Reclamation: Remembering How to Fly

Reclamation: Remembering How to Fly is a novel in progress based loosely on the author’s escape from her violently authoritarian family background and how an unexpected re-immersion into those power relations post-11.6.16 forced her to survive by reclaiming parts of herself from the white, toxically masculine vision imposed on her by her parents. (An accompanying photo-essay exhibit called “reclamation” is also in development.)


“Do you want us to pack these for you?”

She looks up from the screen at the horse of a man, smiling and rolling her eyes up at the ceiling: “Of course I forgot to empty the cupboards!”

She redirects her blue eyes to the massive kind man, then laughs at herself, inviting him to join in.

“Could you, Jav? I totally forgot the kitchen stuff! Super bright!”

“No worries. You know we’ll take care of you, Sarah! This is, what, the 5th time we’ve moved you in, like, five years? You know we got this.”

“Thank you—I adore you guys!” she blows toward the retreating hulk, laughing again. The one constant in her life since starting this journey: her moving company team.

She watches Jav pick up the boxes—gosh she missed these guys—looking quickly back at her screen, with a little smile, as he heads back in her direction and to the full kitchen cupboards.

The sun breaks through drifting fog, opening up a light blue section of the sky’s face, then covers it again in seconds, changing the light; changing everything in it. Sun on skin smells sweet, and her entire being is transported to spring at home, on glorious trails, on green-gold rolling hills surrounded by glorious oak and bay trees; life and smiles and variety and choices. Home.

“You want us to wrap the CDs and DVDs for you? How about the books and this old radio?” Like fog pulled up and over the cypresses on the ridge, her attention is pulled back to Jav and the Oregon “old tech corner” she re-created here, in California. All her old music and stories and media, whose human voices kept her company when there was no electronic world for 8 months in her little red house in the trees.

“That’s okay, you don’t have to—I’m just bagging them up and giving them to the Farmer’s Market tomorrow! Thank you, though!”

Last stop before home, and this is the last of most of the household stuff she owns, except art, some furniture, her hiking shoes, and some personal things. Everything else goes to others who need it in this little town, like the last two little towns. She loves how concise her life is now; nothing extra, just who and what matters.

She can’t believe it’s finally happening. It happened so fast. She’d been knocking, politely (and sometimes not so politely), for 3 years, and no one responded to her. They opened the door, they looked, then they disappeared. No reflection. No feedback. The universe was clear: “These people are not your audience. You’ve confused them for family for so long that you believe you need to return, show what you’ve learned, why you left, account for your choices: show them you’re the intellectual they raised.”

She has family now, though, real family. She can let go of the professionals who she’d cast in the role of family for decades. She has a sister to love now.

She’s finally forgiven herself for being such a dick most of her life. She walked through a big chunk of her life like a straight white entitled male, the son her father and mother hand-raised; her intellect the only way she was practiced at being human. When she started this journey five years ago, there was no one in the world she detested more than who she’d become, who she was in the world: just a collection of skills others wanted or needed. Being a whole human had always eluded her; she’d spent most of her life in emotional hiding. If nothing’d changed, she knew where it would’ve ended: with her cashing out, one way or another. It didn’t end that way, though. She’s a whole human being now: emotional, vulnerable, strong, smart, and full of love. Awkward. Earnest. Present.

“So did you finish that book you were working on, that one you went to Oregon to write?”

Jesse, Jav’s partner, is holding different sized flat packing boxes for the art in his brown hands. She reaches her white hands out to take the biggest flat box from him, the one about to slide out. Touching Jesse’s hand, she remembers that a brown man’s generosity and kindness made the last five years’ journey possible. A deep, grounding sense of purpose fills her suddenly; warms her body, relaxes it. She knows that none of this was an accident

“The universe had other plans for me, Jesse, I swear! I didn’t plan any of this stuff! Working on a bunch of different things now! I had no control over the last few years—just been riding and responding, making a little noise, and trying not to fall off the edge of the world!”

“Sounded pretty crazy to just up and move to a different world, leave California—thought you might have some stories to tell.” He smiles, stops, actually interested and curious in her response. She knows he’s a professional—like pretty much everyone she knew before starting this journey–but he’s also a friend, now that she’s present, too.

“It was, and I do!”

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