Finding Home in My Fall Feelings

I find myself missing old hugs- old sweaters and old blankets and creaky wooden floors. I miss the stained glass window at the front of my Victorian childhood home. I hope the people who moved in have left it and appreciate it just as much. I miss playing under the trees and hiding away from the world. I crave old friends and laughs that sound like home.

These memories have aged so sweetly, like candied fruit or apple pie. And I suddenly find myself having a harder time saying goodbye.

As I take my evening drive to the supermarket, my nostalgic and melancholy feelings are quelled by the quiet road. I have the world to myself- no distractions or urgency. I admire the trees that are left with just a bit of shine. They’re changing- following and working to complete their cycle. Yellow are their leaves in commemoration of the sun. I imagine them sending their amber syrup (energy) down into their roots.

You may not notice it in the midst of your scarf blowing over your face or if you’re in a hurry, but if you stop for just a second, you could witness one of the most magical parts of the season. Every so often, star-shaped rain comes down on the earth, creating one big blanket for the ground. It’s sprinkled so effortlessly, carried gently by the wind.

I feel nurtured by these trees and comforted by their resilience through the colder times. Their branches are what I hold onto to keep from sinking. But sometimes I’m too busy to see them. Instead, I see right past them. It makes me feel disconnected from everything, lost in my own race.

I struggle to feel part of where I am. The resentment I feel towards the place I grew up probably stems from it never making sense to me. I suppose it did at one point- when my friend and I would meet up at the edge of the gate that separated our family’s property to convene about our fairy house building operations and makeshift realities. I assume that gate is still there, but I haven’t seen it in over five years. The streets I travel now are foreign, though I know them like the back of my hand. The forgiving nature of mom and pop shops are diminishing, and the unforgivingness of busy, seasonal shore, and city people claims its place more each year.

Everywhere I look is changing. “It’s not what it used to be.” I feel old. No longer does my home look like the lichens growing on the old pear tree or picking ripe cherries while standing in between chipping paint and overgrown rose bushes. We’ve traded homemade quilts and messy living rooms for modern home magazine covers and spotless kitchen tables. We have fences now as borders. We close ourselves off because of computer-generated fear. The puzzle piece gets a little more misshapen.

So I just watch people leave. I’ve watched myself leave more than anyone else. I see the uprooting of family- we all need more water and sunlight now. What’s home without any friends?

The urge to escape grows and grows with vicious desire. And it’s not so bad if you can outrun the everlasting wave of emotion. Each season I find a new way to replace old feelings, to nourish what’s missing.

These desires are pacified by breaking away. Last summer, I traveled all the way across the country to New Mexico with my mother. You could say it was in search of a home that we belong to.

The mysteriousness of desert life called. I had a dream, a few months before, of being in the White Sands, and so the peacefulness of the wind picking up each gypsum crystal echoed through my mind. The allure and charm filled me with promise.

When I arrived, darkling beetles scurried across the sand. Each carried its own message in a tiny glass bottle. I put my feet onto pillowy ground and chased them across the hills. The tangerine sky lit my skin up like autumn’s glowing pumpkins, and the clouds painted my hair lavender. The sun set quickly, and I struggled to say my goodbyes, but right before I left, a darkling beetle stopped to hand me over a bottle. Inside I found a piece of myself (a piece of home). I took it with thankfulness and carried on.

I was left with was a valuable piece of wisdom. As I passed out of Southern New Mexico, through the Texas plains, and back into the sweet Louisiana air, I searched for my reflection in the muddy, stirring water of the Mississippi River with no luck, but found it in the window of the fast racing car against the greenery. My face was made up by a bunch of blurred foliage.

We passed many states on our way back, but none provided the same comfort of the Northeast. Of course, that’s what I’ve come to know, but as I looked down at my darkling beetle bottle, I saw I had roots. There wasn’t a reflection of any other land that could fill the hole in my heart from the separation of me to mine- pieces I’d denied myself.

My heart lies in my chest, but also in the dense forest, something I will always miss when I leave.

On this drive, I begin to recognize my surroundings like never before. I fit back into my shoes, my place. I’ve been running for long enough in ways to cope with my bitterness and depression as a result of my distaste for this place I’ve grown no roots. But truthfully, it is just as much home as all the other places. It’s just as much home as my friends’ faces and my parents embrace, my favorite sweater and a warm cup of tea. I’m home too, and the feathers I dropped to fade into seeds have sprouted as well. I carry these pieces everywhere I go.

