Another Year Gone

Next week will mark two years in New Zealand.  Two years.  In some ways, that seems like such a long period of time, and it others, so little.  To mark the one year anniversary last year, I took stock of what I’d learned over the year, what I’d done, how I’d changed.  I tried to make sense of whether living on the opposite side of the planet made things different.  Made me different.  Two years in, it’s time to take stock again.  So.  Here’s what I’ve learned and what I’ve done in the last year.

I’ve made new friends.

I’ve lost others.

I’ve discovered a love for vegetarian sushi.  And yum cha brunch on Sundays at Great Eastern.

–And insanely-expensive-but-oh-so-gorgeous-delicious-and-exotic cocktails at the Hippopotamus restaurant bar with girlfriends.

–And lemon chicken at Cha before going to the movies at the Embassy.

–And raspberry pastries from the Simply Paris stall at the Sunday market.  Or maybe a Roti wrap from the Indo-Asia food truck at the same Sunday market.  Or the Cambodian noodles.

–And garlic Naan bread and dahl from Masala, with its dark red walls and Miles Davis CDs playing in the background.

I’ve discovered I have favourite places in Wellington, many of which are not on the tourist map.  Several of which are. Many of which are places to eat, drink, and read a few good books.

I now subscribe to two magazines that ascribe to a life lived consciously, sustainably, and with as few chemicals and processes as possible.  I have decided to make my own kitchen counter cleaner after successfully making my own shower cleanser.  (Vodka!  It’s all about cheap vodka!)

I have grown to like eating lamb—especially with chickpeas and homemade yogurt sauce with chili and mint.

I’ve been reminded that it really is true: Where you go, there you are.  I am the same Jenn with same Jenn issues and the same Jenn successes no matter where I live or what I do.

I’ve been impulsive and have been glad for it in the end.  (In fact, I leave today for a trip to India for a friend’s wedding.)

I vacillate between hyper-planning (my usual mode) and no planning (Jenn 2.0).  The fact that I even contemplate “no planning” is amazing.

Aside from a plane ticket and few required bits of planning, I have not planned my trip to India.  I am reliant on the maxim that everything will work out in the end.

I continue to jaywalk brazenly.  I also continue to follow the rules related to standing in queues and obeying Official Signs.

I have started referring to “lines” “queues” and I use the word “heaps”.  But I still refuse to call an elevator a “lift”.

I don’t think I can handle hot climates anymore.  But I’m still not a fan of biting cold.  Wellington winters make me long for Savannah summers.

I have succeeded in the art of layering.  Mostly.

I have cut my hair short after years of growing it out and keeping it long.  I’m still not sure who the woman is staring at me in the mirror.  I suppose that’s a metaphor for life.  Though living amongst the Wellington uber-hipster-intelligencia has taught me that this is a tired, tedious, and obvious metaphor.

I miss home every day.  But I’ve come to realise that at home, I’d miss Wellington every day.  Because Wellington is my home too.

I have always been a quirky set of contradictions.  I remain so.  Only with funny spelling added to the mix.

I’ll end this blog with three things that have come to amuse me about living in New Zealand:

  1.  My fondness for gossip magazines, which heavily feature the Royals.

My guilty secret

  1. Assigned seating in movie theatres (which people follow.  There have been “incidents” when people were sitting in the wrong seats).

Seat D-5, and don’t you forget it!

  1. Drying my clothes on a line instead of in a dryer.  It really is—in many respects—a nicer way to dry your clothes.

Now.  What will the next year bring?

Country songs and overflowing sinks

This has been a challenging week.  Between our apartment flooding (and consequently flooding the apartment below us), stress related to some new work I’m doing, and a few other things, I’m ready to run away and hide.  For a little while.

Every time I hear the electrician working away below us, I wince.  I feel for the people who live there.   But I also wonder—were I the person in that apartment—if I would shake my fist at the ceiling and curse.

