I hadn’t realized that it’s been over 6 months since I last posted to this blog… it seems impossible given how delightfully full the last few months in Ethiopia were. I do have a few posts that I wrote during that time but didn’t upload due to one internet drought or another. So at some point those will go up… But for now it feels more appropriate to reflect on the time since returning to the States.
Rather than a single dominating emotion, the transition back “home” (which is where again?) felt more like the tides… the joyous reunification with family and friends alternating with wistful pangs of Ethiopia’s memories. Then came a season of bouncing—I started a job in Boston but stayed with various kind friends until I found an apartment. It was surprisingly jarring to have started one part of my life but not yet feel grounded in the other. One afternoon, on the way to a friend’s house after four weeks of bouncing from one couch to another, I stood in the parking lot of a subway station. The cold winter sun was already fading by 4pm, and despite innumerable Craigslist searches, no apartment was then in sight. I felt like a migrating bird that was somewhere in between its starting point and its destination, and therefore “homeless”. I cried for the home I’d left behind but had not yet again found. But those were healing tears… afterwards I somehow felt renewed, and a week or two later my friend and I found an apartment. Home creation could now begin.
In many ways, being in Boston feels just right. I’m finally in the same place as my best friend (and many other friends from different walks of life who all somehow ended up in Boston!); I can pick up the phone and send spontaneous silly texts to my sister, or – imagine! – video Skype with her without planning a week in advance and hoping the Addis internet gods will be smiling that day. Heck, she can even come visit! I can go out to eat anywhere without wondering if I’ll get sick from the food; walk down a street at night without being on alert for pesky leering men; and parks with trees are mere minutes away. And the Baha’i community… where do I even begin! Not only is there a strong, coordinated web of vibrant activities happening throughout the city, but the dedication, commitment and zeal of the people I’ve met here takes my breath away. And since Baha’is all over the world have directed their efforts towards the same core set of activities, it was easy to plug in here.
Yet I’ll admit, there are times when I still feel disoriented. (Where’s the friendly chatter of strangers on the bus? Why is everyone buried in their phones?) I miss my dear Addis junior youth—Mahalet’s explosive bright smile as she bounces on the trampoline… Kidus’s quiet wisdom and Fitsum’s leadership… Mickey and Nanseera’s artistic creations. Sometimes when feelings of missing Ethiopia return, it leaves me questioning if there’s a reason that I’m right here, right now. But I think that’s where trust comes in… sometimes it’s hard to acknowledge that there’s a reason things work out the way they do, but I know deep down that that’s true. It’s simply a matter of learning to unreservedly put my roots down here, and validate all emotions – whether of nostalgia or radiant joy – as they come.
And radiant joy does come… sometimes in ways it’s hard to explain. For example, a few weekends ago, I twice had the feeling – once while salsa dancing, once while on a run – of a luminosity that was not quite of this world. I’m not trying to sound all holy or anything… all I know was I felt the glow of a light (the same light I’ve felt in joyful moments from my travels). And I didn’t want to stop.
So the task of the next few months is to do what this poem by Rilke describes:
I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.
So here’s to watching the winter snow fall softly out my window, allowing these widening roots to deepen, and telling stories of there while feeling the radiance of here.