I am Jen and also Westerfolk.
Westerfolk was my first email handle, and it has endured 23 years. It started as a twist on my married name, Westerman, and it offered a solution to the perennial irritation of “man” overshadowing “woman.” Over time, Westerfolk became a reference to the little family of four that my husband and I formed and raised.
The whole family used that email address, and so by extension it became the identity we presented to friends, school, businesses, and social media. As the internet expanded and infiltrated more areas of our lives, we were Westerfolk to the world.
Today, we all have our separate identities and avatars online, but I kept Westerfolk for myself. It’s the name on my Instagram (my primary social media presence). More importantly, it is a touchstone for me, an approach to life and work that remembers community and family. We are folk.
It also suggests that we can all be artists and musicians. Folk art. Folk music.
To me, Wester- references a geographic limitation, implying that we just a part of the wider world. It reminds me to consider where I am and also to look around. To look to the East. To take a voyage on the water, a flight on the wind, a trek across the desert.
Although it is a contrivance, Westerfolk feels earthy and old. It grounds me. When I am at the office, or in traffic, or in a store, I can feel so disconnected and isolated from nature. When I am harvesting my lemons, hit the trail with my husband, or when I pick up my ukulele to play with friends, I am restored as Westerfolk.