Hopefully not.  Hopefully, while I would be frustrated, I would simply shrug and say that sometimes, stuff just happens.  Despite your best intentions and preparations.  Accidents happen.  Life happens.  You know why?  Because we’re humans, not robots.

And while I’m perfectly happy to extend that grace to others, I am almost completely unable to extend that grace to myself.

At what point do we decide that perfection is meaningless?  That a lack of perfection is not a fatal character flaw?

At what point do we get over whether we’re liked?  Whether our intentions are understood?

At what point do we grow up, get over it, and move on?

These are not rhetorical questions.  I ask them earnestly—not only of my friends and strangers on the bus, but of myself.  Perhaps, they are the foundation achieving grown-up-ness.  If they are, then I still have a long way to go.  I suppose it’s a matter of perspective.

There’s a New Zealand poet I quite like, by the name of Hone Tuwhare.  His poems were equally lusty, ribald, and political.  They are a joy to read, because sometimes they make you smile, but they always make you think.  They have depth.  Especially the later ones.   I’d like to think it’s because—by the end of his life—Hone Tuwhare had answered all of the questions I ask above.  So that even when metaphorically speaking of sausages, he spoke with the voice of someone who could appreciate what a rare gift it was to enjoy a midnight tryst with the one you love.  You don’t have that perspective at twenty.  Or, dare I say it, even at forty.  Perspective is the one thing we need as early as possible in our lives.  Isn’t it an irony, then, that we only gain it through experience and time?

There will be a point at which I can answer my questions, where I can extend grace to myself, and where I can get over it and move on (metaphorically speaking).  When that will be is anyone’s guess.  I suppose this is one situation in which the journey is the destination.  And let’s be real, a year from now (or even five months from now) I will not still carry the burden of this week–a self-inflicted burden for the most part, mind.  This I know. It’s just the actual getting through the week and keeping that self-infliction part to a minimum that I still struggle with.

Being a curious sort, when did you reach these points of enlightenment yourselves?  And if you’re like me—floundering and still trying to find socks that match—when do you hope to?

And if  you’d like to check out some Mr Tuwhare’s poems, there are several here and also here.

Finding my voice

Wax on. Wax off. I am the karate kid of singing. No, I’m not talking about the fancy karate-kick-with-a-broken-ankle kind of karate kid. I mean the washing-and-waxing- dilapidated-cars kind. Except instead of cars, I have five notes. Up and down. On a rolled R. Sometimes—if I’m really doing well—on an eee vowel. Absolutely, positively, no consonants. Except g. Sometimes there’s a g consonant.

This has been a major part of my singing life for the last two months.

I recently started voice lessons again. My teacher is amazing. And very technical. And exacting.

And thus began my hour-long, “do-or-do-not-there-is-no-try” lessons and multiple hours of weekly practice on five notes. Up and down. Rolled r’s. The occasional g.

It’s not as boring as it sounds. The whole time I’m thinking about whether my larynx is open, whether my vocal folds are relaxed, whether the ligaments are stretched or loose, what my soft-palate is doing, how my hard palate is placed, keeping my tongue in the right place at the right time, and a whole host of other things. That’s a lot to do in five little notes, up and down the scale.

Image

shamelessly lifted from choral.net

Why? Why I am doing this? If you imagine the voice as a series of bicycle chains and gears, mine don’t flow together as well as they could and the switch between them is sticky. Plus, one of the chains is hit or miss, performance wise. That was never a problem as long as I was on the flat, so to speak, but anything really challenging showed the weaknesses. The aim of these lessons is to work these chains and gears, or voice registers, so that they run smoothly and perfectly, no matter the conditions. And so that I can sing Strauss. And meaty Mozart arias. And all sorts of other music I’ve always shied away from.

Image

Yet another great image from choral.net

I should be thrilled. And I am, but…

Here’s the thing. Voices generally match bodies. What I mean is—from a physical standpoint—a tall woman with a large jaw has a much bigger instrument than a short, slight woman. All that means—really—is that the tall woman doesn’t have to work as hard as the slight woman to produce a big sound.

