Tag Archives: Living in a foreign country

Where I Know My Way

courtesy of last.fm

Matthew Sweet

Looking at the sun
waiting for you
to appear

-Matthew Sweet

Yesterday, Matthew Sweet was the answer for me.

I was having one of those days where you’re just having trouble focusing. It’s hard, sometimes, when there are lots of little worries and what ifs and wishes on your mind. And especially when you’re living in a foreign country for two-and-a-half years, and still have little “freedoms” from back home that you’re missing. Like being able to drive (which I am working on) just to, say, run to the post office or go to a beauty appointment when you simply don’t feel like walking or biking. Or just wanting to talk to your Mom or a bestie back home, but darn that time difference. And the list goes on.

The feeling of constant climbing can be a frustrating one. Like life, there is always something. And when you’re in a situation like mine, you blame it on: It’s because I’m not in Minneapolis. You know, deep down, that these little issues can be solved. But some days you’re simply just sick of yet another hill to climb over. Like when I’m riding home from work in the dark and I’ve got that last hill before the turnoff to my house – what feels like a 90-degree angle and as the Aussies say, “I just can’t be bothered.”

And then, as life goes, you sleep on it and feel better the next day. You lean on the support of those around you. You learn about going into “the moment” as soon as you feel those worries start to pile up into one large glob. You give yourself a day of walking in the sunshine in your favourite part of town – alone. For me, it’s about bringing back those little pieces of life from my past that used to “fill” me. Having time by myself. Buying myself a very American Subway sandwich. Coming home to write about it.

And listening to Matthew Sweet, the soundtrack from my past. The “Girlfriend” album. The songs I know by heart; songs I can have for myself, which all the 24-year-olds that surround me at work are too young to know about. It’s about having something that’s mine.  Something that takes me back home, where I know my way. Home, where I’m strongest. Home, where I’m me at my best.

I love and respect my home here in Australia, too, and can appreciate how my life is growing and changing in beautiful ways. But I think it’s fair to pay homage to where I came from, and why I am the person I am today. I think it’s okay to acknowledge I miss the place sometimes, and then let go. Because this is where I need to be right now. So, I make the very best I can of it, and incorporate as much of “me” as I can – at all times.

‘Cause I need to
get back in the arms
of a good friend.

-Matthew Sweet


My Colossus of Writing

I miss my books.

I didn’t carry all of them with me to Australia because I didn’t know whether or not things were going to work out. Now here I am, over two years later. Dang it. Unfortunately, I don’t have the funds to ship my books here at the moment , so I must now draw inspiration with the select few favorites I was able to fit in my suitcase without going over 50 pounds. As I scan my little bookshelf, I can clearly see the void where my treasured Maya Angelou, Robert Frank (photographer), Alice Walker and Mary Oliver used to be.

But I do spot Henry Miller. The Colossus of Maroussi.

It takes me no time at all to recall why I chose this book for my journey to Australia out of countless others, back home. First, his decision to move to Athens in 1939 fuelled my choice to do the same in 2005, when I desperately needed a new life to inspire new chapters on and off of the paper. I completed my first manuscript that year, giving me confidence for the very first time in my ability to be an author, published or not.
Transplanting myself from the US to Greece was also the implant of travel into my heart. For now, I cannot live without it. I experienced how immersion into a different culture—the gift of its people and landscape of a different planet entirely—unhinged nearly every door of my mind. And yet all of this difference made me realise more than ever that we’re all more alike than we are different. Pair all of this with the empowerment I gained through existing and moving about in a foreign country on my own, and tell me why I would ever want to be without travel:

“No man had could have chosen a more circumlocuitous voyage than mine. Over thirty years I had wandered, as if in a labyrinth. I had tasted every joy, every despair, but I had never known the meaning of peace. En route I had vanquished all my enemies one by one, but the greatest enemy of all I had not even recognised—myself.” Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi

Secondly, Henry Miller is an absolutely magnificent, beautiful, brilliant writer. This book has more folded page corners, underlined passages and bitty Post-It notes than any story I own. For me, it is a miracle to see just how his words flow onto the pages. Particularly in The Colossus of Maroussi, Miller allows himself to become lost not only in the beauty that he witnesses but also in his own subconscious genius. And he shares this wisdom with us, not with arrogance, but humble humanity. We are with him, together, for first-time realisations

of the mind:

“At that moment, I rejoiced that I was free of possessions, free of all ties, free of fear and envy and malice. I could have passed quietly from one dream to another, owning nothing, regretting nothing, wishing nothing. I was never more certain that life and death are one and that neither can be enjoyed or embraced if the other be absent.” Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi

of the experience:

“Everything here speaks now, as it did centuries ago, of illumination, of blinding, joyous illumination. Light acquires a transcendental quality; it is not light of the Mediterranean alone, it is something more, something unfathomable, something holy. Here the light penetrates directly to the soul, opens the doors and windows of the heart, makes one naked, exposed, isolated in a metaphysical bliss which makes everything clear without being known.” Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi

Reading Henry Miller, I am inspired to write. I am inspired to live outwardly. And to my greatest delight, one cannot survive without the other. One of the best aspects of this book is that wherever you are in life, there is probably at least one sentence that will resonate with you. Whether you’re looking for that muse we sometimes need to write or to exist fully, you will find it in The Colossus of Maroussi.  Here is mine, on this quiet Sunday:

“For hours at a stretch I would lie in the sun doing nothing, thinking of nothing. To keep the mind empty is a feat, a very healthful feat too. To be silent the whole day long, see no newspaper, hear no radio, listen to no gossip, be thoroughly and completely lazy, thoroughly and completely indifferent to the fate of the world is the finest medicine a man can give himself…the body becomes a new and wonderful instrument; you look at plants or stones or fish with different eyes; you wonder what people are struggling to accomplish by their frenzied activities…When you’re right with yourself, it doesn’t matter what flag is flying over your head or who owns what or whether you speak English or Monongahela.”

Thank you, Henry Miller.

In memory of Henry Valentine Miller, writer and painter (1891–1980)