Three months in, twelve to go. I want to be the unattached Buddha that is ultimately present in every moment of the day – especially as here I am, in this adventure! – but it is difficult not to swell with longing for my family, for my friends that are like family, for the wild, young Brooklyn streets where I felt so in my element, and for the Alpenglow mountain skies in Colorado that have nourished me every Christmas since birth.
For some reason, I chose to move here, for a time. I even chose it having lived abroad before and knowing how difficult it can get; the sometimes seemingly insurmountable power of homesickness.
Life is difficult anywhere. We are alone inside of our bodies and heads most of the day. We build expectations that get shattered. We lose people slowly and quickly, occasionally without any explanation. To find love in the present is hard work.
Yesterday, my co-worker asked me, “I want to know how you are so happy all the time?” I was singing a song about clipboards as I put back the clipboards. It’s funny, I don’t consider myself happy, but I do consider myself hopeful. I consider myself brave. I consider myself free. I fight to do whatever I believe will bring the atmosphere around me and inside me some spark of life. Singing songs about clipboards, listening when people speak to me, smiling big at the fish-selling guy, giving children stickers, walking everywhere, and writing no matter what are among these actions. I do not succeed in doing these things all the time, but when I do, I am present. I have temporary relief from the longing for home. I can see, clearly, this bountiful new territory that I left home to discover.
At the end of it all, my blessings are too numerous to count. These past couple weeks, I visited my coworker’s home village near Linhai, and I went to Shanghai for a couple days. Here is the beginning of some short fiction inspired by Linhai and a few photos from Shanghai.
Her name meant peaceful. Ann. She was born in the last light of autumn. The sun set and colored the green hills surrounding their village with a silky sheet of translucent orange. Her mother was given an epidural in a shabby but clean off-white hospital room in their center city, Linhai. The birth was easy, the blue night air after was still.
Ann was the firstborn. Her mother swaddled her in a blanket she had made from the finest, thicket fabric the family could afford. Her father had wanted a son (as all fathers did), and on the drive back from the hospital, he remained silent, his black eyes vapid as he gazed at the road.
When her brother was born, Ann was seven. Everybody from the village gave the family something – a basket of oranges, a branch of sugarcane – her uncle even provided a gooseling. Ann was not allowed near any of it, but she didn’t mind. She pined away the minutes waiting for her turn to hold him. His name was DouDou. Bean. He was a skinny baby with a crooked, magnetic smile. That first night, Ann woke up after hearing him cry. She crept to her parents’ bedroom and watched through a crack in the door as, by the light of a candlelight, her mother sat on the edge of a paisley pink comforter and nursed him to sleep. Her father sat perched beside, a merry pride agleam in his features.
^ They have flower pots on the highways in Shanghai ^