But it does, on some level, go farther than that. We also expect that voices match bodies in a more specific sense (regardless of whether it’s true). Tall, willowy blonde with ankles the circumference of pencils? Surely she has an ethereal, super-high voice that spins and spins and spins into the rafters before floating down and wafting around you.

Squashy, curvy woman with a big jaw and meaty wrists? Of course you’re going to get a big sound that surges through the room, envelops you, slaps you around a bit, and then sinks into your bones.

No.

I want to sound like the tall, willowy blonde with ankles the circumference of pencils. I don’t want to sound like that squashy, curvy woman with meaty wrists.

Yes. But with hair. Long, cascading blonde curls will do, thanks.

Why? Because my whole life I have wished I had ankles that might snap at slightest misstep. (Not really. It’s metaphorical.)

I have never looked like that. And I won’t ever look like that, either. But in some ways, trying to emulate this light, floaty voice made me feel willowy, even if only for a few minutes.

I remember being a slim kid who was still taller, broader, and just plain bigger than every other kid around me. At the age of twelve, a distant uncle tried entice me to work on his farm for a few weeks because, you know, I was “sturdy”.

I don’t know a single woman who genuinely wants to be sturdy. Myself included.

Tapping into this big, meaty voice I supposedly have has required me to confront demons that seem to plague me no matter what I’m doing or what the situation is. Or how much weight I lose. It’s not a fun process.

I imagine that’s why it’s called “personal growth”.

While I continue to ponder that, I must get back to my five notes up and down.

We tried the octave last week, but my teacher quickly decided I wasn’t ready for eight notes at time. Maybe next month, she said.

Wax on. Wax off. Do-re-mi-fa-sol. Sol-fa-mi-re-do.

Resolving to Resolve

New Year’s resolutions.  Yes, I made them.  Why am I only sharing them with you now?  Because I wasn’t sure I was going to stick with them.  Sharing your resolutions can be like asking someone to marry you on national television, only to be turned down.  Okay, that may be a tad overdramatic.  But they do have the potential to work as anti-fulfilling prophesies.  By their mere mention, they are set to never be achieved.

So far, I have been working towards achievement of mine.  Here they are:

  1.  Writing original fiction
  2.  More ballroom dancing
  3.   The DIET

WRITING

I used to write lots of stories.  I loved writing.  I still do.  But several years ago, for many reasons, I stopped writing.  I told someone recently that I’d stopped in part because I wasn’t sure who I was anymore, and if I felt that way, how could I write with an authentic voice?  That, and I was lazy.  Okay.  Mostly I was lazy (but the first part sounded better).

So I made a commitment.  I gave myself a deadline—the Georgia Bar Journal’s annual fiction contest.  The deadline was 20 January.  I had a lot going on in January (and a complete lack of a story) so, I wasn’t sure I would be able to pull it off.  I’ll save you the “did she or didn’t she???” artificially created plot tension and just tell you that I did.  I made the deadline with hours to spare.  My primary character?  A pygmy goat.  If only I were joking.

But seriously, the best part of the whole exercise was that completely real fear that I wouldn’t be able to tie the threads of my story together in any believable fashion and the unbridled joy and excitement when I did.  Writing feels like magic.

DANCE FEVER!

I used to dance most Thursday nights with my friends in the Savannah Swing Cats group.  We took over the corner of an occasionally smoky bar at a seen-better-days hotel on Abercorn Street.  It was fun.  Great, great fun.  We danced swing, foxtrot, salsa, you name it.  (Well, those were the only dances I knew, so I’ll just name those, okay?)  Like writing, I missed dancing.  I wasn’t  very good at it, but I enjoyed it.  I figured a year and a half in Wellington was enough time to have gotten my feet under me.

The thing about dancing in Wellington is that it’s not quite like Savannah.  There aren’t advertised groups or communities who—for a few bucks, or none at all—organize great dance events.  The closest thing I could find was sequence dancing.  Without going into a complicated description, let’s just say that it’s choreographed ballroom.  If you don’t know the choreography, you’re basically screwed.  Oh, and it’s a hit with the over 80 crowd.