Autumn brings back all my souvenirs. All my feelings resurface with vengence. Bygone polaroids scatter along the path, and I pick them up to skip like rocks. I find myself at meeting ends of the whirlpool. Life changes like seasons do.

I was never separate from home. My roots never shriveled. It was just an illusion I bought into. And besides the point, where the birch grows, the oaks stand tall, and the maples sing, is my home.

The bridge between a noisy summer, gatherings and burnt skin, and a cozy and quite lonely winter. Fall is a good time to reflect, to build your reservoir back up like the mighty maples.

With Love,


Shifting Ground

photo by Sonal Madhok

I was driving around one day and noticed the car in front of me had a sticker on it that read, “Change? How’s that working out for you?”

I don’t know about you, but I think that statement is terrifying. Yes, they are “just words,” but there is truth in that among all the people that fight for change and care so deeply, there are still many who refuse it- who are more than comfortable with the way things are in the world and would prefer them to remain the same for their sake.

My mother is the sweetest lady you’ll ever meet. She’s smart and funny and kind. All she ever does it go out of her way to make sure everyone is happy and feels cared for. She meets every person with so much love and gives away more than enough without any need for reciprocation. She deserves the world. 

I’d assume that most of you, reading this, feel the same way about your mother or at least someone you love. But despite my mother being a human being like the rest of yours, her Puerto Rican complexion means something different to the world. 

While there have been a lot of kind people along the way, there have also been a lot of people who are not so kind…

My mom has been parking on the opposite side of our street for the past year we’ve lived here. There has never been a problem, but a few weeks ago, she found a note on her car saying that that was illegal, and that they would call the police if she didn’t move. There were no signs or indicators noting that this was unlawful. In confusion, she called the local police department to check and see if it was okay for her to park there. She kept them on the phone and made them double-check. To which they replied, it was entirely legal for her to do so. She continued to park there. 

The next night, at 10 pm, there was a knock on our door. It was the Chief of Police. He ordered her to move her car because it was illegal, and she was blocking the intersection. When she replied that she had called the previous day, he said it was a “new rule” and proceeded to place police orders specifically in the area she was parked. 

My mom minds her own business, so I wonder a lot about why her “improperly placed” vehicle bothered our neighbor and why he sat in bed at 10 o’clock in the evening, dialing the police to have them come over here.

Aside from this, there have been many other instances on our block, and in my mother’s life, where this behavior has occurred and where she has felt uncomfortable, unsafe, and frustrated. For example, yesterday, my mother was walking our dog past a construction area nearby, where a police officer was posted up. As she passed, he proceeded to follow her as she walked until she got back home. Then, later that day, another police officer passed by, watching as she cleaned her car.  

Regardless of if you think any of this behavior was racially motivated. Regardless of if you think it’s not a big deal. This is NOT okay. And frankly, it’s fucking scary. 

What’s most painful about these situations is the fact that it’s so simple that nothing can really be said about it. “How can you prove that she really didn’t do something wrong?” “Are you sure they were following her?”

If you have ever loved someone or something, then you know the feeling that when they’re hurting, it hurts you. You just want to protect them, but you never have control over fate. Everyone has to go out in the world, but not everyone has a nice, white bubble to float around in- and that’s not discrediting the problems of others. I sometimes worry when I leave the house that something bad will happen, and I won’t get home in time. Or that the weird looks she gets when she goes for a walk will turn into something more grim. Although my mom doesn’t do things that would get her in some kind of trouble, I fear that she will be. 

I didn’t always recognize how different my mother’s reality was from mine because I have white skin- how I benefit from the white supremacist society we live in. Hell, I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. Not only was it rare to see diversity in my friend group, in my school, or in my town, but I don’t even remember conversations about racism coming up unless it was a topic of the past. I didn’t want to believe that people could be subtly racist, especially to my own mother. 

There is an unfair, disgusting, and horrifying abuse of power within our system. It was built long before our generation opened its eyes to this planet. Not only is it deeply embedded in the police force and the government, but also the people. Whether or not you want to believe it and as ugly and painful as it is, it’s in all of us. This is your battle. I know that these instances don’t happen in most people’s lives. And I know that because of this, it makes it really hard to think about, believe, and to stick with the change. You may have never seen it or realized it or even thought that maybe your own words or actions carry enough weight to really hurt someone else.

