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Painting by Waterhouse

“The task is not to see what has never been seen before, but to think what has never been thought before about what you see every day.” ~ Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961)

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It’s that being open — not scratching for it, not digging for it, not constructing something but being open to the situation and trusting that what you don’t know will be available to you. It is bigger than your overt consciousness or your intelligence or even your gifts; it is out there somewhere and you have to let it in.

Toni Morrison

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Most assuredly you want the pilot to be his regular and ordinary self. You want him to approach and undertake his work with no more than a calm pleasure. You want nothing fancy, nothing new. You ask him to do, routinely, what he knows how to do — fly an airplane. You hope he will not daydream. You hope he will not drift into some interesting meander of thought. You want this flight to be ordinary, not extraordinary. So, too, with the surgeon, and the ambulance driver, and the captain of the ship. Let all of them work, as ordinarily they do, in confident familiarity with whatever the work requires, and no more. Their ordinariness is the surety of the world. Their ordinariness makes the world go round.

Certainly there is within each of us a self that is neither a child, nor a servant of the hours. It is a third self, occasional in some of us, tyrant in others. This self is out of love with the ordinary; it is out of love with time. It has a hunger for eternity. — Mary Oliver

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Recently I have realized that I’ve been secretly grieving the loss of my identity, that a sudden loss of my constructed sense of myself, which I had invested in lifestyle and even possessions, was weighing on me and preventing me from taking the next step in my life. For the first time in memory I lacked energy to advance into the next adventure.

Our life in France was over, but I was refusing to admit it. I had suddenly aged as a result of two ministrokes and too much sitting. I was no longer painting, I was writing and uncertain why or even how to. We had lost our home and were living with friends and relatives.

Faced with creating a new life and a new self, I was grieving the beautiful old life, fashioned out of a need for roots and a love of beauty. Starting over is not new to me. I’ve done it half a dozen times, but this time seemed different. I kept wondering why my enthusiasm had gone missing.

I think I have been grieving. I miss France and the life we had. It’s obvious now that I think of it. I didn’t choose to leave. I resisted up until the last minute. I thought I might be able to live in my native land somewhere, but in the end it was just intolerable, even in a place built for outcasts like Taos. I have to live surrounded by a foreign language and relics of the past. With our new financial situation, Mexico presented the obvious solution.

But before I can throw myself at Spanish, I may have to clear the board of my regrets and unfair comparisons. I’m not consciously trying to do that but it seems to be happening naturally. All of a sudden, we seem to have landed on our feet. Not that we have clawed back any of the graces of our former life. The gods have seen fit to give us an unexpected measure of beauty and comfort I no longer expected. Suddenly, because of the pandemic, we could afford deferred dental work and a lovely place to live here in San Miguel.

It takes time to put down roots in a foreign culture. I don’t have the luxury of another half century of habituating myself to a new culture, but Mexico is fascinating. I won’t be surprised if it finds a place in me to grow and flourish in some personal way. I expect to eventually find a side door that will let me into it. Language and art are usually my points of entry. But first I need to let go of what I had.

That much is now obvious. The practice of writing every day has become my compass and anchor in a new life and perhaps a truer self. It’s how I understand and create a new context for living, by putting it all into language, even the most ephemeral and illusive parts of it.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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