Last night, I attended my first Wellington sequence dance event.  Every Monday night from 7:30 to 10, you can dance, dance, dance the night away.  If you know the patterns, that is.

I was the youngest person in the room by a good 25 years, I am American, and I’m a girl.  Basically, this meant that I didn’t lack for dance partners.  It also meant that I was a good source of kind-spirited gossip.  By the time Roma, the designated teacart lady for the night, came around to collect my cup, she knew I was that “Young American girl with the delightful accent.”

Gary was my primary partner.  Gary was good fun.  He has a thing for jam cake, I could tell, and he’s travelled all over the world.  Gary is also 90.  Albert was another dance partner.  He was very concerned that I was going to miss out on the jam cake, has also travelled all over the world, and is serious about dental hygiene.  We talked about dental hygiene for a good while.  Albert is about 85.

Yes this was all very amusing, but you know what?  These people could dance.  I, on the other hand, looked like a cartoon character wiping out on a banana peel.  “Youth” (come on, everything is relative) is irrelevant in the face of experience.  It was fun.  I will definitely go back.

DUKAN ME THIN

I’m also staring a sincere effort to lose the rest of the weight I’d like to.  I did a lot of research and decided to use the Dukan diet.  There are many merits to the Dukan diet, but let me say this: I cannot credibly endorse a program which (a) means I cannot eat popcorn for a year; and (b) requires a sincere, life-long commitment to meaty protein.

I came.  I saw.  I ate the chicken.  Now I will modify and stick to what worked the first time.  A crap load of exercise and very few treats.  (But popcorn is a necessity.)  I promise not to keep you updated on my efforts.  Just know that I have great intent to stick with this one.  But now it’s time to go, the microwave just dinged.  My popcorn is ready.

The Beautiful and the Wretched

T and I travelled to the Bay of Islands this past weekend to celebrate his birthday early (unbelievably, our birthdays are only a day a part, and I have this thing about birthdays being both individual and individually special).  I had never been and he had only been there once or twice.

The top of the North Island. We started in Whangarei, drove to Pahia, Russell, Opua, and Kerikeri, and across to Kaihohe and Hokianga

The Bay of Islands is considered a wee gem, even by New Zealand standards.  Sometimes, it feels like you’re visually overstimulated living here.  You can’t appreciate the pretty because there’s no “ugly”, there’s no wretchedness.

This trip was beautiful.  And it was ugly.  And at the end of it, I came away enriched in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.  There are four reasons for this—some light-hearted, some just gorgeous, and others troubling and unsettling.  But first, let’s start with the fun.

Reason number  1:  The toilets

We flew into Whangarei and then drove to Paihia, stopping in Kawakawa for a break at the famous Hundertwasser Toilets.  Frederic Hundertwasser was a Viennese architect with a very, erm, interesting aesthetic.  He bought a second home on the coast near Kawakawa.  When the local council announced in 1998 that they wanted to refurbish the 40 year old toilets, he volunteered a design in his idiosyncratic style.  Given the whimsical approach New Zealand takes to many public spaces, it’s not surprising that Hundertwasser’s plan was adopted, grass roof and all. The design also includes a living Macropiper excelsus tree, after which the town is named (The Maori word for the tree is Kawakawa). This was the only building he designed in the southern hemisphere, and it now is probably the most photographed public toilet in the world.  It’s also, the weirdest.  Here are a few of my pictures of it:

The inside of the toilet area

From the outside

Reason number 2: Stunning landscapes.

This is simply photo porn.  Enjoy!

Looking from Flagstaff Hill, Russell

The shoreline in Russell

A small boat in the Opua harbour

A gorgeous old church near Paihia

Rainbow Falls

Looking down at the Stone Store in Kerikeri--the oldest stone building in New Zealand.

Reason number 3: Standing up for what’s right.

