The last time I was in Wigtown, I'd just lost my father. It was October and the town had begun to slow and quiet post Book Festival, and my quiet days in the bookshop were exactly what I needed.
But this time, it's different. This time I'm learning more about the people that make this town, what it means to prioritize art and culture no matter where you live, and finding a place in the community even if it's just for a little bit.
In the first month since I've been back, my heart still warms every time I come downstairs and walk through the shop-- whether to work down stairs or say hello or just pass on my way out. There's such a comfort in being surrounded by books-- especially when they're basking in low winter light and Captain has just come down the stairs and rubs his side along your leg to say hello.
It's just how I remembered it but also brand new, and exactly where I want to be.
As I see millennia of discrimination and suffering sink their teeth further into our wounds, I wonder what I'm doing five thousand miles away from home.
I don't know that I'll ever overcome this guilt of being gone when there's so much to do at home, but I'm hoping that in creating art and offering a marginalized perspective, I'm prioritizing and making space for more good in this life.
During my first weekend as Wigtown Artist in Residence, the town hosted Big Bang Weekend-- a lecture series celebrating female scientists and their work. I didn't expect to relate to any of the content but appreciated that this tiny rural town had made space to provide female scientists a platform to share their experiences and findings.
While I wouldn't dare any attempt to reiterate what I'd learned from Dr. Amy Hofmann, Dr. Pippa Goldschmidt, and Dr. Maya Tolstoy in their respective fields of planetary habitability, science fiction writing, and deep sea exploration, the humanity in their perspectives resonated with me the most. During the first panel, all three women gathered on stage to give teasers on their lectures to come.
When the inevitable subject of science as a male-dominated field came up, former astronomer/fiction writer Pippa elaborated the importance of having different perspectives. Not only for representation (because that should be a given), but because your findings as a scientist can only be improved by having more eyes and backgrounds look at your work. Diversity is key.
Amy spoke of her lifelong love of astrobiology (even before she knew what it was called), how she was discouraged from pursuing the field in high school, and how her love of science eventually won-- all tied to the beauty of studying science for the sake of mere curiosity.
And Maya gave the striking yet not surprising statistic that 25% of female field scientists have reported being assaulted on the field, while 75% have reported being harassed. We can acknowledge and applaud the small steps in progress we're making, but there's still a long road ahead.
So where do we go from here? We continue to make space and prioritize these conversations. We actively seek knowledge from women, people of color, LGBTQ, disabled, and other marginalized communities.* We keep going.
*I am not the first to point out that this panel featured only white women. I whole-heartedly believe we need to hear from other marginalized communities, and applaud the Wigtown Festival for coming this far. That said, this is just the minimum-- there is still a long road ahead and I'm optimistic about their events to come.
"The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space." - Carl Sagan
Hello from the UK!
I had two quick days in London before heading north, and as I only had one real day of daylight, I mapped out a little tour of bookshops. As always, this is by no means comprehensive nor a claim to be "the best" of anything. They're literally shops I saw photos for on the interwebz and thought they'd be cute IRL (spoiler: they are!)
I started the day later because I woke up having no plan then mapped this out after consulting friends' resources (thanks, Carlie! thanks Alana! thanks Jane!) The pace is slow and wandery with lots of stops for snacks:
Start with a coffee and second breakfast at Knockbox Coffee (I'm assuming you'll have slept in and eaten first breakfast already). On the same road you'll find Persephone Books, which publishes "twentieth century women writers." The shop is tiny, cute, and doubles as the publishers' offices. I was excited to see a shop centered around women (lots of women writers, suffrage posters, etc), but upon asking if they had any recommended reading by women of color, the staff person replied, "no, not really. We've tried but there just aren't really that many so everyone else always snatches them up." Alrighty then, white feminism.
(At this point I stopped at Fabrique to pick up a cardamom bun for later).
From here you can head to Quinto. You might want to pop over to Dishoom first and see if they have a line. If they don't, get your ass in there. If they do, browse through Quinto while you wait. This shop has two floors of secondhand books. If you love the old book smell, this place will be your jam. Regardless of whether you go to Dishoom before or after, make sure you know their chai is bottomless (a sad realization I only came to much later in my meal).
By this point you'll need to digest, so the long walk to Daunt could be nice, but I won't judge you if you take the tube. Daunt is beautiful and mostly travel books (though a nice selection of other things like fiction, cookbooks, etc). From here you can walk and dawdle along Marylebone or if you're me, haul ass to Heywood Hill to catch it before the sky turns too dark (this is what happens when you go to London in January). Heywood Hill is another tiny, cute, mixed-office space bookshop which offers home library design services. I didn't know this was a thing and now I'm ready to change careers.
At this point, I'd planned to go to John Sandoe but ran out of time/steam, so I took the tube home, ate my cardamom bun, and called it. Seeing how there are so many bookshops in London, I'm excited to repeat* with new shops during my next visit. Any and all recommendations welcome!
*preferably sans white feminism
If 2015 was my loneliest and bravest year, 2016 was the year I hustled into the void.
But first it was just a void. I went from feeling my deepest, to nothing at all. So I chipped away at the days moving from bed to bath, bed to bath.
I only started to feel real again when I began volunteering at In Other Words, a local feminist bookshop, community center, and safe space.
In February I went to Manila to visit my father's grave. I don't know that I'll ever write anything greater than my last and only love letter to him. I went believing I had no family left there, but leaving knowing that wasn't true.
Spring felt like a season lost to small moments but in the kindest way. I went on walks, foraged greens, happened upon fields of wildflowers.
And before I knew it, I dove into my busiest summer. I drove up and down the coast, then up again, and further up, still. The ocean will always be my home.
"You're burning the candle at both ends," my doctor said when I came back from flying around the world. From San Francisco to Jakarta, Bangkok, Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, and back to San Francisco. There wasn't a moment I didn't feel tired and wild.
And summer ended, but the rush never left. I was still swamped, frantic, and trying to balance seeing and being everyone, making and doing everything. And I don't think I've stopped just yet, either.
And I'm stilled tired, but 2016 helped me find my voice. I'll never not be angry about the state of our world and what we've let it become. I won't accept this as our status quo. And I won't apologize for the discomfort.
But I also felt the most whole and the most heard when I started speaking without apology.
I never felt lost, but I was never quite sure where I'd gone. Creating with purpose, surrounding myself with women, and taking up space with people of color brought me back.
I'm here and I'm ready.