“A confident people is not exclusive. A great religion affirms other religions. A great culture affirms other cultures. A great nation affirms other nations. A great individual affirms other individuals, validates the beingness of others.” Leonard Cohen
A recipe for making a writer: have them feel a little out of place everywhere, have them be an observer all the time. — Lin-Manuel Miranda
It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.
But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist. — Mary Oliver: The Artist’s Task
Not feeling at home was the water I swam in as a little fish. It was my norm. Everytime I tried out a new country or city, the strangeness of everything was no more or less strange than my home town. It was just one of the conditions of life. As I grew I came to prefer foreign places to my native land because that element of strangeness was more interesting there. It was often beautiful in fact, magical, enchanting. The architecture, the food, the language, the history.
France, Italy, and now Mexico were backdrops to my search for both home and enchantment since my youth in the ‘60’s. You could say I’ve made my home in enchantment itself. Without it I couldn’t feel any meaning or purpose in my life. I would be diminished. I prefer to live as a foreigner abroad rather than an out of place and estranged citizen of my native land. Having an excuse for my foreignness is only one part of it. I want historical surroundings, age old customs, reverence for art and poetry and the eccentrics who make such things.
That lifelong project has been with me from the beginning. I’m one of those eccentrics who demand beauty and magic and I have been fortunate to team up with a woman who insists on the same thing.
Life has been not only indulgent, but has been unexpectedly creative in aiding me in this project, even in my third act of life where I have limited means. I have a lot to be thankful for.
We live in a dramatic stage set we can view from our roof terrace every night. Illuminated centuries-old churches under star-filled nights, inspiring music from the neighbors every day, a feeling of slow moving time in traditional surroundings and just enough foreignness so that it never loses its magic.
I don’t know if I would be bored with it if I had grown up with it, but I didn’t. I always feel I’m learning something. It never becomes routine. It stays fresh.
If I were a plant, it would be sunlight, water and fertile soil. Living like this is food for the soul. I recommend it.
- Anima Fire is my publication.