations who would like to kick them off their land and exploit the natural resources for themselves. While the Zapatistas fight to stay in their homeland, I’ve sought a life leaving mine behind, at least in terms of distance.
I don’t share a sense of home, in the same way, but as a white person, of European heritage with a US passport, it’s very likely that my ancestors knew dispossession, the bad government and corrupt corporations. Back then this situation was called the “Enclosures Act” and “industrialization”, the government, businesses, and the elite took away the common land, forcing people into the cities and factories to work. Some of these people would “escape”. They left England, Ireland, or wherever in Europe. These people, my ancestors, immigrated to the Americas, where another, different but similar, type of land-grabbing and violence began, and it is something we still struggle to make amends for and see justice done for today.
My choice and legacy (what I do with my life) is: to continue participating in this cycle of violence, or step out, and try – no matter how hard or how many times I get it wrong – to be part of the solution.
The other day, someone said that really admired the work I do to make the world a better place. While I certainly hope my work makes the world a better place, I do what I do to make myself a better a person. To save myself from the pain, fear, guilt, and anger about the wrong-doings from the past that carry forward to the present and will stay with us into the future, unless we do something about it.
It’s September, that time of year in the Global North that has a certain feeling of “new year” because summer is over, and the academic year begins. I’m exploring a few new opportunities, like classes to take and volunteer work to do. I’m seeking community integration, friends, people to add to my cosmic family.
How will it turn out? When, if ever, will I feel like this transition process is over? When will I really and truly feel at home again? Each place I’ve lived the transition process has been different, but the answer has been the same: time, patience and wait and see.
Easy to say, but honestly hard to do, but there is no other way, in my experience, to find “home”.