Mi casa es su casa
Like the man featured in this documentary, I have moved a lot during my 37 years on the planet. I've lost the exact count, but it's something like 35 times. The longest I lived in any one house was five years and that was when I was a teenager. The first time I moved I was four years old and my family loaded up our '57 Chevy pickup, clad with temporary plywood walls with "Montana or Bust!" spray-painted on the side. We would drive nearly 1,200 miles away from the only home I'd known: the beautiful rolling prairieland of Iowa. We would live in two more states and three more houses before returning to Iowa by the time I was 9. We'd only live there for another year before making the long trek to live on the East Coast. And the trend would continue indefinitely and, in fact, continues to this day. It may come as little surprise to learn that Little House on the Prairie was one of my favorite books to read as a little girl.
Moving around like that has a profound effect on one's life: you're in a constant state of saying hello, struggling to find your place, before waving your hand once again to say goodbye to those you'd only just started to know. And it becomes increasingly difficult to answer questions like "Where are you from?" and "What is home?" As I get older, wanting to define what home is for me becomes more important, especially now that I have a child of my own. I've moved my daughter from her birthplace of England to America and we're likely to move her again within the next two years. The cycle is being repeated.
This may all sound like a hardship and, granted, in many ways it is. But while parts of me are sad that I've not lived geographically close to my family and have had to leave friends behind, I'm lucky in that I've made new friends everywhere I've gone. And although I feel like the consummate "outsider", I've also developed a strong resiliency which has been of great benefit to me throughout my life. Plus, it's given me the great opportunity to see a lot of America (and Europe) and experience new places in a way that I don't think people tend to do when they live in one place for most of their life.
I could ramble on about this topic for ages and am not sure where I want to go with my train of thought. So I guess a good endpoint would be to say that not too long ago I explored the theme of "home" is a series of artwork. Working on the series didn't really do much to provide me with a resolution, so to speak, but it did give me comfort in a way: maybe "home" for me will be where I am at any given time; maybe I was destined to be a nomad. Either way one thing is certain: I've always managed to land on my feet everywhere I've lived and that's a huge accomplishment.
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!
Probably a greater conflict in my life than defining "home" is that of consumerism; like most of the rest of us, I'm a victim of advertising who sell the idea that the more we have, the happier we'll be. If you get that new pair of jeans, wear such-and-such perfume, and decorate your house with a bunch of stuff, no doubt made in China, you'll be fulfilled. So we buy and feel a temporary sense of euphoria and when that wears off we got off an another shopping therapy trip. I'm guilty of this; I like acquiring new things just as much as the next person. But I also hate it. I hate the heavy burden of having too much stuff. So I go through phases of intentionally not buying and, in general, try to purchase used or recycled items. I shop at thrift stores a lot and always have an eye on the curb for things that people are throwing away. And I go through phases of purging - and as I sort through all of my "stuff" I am made painfully aware of the ridiculousness of acquiring a thing and then getting rid of that thing. Which is maybe I'm drawn to vintage wares and to the era when things were made to serve a purpose and to last - like old cars or radios where you can see how they work and can fix them. I used to have a 1970 VW Beetle and one of the things I loved most about that car was that it was so straight forward; I regularly changed the oil and transmission fluid on my own. And if I was equipped the proper equipment, could have changed the V-belt and a lot of other things on my own. You simply can't do this with modern cars. It really fills me with rage.
So when I was watching this documentary, I asked myself whether or not I could live in such a small space - certainly, the temptation of limited the material possessions around me is tempting. But I don't think I could. And I don't think it's because it would require me to possess less but because I would soon feel cooped up. Maybe I could do it if it were in a warm climate. And while I say that it would be tempting to live without "stuff" I also realize that as a mixed media artist who frequently works with collage and assemblage, it's in my nature to collect "stuff" - and most of the time it's discarded items that catch my eye so it's not like I'm consuming new material goods, but even still it adds up to a lot of volume. So unless I completely changed the way I work, living the tiny life isn't for me whether I like it or not. And so the conflict continues...