This was an unexpected experience and one—on reflection—I’m grateful for.

We took the ferry over to Russell from Paihia—all of a 5 minute trip.  Russell is a lovely, resortish sort of place full of boutiques, cafes, and old buildings with historical markers.  It is also the first capital of New Zealand and the sight where European settlers arrived, including Anglican missionaries who witnessed to the local Maori population.  It reminded me a bit of a seaside Savannah.

You could really feel the history in some of the places.  As I sat in one, alone and deep in thought, a woman came in with cleaning supplies.  She was on the building’s cultural board and it was her weekend to tidy up.  We struck up a conversation.  She was from the UK originally, but had lived in New Zealand for about  thirty years.  We talked about Savannah and the South.  She mentioned that the evening before she had attended a Thanksgiving dinner with some people from New Orleans.

What I’m leading up to starts with what she said next.

“They said that there was still so much racism there,” she said.

Not sure where she was going with this, I replied, “I think it’s fair to say that racism exists everywhere.”

“Well not here.  There’s no racism here.”

I think my raised eyebrows gave away my surprise.

She explained.  “It’s not about racism with the Maoris.  It’s about role models.  They aren’t very good role models for their children, are they?”

“Excuse me?”

She leaned in a way that I can only describe as conspiratorial.  And it angered me.  “They’re all on the benefit.  All they’re doing is teaching their kids to be lazy and live on the benefit.”

At this point, I had a choice.  I could smile benignly and change the subject, thus letting it go, or I could say something.

I said something.

“I don’t think that’s really accurate,” I began.  “And, regardless, it’s not about role models.  It’s about ending a cycle of oppression and racism.  That takes a long time– it’s endemic  *and* systemic.  You can’t just change that overnight.  And to say that racism doesn’t exist here is just… well, I’m sorry, but it’s just wrong.”

She waved her hands in the air.  “Oppression?  Racism?  I think that’s debatable.”

“There’s nothing debatable about laws that basically stripped Maori of their property or that laws that prohibited Maori children from speaking their own language in public,” I said, genuinely angry at this point.  “ I don’t know what you call it, but that sounds like oppression and racism to me.”

Before she could reply, we were interrupted by a jovial older man who came in to join her in her cleaning.  She turned away and I returned to some quiet contemplation.  I think God was probably looking out for us both in that moment.

I was seething inside, though.  The conversation had really bothered me, for obvious reasons.  But what really angered me was that she somehow thought I might be sympathetic to what she was saying.  Was it because I was an immigrant, like her?  Was it because I was a white girl from the South?  Was I being overly sensitive to the issue because I *am* from the South and race relations are always present somewhere in the periphery.   I don’t know.  At this point, I don’t care, but I was honestly astounded that she believed that these were “truths” and thus safe to share with a total stranger.

It rattled me in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

In fact, it still rattles me.

In contemplation, I am glad of two things.  First, I am glad I said something.  For lots of reasons I won’t go into here, people don’t always have the luxury of being able to say something.  I know some would disagree with me on that point.

Second, it’s the first time I’ve encountered such direct statements about race in New Zealand, and honestly one of the few times I have encountered it in my life.  That shows me that while there is obviously still a lot of work to be done, there’s a lot that has already been done.  I can live with that.  For now.

Reason number 4: Seeing where it all started

Tying everything together was our visit to the Waitangi Treaty grounds on our last day.  Waitangi is typically translated as weeping waters.  Though, some believe it can also translate into falling tears.

The Waitangi Treaty grounds is the site where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the Crown and the Maori.  It is the birthplace of modern New Zealand.  It’s where it all started for most of us.  It’s where it changed for many others.

I thought about the Revolutionary War and the birth of America.  I thought about the riots and the skirmishes and the wars going on all over the world over so many of the things that I experienced in the microcosm of our weekend away.  Once again, I realised that the same struggles exist almost everywhere to one degree or another.  That people are fighting, have fought, and will fight for many of the same things.

