I write this post in-flight back home to Portland, Oregon where forest fires have decimated nearly one million acres of Oregon forest in the past week. The air quality in Portland is beyond hazardous to breath and the city is under a declared state of emergency. On my flight, I am also wearing an N95 mask to help protect myself and others from the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The United States continues to reel from its reckoning with racial injustices and societal division. Not being able to breath is both literal and metonym in these surreal times.
I am not really sure what I am flying back to. My wife and son have evacuated the city due to the toxic air quality and Portland has been shut down for months on end due to COVID-19 and nightly protests. It’s been hard to sort through the delirium of my existence in a place that was once a welcome refuge and beacon. I feel trapped by nostalgia and memory of this place as it once was, yet crestfallen by what realities it holds for me and my family. My sentimentality, emotional and energetic sensorium, has pushed me to the revelation that this is not a stage in my relationship to Portland but rather a transition away from it as it is now and move to a new space for myself and family. This transition is a return to something historical, familiar, and nourishing; we are moving to a known place, but with intentions of reconsecration and re-engagement with activities and practices that we once eagerly left behind when we moved to Portland.
It’s hard. It’s hard to sort out what is, and what role is played by, memory, reflection, nostalgia, and aspiration. All of these meanings are essential to the project of Derrida’s Archive Fever inquiry (hence my blog’s moniker). These meanings are also real in an embodied sense that I have not conscientiously grappled with in a long time, if ever; these meanings are all sticky, and they mute, distort, amplify one’s desire and (in)action. Everything in its right place, I suppose. Finding a balance in my transition seems to be the project at hand. I have no doubt it is time to leave, but do so holding gratitude and grief skyward as sails toward the horizon.