Archive | May, 2013


27 May

We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
Joseph Campbell

IMG_0104When I was in my 30s, living briefly on the south coast of Spain, I had a dream in which I remembered my immediate past life; in so doing everything made sense, each relationship, every stepping stone and stumbling block, each joy and every sorrow.  The experience of living as an expatriate reminds me of that dream.  I have had many disparate life experiences within a single lifetime, and while some of them appear unrelated to one other, there is a thread, a “me” that has been the experiencer, the witness of it all.  Yet there is something substantially different about living abroad; the life I lived in California seems like another incarnation entirely, as though the thread that connected all my previous experiences has been broken — the needle now re-threaded addressing new fabric.  Living in a foreign country is not only a re-location but also a dis-location, psychic as well as geographic.

Some of you have commented that the tenor of my blog has changed, subtly during the 14 months in Panama but more overtly since moving to San Miguel, and has focused more on the external world in which I find myself and less on my inner experience of it.  Why might that be?  How did this blog start in the first place?  Before I left California my friend Linda suggested that I start a blog.  At the time I didn’t know what a blog was; I gave the matter no further thought.  Then when our friend Marie came to visit us in Panama, along with the gift of this laptop, she brought the encouragement and the technical know-how to set up a blog.  I originally thought of it as a time-saving device; instead of sending 10 e-mails to my family and closest friends, I could write just one post.  Over time, in ways I don’t understand, my blog was “discovered” by others whom I did not know and gradually the readership grew.  By the time we left Panama my blog had 78 followers, only about 30 of whom I knew personally.  Since these readers didn’t know me I assumed they had subscribed based on their interest in Panama; thus I began to write more about what I saw and became increasingly shy about sharing my interior experience.  And then we moved to the colonial jewel of San Miguel, generally agreed to be one of the loveliest towns in Mexico.   There has been so much to write about — the history, the architecture, the weather, the craftsmen, the artists, and an astonishing number and variety of fiestas which I have attempted to describe.  Again I have attracted strangers to the San Miguel blog and now have 47 followers, many of whom I do not know.  To or for whom am I writing?

One of the interesting things about living in San Miguel is the sense of comfortableness combined with exoticness.  Today, more rapidly than I could retrieve my camera from my backpack, I saw a Mercedes convertible followed by a burro ladened with bags of  soil.   There are often such juxtapositions in my daily life, ever reminding me of the unique nature of this experience.  Now that an entire year has passed and we have experienced a full calendar of events and fiestas, I am reassessing the purpose of my writing.  For most of my life I have been drawn to interior spaces, i.e., introspection and reflection.  But the experience of living in a foreign country has triggered all my external buttons, enhancing my awareness of the larger world around me and refining my aesthetic sense.  The loveliness of this dusty hillside town more than satisfies my ceaselessly hungry eye and I have tried to convey some of that beauty through the photos which I have included with previous posts.  Life as an expat also engages the mind as I struggle to understand, however superficially, the language and the culture, and most of my reading this past year has been on the history and culture of Mexico.

As time increases since I left the United States, I have the image of a cruise ship moving slowing away from the dock, connected to those on shore by paper streamers, breaking, one by one, as the ship moves further out to sea.  Without frequent contact I no longer know the details of my friends’ lives — who went to the doctor, whose dog has died, whose sister has gotten married.  With the lack of proximity  the sense of “conversation” is gone.  The exchange of ideas, the building of an hypothesis, an adjustment or correction of one’s point of view based on the richness of the conversation, these are things I miss.  And to try to convey in an e-mail the nuances of one’s mind and heart is challenging at best and mostly impossible, at least for me.  Of course it would help if I enjoyed speaking on the telephone but it is an instrument that I quite dislike — it seems unnatural to me.  Now, of course, we have new friendships, different kinds of friendships.  In some cases these new friendships are with Mexicans and subject to cultural differences.  It is interesting to have friends, expat and Mexican alike, with whom there is no shared past — only the present.  Which leads me to another aspect of expat life — the hightened sense that the moment is all we have.  Whether I intended to or not, I have learned a great deal about the principle of mindfulness, or non-judging awareness.  Separated from the familiarity of family, friends and geography, awareness of the discrete moment is heightened, and cherished.

I will, of course, continue to write about San Miguel — how could I not?  But I will also attempt to share more of the inner evolution that I am experiencing for it is indeed a different life that any that have preceded it.

As I write this the sun has crested the hill, the air is lively with birdsong and it is 54 degrees with an expected high of 87 and afternoon thunder showers.  It is Memorial Day in the United States but a typical Monday morning here.  Another week begins; another adventure awaits.