As I stood looking out over a gorgeous bay under the shade of century old trees, the Tui birds danced and sang on their branches.  Anyone I know here will tell you that I have a thing about the Tui birds.  I looked up and I smiled.   And I thought to myself, “This is New Zealand,” this is the world,  both the beautiful and the wretched.

Looking out over the Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Inside the Waitangi Wharenui

The Golden Age

I am unimaginably homesick today.  I know this because I desperately want Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.  The kind that comes in the blue box, with the envelope of cheese-like powder, and the old-school elbow macaroni.   It looks something like this:

This is remarkable, because I haven’t eaten Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in probably a decade.  One day I looked at the neon orange cheese-like powder and said, “This can’t be right” and walked away from the KMC.    

Cheese-like powder. 0_o

KMC was a staple of my childhood.  It was cheap, effective, and about one of the only things I’d eat.  I still remember the salty tang of the sauce made from the cheese-like powder.  I have fond memories of that cheese-like powder.  (And yes, I find this as disturbing as you probably do). 

The thing is, I don’t really want the KMC.  I want the comfort of a nostalgic past, one that is swathed in a blanket of peanut butter sandwiches and macaroni and cheese and blissfully free of discord and struggle. 

KMC is my golden age. 

While—again—this is likely disturbing, I’d like to think that all of you know what I mean.  We have memories, objects, places that anchor us to what we think of as the best parts of ourselves, the best parts of our past. 

This leads me to talk about two things: stuff and movies.  These are two of my favourite topics.  I could jaw about stuff and movies all day long.  Be glad that I don’t. 

But on the topic of stuff, why do we have it?  Why do we keep it?  Why do we fight like hell to be the one who has Grandma’s old, broken-down faux-crocodile handbag? 

This may be too simplistic, but in my mind, we keep stuff—especially other people’s stuff—because the stuff is something we can wrap our hands around, something we can feel, something we can say, “Yes, this is you.” 

I am, of course, talking specifically about dead people’s stuff.  I am thinking specifically about my mom’s stuff. 

It hit me the other day that next week will be the 20th anniversary of my mother’s death.  It does not weigh heavily on me, per se, but it is remarkable how present it is in my mind.  Perhaps it’s because I’m quickly approaching the age that she was when she died.  Perhaps it’s because it happens to coincide with Thanksgiving this year, and I am very far from a home of four-day holidays, pumpkin pies, cranberry sauce, and Black Friday.  Perhaps it’s simply because I miss her and wish she were here to help me figure out where I’m going and whether I’m making the right choices.   It’s hard being a responsible grown-up sometimes.

Sometimes, you feel like you’re in uncharted territory and you’re trying to hold it together in such a way that everyone assumes you know what you’re doing. 

Actually, let me revise that. 

I think most of us go through each day feeling like we’re in uncharted territory.  I think we careen and bump along from one side to the next and just pray that we get through the day without seriously screwing up the relationships and the things we value most. 

When we feel like that–when we’re breathing a bit more quickly than normal, feeling uncomfortable, and far outside of what we know–I think most of us yearn for our own KMC golden ages.  Looking back at the known past is easy; facing the uncertain future is hard.

Woody Allen’s new film, Midnight in Paris, explores this very issue.  Of course, it is gorgeously shot, has a great soundtrack and relatable characters, and patented “Woody Allen patter”.  It’s so much more than that, though.  He explores this idea of “golden ages” and comes to the conclusion that the only true golden age is the present.  The right now.  This moment. 

I like that idea.  As uncertain as we feel some days, as much as we mourn the things (the people) lost, as fondly as we remember the past (including cheese-like powder and blue boxes of macaroni), the reality is we also create joy in *this* moment, in *this* now.  Our feet may be anchored in the collective experiences of our past, but if we’re lucky, our arms are spread wide and open, ready for the unknown adventure that is our future.

What a thrilling thing.

Rocks and Islands and Life’s Eternal Question

Since moving to New Zealand, I have accepted rides from strangers.  I have been kicked out of a bar (by association).  I have habitually jaywalked.

