When I moved to Albuquerque, sight unseen, in the Fall of 2019, it may as well have been a foreign country to me. Not knowing which neighborhoods I liked best, I stayed at a former coworker’s mother’s home in the South Valley for a month while she was on vacation in Greece. In exchange, I fed and watched her menagerie of animals—two horses, two dogs, an aging cat, a parrot, and a ball python. One night, during New Mexico’s monsoon season, a sudden storm blew out the power throughout the South Valley. Before moving to New Mexico, I’d lived in densely populated Mid-Atlantic cities my entire life—I hadn’t known a city could get so dark. I sat on the floor in the living room. The dogs and the cat orbited around me like small moons and shadows ambled clumsily past the black television screen in the lantern light. My host had lived in that house for more than 30 years and the furniture showed evidence of pleasant wear. Mid-century paintings of horses running in the desert were carefully arranged beside framed stick figure drawings I presumed to be the work of my former coworker.
Since then, I’ve thought often about what home means to me. Of course, like all of you, I spent a lot of time inside of my (various different) apartments over the past year and I conscientiously arranged and rearranged my belongings to create something that felt comfortable enough to never leave. And I spent a lot of time in parks and forests, on top of mountains and in bodies of water, alone in my own body and, for the first time in my life, incapable of forming a list of other things I should’ve been doing instead.
Last May, while I was living alone in a little studio in Albuquerque, a friend from back home told me about the Thrasher’s OC MD boardwalk livestream. Thrasher’s is my favorite beach treat, a boardwalk staple serving fries by the bucket, soaked in peanut oil and heavily salted. True Marylanders douse them with apple cider vinegar and whether or not they’re meant to be eaten with ketchup is heavily debated. Intensely homesick, in my landlocked, sun-filled apartment, I turned on the Trasher’s livestream every morning for two months as I filled my swamp heater with water from a kettle. I watched intently as little sunburned men, women, and children milled around the boardwalk I’d visited every summer as a kid. They appeared happy, dazed, non-plussed.
In July, I moved back to my hometown of Baltimore and, last month, I went to the beach. I watched as little sunburned men, women, and children milled around the boardwalk. On the way home, I took a nap in the car as my boyfriend drove and I woke to a sunset over the Blue Ridge, a herd of grazing cows whipping past the passenger seat’s window. It’s hard to say precisely why this place has become home to me, but I know now that a home is not defined simply by familiarity. To me, a home isn’t necessarily where I’m from or where I live, but a certain kind of spirit.
Recently, I’ve been reading much more for pleasure and I have noticed the way that people describe their world with the fidelity and attention I’ve reserved in my writing for descriptions of home, wherever that may be. I think of Aracelis Girmay in “Second Estrangement” writing “Please raise your hand, / whomever else of you / has been a child / lost, in a market / or a mall, without / knowing it at first, following / a stranger, accidentally / thinking he is yours” or Frank O’Hara in “A Terrestrial Cuckoo”: “What a hot day it is! for / Jane and me above the scorch / of sun on jungle waters to be / paddling up and down the Essequibo / in our canoe of war-surplus gondola parts[.]” When I think of how these poets have arranged this odd sequence of words on a page in just the right order, I think of the magpie in the Planet Earth segment who cannot stop collecting objects for his nest until he finds the bright red felt heart that makes his home complete. How weird to be a sack of bones and blood moving through space in time with so many other sacks of bones and blood. And to be able to say something about it!
As BMR’s new Editor-in-Chief, I’m thrilled to keep reading your work and I’m confident that you’ll continue to send us pieces that show us what the world looks like to you. It’s an honor to be filling the shoes of the many great editors (and great writers, in their own right) who have come before me and to be trusted with your words as they seek a home.