Today I will share some vignettes from my time studying abroad in Greece and Ireland, back in 2009:
Paros, Greece: Alone, in my room, with James Joyce and Alain de Botton, photographs and brochures scattered across the table, french press coffee: black, pesto pasta, a fresh lemon wedge, from the lemon I picked off of the edge of my patio, questioning everything, affirming everything, questioning everything.
Galway, Ireland: The flame passed along, dividing into tiny lamps beneath solemn faces, a glow: part of something much bigger, part of something sacred. A creed of solidarity. I became an illumined face, lost within my thoughts: a weekend of firsts, a weekend of loss, of frivolous exhilaration and exploration, of inexpressible pain. Experiencing Ireland for the first time, and now mourning the very fresh and raw loss of my uncle. Unable to go home for the funeral, buried now, in the sacred, and safe among the mumbling chants of the priest and the rocking back and forth of the sacrament. I am humming a hymn they all seem to know. A haze of incense anoints the air with Holy Spirit. I cross myself, a Protestant in mass, while the single Holy flame is passed.
That night, a metaphor, for my entire experience abroad: coming from one place and into another, physically, spiritually. I need not subscribe, just dip my my mind in, try on other selves, to live my life, to continue to mourn my losses and rejoice in my experiences, all as myself, but separate, in a new frame.
Paros, Greece: I had arrived in Greece that May, unsure of what to expect. I stood facing the Aegean, after 3 days of travel mishaps—a comedy of errors, a story for another day—and looking finally at the horizon that would be mine for the next three months, feeling equally lost and liberated, beyond the reach of everything I ever knew and for the first time ever I was acutely and rawly aware of my own free will.
I’ve never seen the horizon from this side—
that deep and endless line
whose limits once were mine
And now it hides the only side I know,
pushing me back against this shore
I’ve never seen the mountains wear colors quite like these;
I’ve never seen a sunset in Greece.
And I only have so much time,
to make this mine.
where my sun must set for yours to rise.
–From the Waterfront: a letter from the self I know to the self I must become