I have faced the prospect of being alone in a place so very far away from home.

I have been more straight-forward with people on difficult subjects.  I have dressed up like a zombie.  On purpose.  In public.

I have asked a total stranger for his phone number (for a friend).  I have met the total stranger with my friend at a bar (not the one I was asked to leave).

I have successfully driven on “the wrong side of the road” for over a year.

I have had fun.  I have been scared.  I have been sad.  I have been angry.

I have learned that I like Indian food, that I like eating more vegetables than meat, that I can tell the difference between a good laksa and a not-so-good laksa.  I have learned that pumpkin and kumara humus is delicious.

I have learned that some things in life are sacred.  They are, in no particular order: love, loyalty, curiosity, friends, laughter, and cornbread.  But only cornbread like my Papa used to make.  I have accepted that I will never be able to make it the same way.

I have learned that the core of me is the same, no matter where I live or what I do, but that I can change.  That I have changed.  That I am changing.  That I will continue to change.

I now wear patterns (occasionally) and layers and boots and scarves and don’t worry about standing out.

I think about all of these things as I get ready to leave for a trip home next week.

I wonder if my friends will think I’ve changed?  Will I think they’ve changed?  Will I miss Wellington?  Will I want to leave Savannah?  Will I ask for coriander and courgette instead of cilantro and zucchini?

Will I unthinkingly say, “Cheers, mate,” instead of “Thank you.”?  Actually, that’s a very unlikely scenario.

I have no idea how I will respond to any of these potential questions.  And (maybe this is the Kiwi creeping in me), aside from mentioning all of these things here, I don’t really care.

I can’t wait to see Wright Square, to have lunch at the Pink House, to eat real pulled pork with mustard sauce, coleslaw, and maybe a rib or two.

But in saying that, I know I’ll miss hearing the Tui birds sing every morning and that cheeky cat who saunters along the waterfront.  I’m going to miss Rahzoo and walking the waterfront on Sunday mornings.

In short, I’ll miss home when I’m home.

It’s a very odd feeling to have one foot in Savannah and the other in Wellington.  The halves of you are stretched between two planes of existence, and you never wholly fit into either.

Though in saying that, the constant stretch and pull of finding my center when I’m not sure where center is has provided unparalleled opportunities for growth and experience.  And I love Wellington, and New Zealand, and on most days, feel like this *is* home.

At its worst—on days when I feel isolated and sad and unsure of where I am and what I’m doing—having two homes is a displacing, discomfiting existence.

We need an anchor in life.  I disagree with Simon and Garfunkel—we are not rocks, we are not islands.  But even if you were an island, sometimes, the best of yourself fails you, and you need the warm, comforting blanket of familiarity and history.  You need the terra firma of a back garden in Brunswick,Georgia or a front porch in Savannah,Georgia.  That is your rock.  That is your island.  That is what gets you through the times when you’re experiencing a sort of emotional vertigo.

I saw a German film at the NZ International Film Festival called, At Ellen’s Age.  It was a weird, disjointed film about a middle-aged woman whose entire life turns upside down and—in an effort to discover who she is without the definitions of her job and her partner, she careens from one bizarre experience to another.  I didn’t particularly like the film, but I knew exactly where Ellen was coming from and why she did some of the things she did.  I understood the choices she made in the end.

We are all pursuing our authentic selves.  Part of human experience is stripping away the layers and definitions and wondering, “Who am I”?

I had a voice teacher who told me once that she would study voice until the day she stopped singing.  When I asked her why she would do that, why she would continue to learn about something she had obviously mastered, she replied:

“When you stop learning, you stop living.”

Well, indeed.

Here’s to a few more rides with strangers, trips to unknown, faraway places, and the knowledge—that when I need it—my rock is still there.  Waiting for me to find home.  Wherever “home” may eventually be.

Where is your home?  How have you dealt with feeling displaced, whether by geography or something else?

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