In Chapter seven, writer Ashley Duffalo challenges the me to engage with her new environment of island living to find a sense of home. Diving into the unknown is a great theme in this chapter as I explore the literal terrain of my new home and the figurative landscape of what makes me feel comfortable and “at home” in unknown territories.
Happy New Year! I’m excited to kick-off Living Chapters 2014-style with you in your new whereabouts of St. Croix. Knowing this short term move will help determine if this island will become your new home, I can imagine your challenge over the next few months will be to stay in the present and not get overwhelmed by questions of the future (isn’t that always the challenge?!)
You’ve become somewhat accustomed to migratory living over the last couple of years with short stints at a pool house, carriage house, boats and friends’ couches. While you never expected to make any of these places a permanent nesting ground, you found ways, especially through Living Chapters and the help of friends, to make yourself at home by being very intentional about the ways you have chosen to live. Knowing I will play a role in keeping you grounded this month as you embark on your latest adventure, I’ve been wondering how do you connect to a new place while staying connected to yourself?
I want this month to be a mindful exploration and reflection of your surroundings. Throughout January I am asking that you use your senses as well as your creative faculties to create a field guide to St. Croix. As your partner in crime I too will make a field guide for St. Paul, my recently named home that I’m in need of getting better acquainted with.
Here are the requirements:
Your field guide should include 4 maps, 6 walks, a daily written reflection, and 3 interviews. Each week you’ll share one of these things on Living Chapters. They should be accompanied by some sort of reflection (which may or may not be derived from your daily log). The daily written reflection is intended to be more of a space for you to develop a writing practice and keep connected to yourself.
After every walk I want you to make a list of everything you remember seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting. I also want you to collect something from each of your walks that you can bring home into your domestic space to create a sense of place.
The interviews should all be done at your home over a simple meal that you’ve prepared with locally-sourced ingredients. The interviews should be designed so that they give you insight into some aspect of St. Croix, i.e. culture, history, food, etc. It’s entirely up to you who you choose to interview.
Lastly, I gave you a copy of Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost to accompany you this month as inspiration. She refers to each chapter as one of her maps. Her writing is beautiful and meditative. Early in the book she references a quote by the pre-Socratic philosopher Meno that I want to leave you with, “How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?”
Have fun in St. Croix!
During the time that I began to know Beth, she was immersed in a number of projects in Baltimore. These included: “Speaking of Silence”, “Middle East Baltimore Stories”, and “Remington Youth Community Radio” . These endeavors centered around uncovering voices and stories that had been purposely silenced or ignored as unimportant, or they were designed to give an outlet for those who don’t normally get to share themselves. I remember spending time with Beth and plunging into questions around how these topics and people had been marginalized and silenced. Something that I realized about Beth, was that as she was undertaking these projects, she was forging a connection to place, which helped to create an even deeper feeling of home for her in Baltimore.
This month you have been asked to investigate your new home of St Croix and share some of the things that you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. As you make new discoveries, you are connecting in different ways with your new environment.
For this month’s wildcard I would like to combine this exploration of your new environment, with the exploration of silence and marginalization. As part of your discovery process you have been instructed to conduct three interviews. During one of these interviews I would like you to try and interview a Crucian. Along with the general questions you ask about the area that will help in completing your field guide, I would like you to delve into some questions that will uncover something hidden within the fabric of life on the island. This could be linked to the environment, culture, history, etc.. but must uncover something that has been marginalized or silenced (possible examples: crucian language and people, agricultural resurgence, cultural heritage, diversity of climate, water scarcity, bio-luminescent bays, hovensa oil refinery). As this uncovering process helped you during your Baltimore projects, the goal is that this exploration of silence on St Croix will be a way for you to discover the depth of your new home, and possibly even uncover a creative project or interest for you there in the future.
As your field guide continues and as you use one interview to uncover something hidden about your new home, I would also ask that you take one photo per day of something that makes you feel at home there and to publish at least five of these at the end of the month on the living chapters website. You can add short captions to each one or leave them to speak for themselves.
As a final link between home and silence: try to take ten minutes per day (you are welcome to extend the length if time allows) for yourself where you calm your mind in your new environment and just breath and relax. I know that in previous chapters you have been asked to take on similar awareness exercises, and this is just a small continuation and reminder of that, as I know from my own life that when I am moving around and adjusting to new places, I forget to take this time for me, and have to be reminded to do so.
It is clear that there is much happening with your settlement on St. Croix (long plane rides, unfinished living space, remote roads, hindered communications and/or internet). Don’t let this month’s chapter or additional wildcard challenge overwhelm or add difficulty to your life. Instead, continue to adapt to each moment as you have before to see what it holds for you and how it can further your integration there.
As this is a busy time with adaptation and logistical considerations, let this also be a time of exploration, awareness and relaxation .
This chapter has set a direction and goals for you this month………but reaching the destination, as always, is not the important thing….