I began this project because I needed it. I am a teacher, a scholar, and a designer. And, yet, I was not sure how those sides of my professional identity spoke to each other. In the process of bringing together these sides of my professional identity, I also needed to reach a bit deeper and explore the person who isn’t a professional: the friend, lover, daughter, cyclist, gardener, ocean lover, frequent smiling person.

Photograph of UCSB campus, bright pink sky with dark black trees in the foreground.
Sunset in a eucalyptus grove on UCSB Campus

On living in California, Joan Didion (1968) wrote,

"The apparent ease of California life is an illusion, and those who believe the illusion real live here in only the most temporary way. I know as well as the next person that there is considerable transcendent value in a river running wild and undammed, a river running free over granite, but I have also lived beneath such a river when it was running in flood, and gone without showers when it was running dry" (65)

I rewrote this web text from a cafe in Morro Bay, California, while the Thomas fire raged just a few miles from my front door in Santa Barbara. Even so, I am one of the lucky ones: I evacuated early to breathe fresh air, walk outside without ash stinging in my eyes, and enjoy the calm that comes when one no longer feels compelled to check the fire maps every hour. My friend Miceala and I went to every oyster bar happy hour in town. I sipped too much coffee and eavesdropped on two elderly ladies reading their horoscopes. The cafes and bars were all full of evacuees working, drinking, waiting on hold with their insurance companies, planning, and planning not to make too many plans.

Photograph of grey ashy hills on the left side and green unburned hills on the right, with a lake far in the distance.
Hillside burned by the Thomas Fire between Ojai and Santa Barabara

This web text was supposed to start with defining the gap, reviewing the literature, and analyzing examples. It was supposed to be an academic essay. I left no space for myself, the feminist woman designing and writing.

I’m in this cafe filled with evacuees, dogs, and sea air. Amid all of the fear, there is joy, care, and space for each other.

I let myself take some space. I cut the draft up using a pair of tiny scissors that my husband uses to trim his beard (it is amazing what one remembers and neglects to pack when evacuating: grabbed the beard kit, but left shampoo and the hairbrush). In the gaps I gave myself some breathing room.

Joan Didion is the much-loved author by my most-loved CA friend. And, as she would say, it turns out that one cannot write a non-fiction essay set in California without invoking Didion. I would never claim to enjoy Joan Didion per se. I don’t know that she seeks to be enjoyed. I am increasingly compelled to quote her or drop casual references in casual conversations. This compulsion to cite Didion, more than even my year long-tan, tells me that I am becoming Californian and a former Carolinian.

As I contemplate my relationship to Joan Didion’s California, the Chumash land under my feet shakes, rolls, and quivers. It is a 5.2 earthquake just off shore. A woman in my writing group jokingly apologizes for being too intense today. Karen Lunsford assures me that there are no tsunami warnings. I add another item to my list of environmental disasters that I needed to be on the watch for.

While I am learning to find some stable footing in this land that does not belong to me, I am also learning to make some space for myself in my own writing and designing.

Designing with a technofeminist rhetoric of design has been my path to bring together my multiple selves—the professionals, the caregivers, the gardeners, the teachers, the writers—into a single space. Design writing can be used to make visible our multiple communities, inspirations, and commitments. We can only braid our bits and pieces for a time and hope for the best.

This essay was cut apart with tiny scissors and then stitched back together with scotch tape, sealed together with HTML and CSS.