My life has had a number of pivotal moments, many centered around big changes in geography and political systems. The first and perhaps most significant move happened at 8 years old, when my parents were able to secure passage out of Cuba as political exiles. Fast forward several more moves and a few decades, and the latest move took me from the Atlanta to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I’ve been since 2010.
Though I often talk about these moves and the changes each has brought, I only recently traced them out on a map and pondered their implications. And then I wondered, what if I use the distance between the origin and destination cities as the radius of a circle, and trace out a circle with the origin city at the center? What does each circle reveal? What might our destination have been if we’d traveled to any of the other points along the resulting circumference? Or to any other point within the area of the circle?
Circles is the result of asking these questions. Tracing a circle may be a somewhat arbitrary basis for exploring what might have been, but it surfaces and reflects these interesting questions and implications. It’s fascinating, for example, to contemplate the diversity of places we could have reached in a trip of the same distance.
Our flight out of Havana, Cuba could have landed us in Canada, pretty much anywhere in South America, and even in Western Africa. From Madrid we could have gone anywhere in Western or Eastern Europe, to the Middle East, to almost anywhere in Africa, and even to parts of South America. And so on.
The nodes themselves represent emergence, movement, and potential. There is an important difference in the nodes, however. Those early moves were passive for me (as a child, I was effectively along for the ride), while as an adult each move was more proactive or planned.
This child-adult demarcation also happens to roughly correspond with a shift in my primary language, from Spanish to English, and with a shift from being and feeling like an exile to eventually feeling somewhat settled.
Circles has been a satisfying way to acknowledge, trace, and respect the past. It’s also been an exercise for considering and imagining what lies ahead. As the result of these moves, and the circumstances under which many of them happened, I’ve never really felt anchored to place. I get attached, sure, but the roots pull up easily, and perhaps that’s a good thing. There’s much yet to be explored.