When I began to have this conversation with myself, it wasn’t easy. I was uncomfortable because I didn’t understand a lot of the feelings I had buried inside, some of which didn’t even belong to me, but were ingrained. I had to ask myself questions I never did before. So much comes at you at once, and you’re overwhelmed because, by nature, you want to fix it all at once. You can’t. There are things you and I won’t ever be able to comprehend. We can’t tackle everything. But it means something to be conscious and walk through life without rose-colored glasses.

Earlier this year, a chilling video surfaced the internet of a police officer kneeling on a black man’s neck for nine minutes, until he was unresponsive. That man was George Floyd. And that police officer was Derek Chauvin. Seeing that video should’ve shook you hard into your humanity, your mortality and your community. George Floyd was not only a husband, but a father- a human being that deserved just as many rights as the next one, just as many opportunities and respect. And the fact that, even after being murdered by law enforcement on video, there was hesitation to arrest and convict his killer is infuriating. There were many, many others before him. And even more after. How many more lives until something changes?

It’s heartbreaking to think of the people who don’t care enough or who simply just don’t believe it, when this is a reality for so many others. There are people who go out of their way to put the lives of others in danger, who live to see fear in those people’s eyes because it makes them feel high and mighty.

This happens every day. This behavior is everywhere. It’s not new, and it’s not a secret.

Everything that once hid in the shadows is coming to the surface right now. These things are changing right before our eyes, and everything we thought was, really wasn’t. You can feel it when you step outside your door- something is different, off balance, shifting.

The world is bending and breaking and bleeding. It would be a lie to say you don’t see it. We will all carry the weight of hatred on our backs as long as it is still very much running rampant through our country and our world. It lives in the way we participate, our inclusion of certain people and exclusion of others, our gossipping, our choice to support larger corporations while the smaller ones suffer, our pollution, our plastic, our self-denial, our abuse, our lies- everything we give our energy to that is not for the betterment, but instead feeds the negativity and allows it to grow even bigger. I know it hurts to think of these things, but it will always come full circle. No one is off the hook.

We’re all so caught up in our own lives and busyness that somehow there’s “no time” to learn and change. Or maybe there’s no time because it doesn’t immediately affect you. But none of your busyness actually matters- all of this running around and freedom you hold is meaningless, unless we can all live together like that. As Nelson Mandela once said, “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” This not only goes for the people, but the animals, the land and ocean too. We have gone on too long without a sense of community, appreciation, and care.

What I’m asking of you is to just take a second of every day to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Plainly, don’t be an asshole. And I’m not saying you are one, but always check yourself. Keep checking yourself. Check your family members and loved ones. Check your friends and coworkers. Educate yourself.

Don’t be complacent with the system because you don’t have negative experiences. Stop saying you don’t give a shit about anything at all. That’s not cool. No, you don’t have to constantly repost things on your Instagram- I’d hope that’s not the only thing you’re doing anyway. Have these conversations with your family and friends and everyone in between.

Acknowledge what came before you and the truth in everything. Make some room for the truth of others. Begin to see the world and her inhabitants as an extension of yourself. And treat everyone with the same respect, kindness, and immense love that you also deserve.

Hold so much love inside you that it bursts out of the seams. Spread it everywhere you go. Use it to heal. See the light it reaps.

Take the time to learn how to change and to make the world a better place for ALL (and there are no borders or limits or exceptions to that). Your love for humanity is going to have to be much greater than your love solely for your inner circle and yourself to overthrow this. Let go of your ego and your selfishness. Give it up for the bigger picture.

Awakening on a grand and global scale was coming. It’s long overdue. Nothing will live in the dark anymore.

Ignite the fire of change. Let your heart unfold. Meet everyone with the means to clean out a deep wound- lend an open and gentle ear. Please don’t ever be afraid to use your voice. You have one for a reason and I promise it matters. The call to become more conscious asks you to become compassionate, do the work, and listen. Notice. Feel. Discuss. Release. Repeat.

Grieve and rebirth. We will no longer live in a way that is not conducive to everyone’s wellbeing. No more blood will be shed. No more tears when there doesn’t have to be. It will take time. Know you are not responsible for everything, but you are responsible for yourself. You hold the dice and are deciding at every moment which direction this is going to go. Let it be forward.

With Fire,

Visionary Orchid