“The Real Action Occurs in the Silences”

A friend of mine shared Colson Whitehead’s Rules for Writing  with me recently.  In reading it, I was struck by the one tip which explained that what is NOT said is as important as what is said – and that “the real action occurs in the silences.”

In life and in writing, I think Colson Whitehead has a good point.  The real action occurs when life is flying by and you hardly have a moment to digest it.  So here I find myself, sunburned, exhausted, and reluctantly contemplative after a month of silence, full with action.  I occasionally feel some regret at my need to process and reflect so much through writing – it seems to distance you from the experience of life.  Perhaps my silence has been my unwillingness to part with the immediacy and sweetness of the last few weeks.  But, I guess it’s time to share.

My last month has been spent in the most wonderful of ways – surrounded by friends and family, and busy.  We ran a marathon, packed our bags, and got on a plane to the U.S.  It’s hard to express what it meant to go home.  For me it was terrifying and exultant.  It felt like the trip home was a chance to show that, “Hey, we packed all our belonging into two suitcases, boarded a plane, and attempted to make a whole new life on the other side of the world. And it worked!”

I know it’s not rocket science – people move abroad all the time, to significantly more culturally varied places than Australia.  But, all the same, when I left I was riddled with doubt, fearful, and not sure I would make it in this new world.  So, nine months into the stay, with a job, an amazing guy by my side, some friends, and bits of my life established here, it felt like a triumphant return.  On my flight home, all the questions and doubts that riddled me last time I crossed the ocean came back to me and to each my answer was, “yes, this was the right thing to do.”

I was home for two weeks, during which time I was lucky enough to see almost my entire family, do nearly everything I wanted, and enjoy visits from some of my best friends who flew in to Milwaukee to spend time with me.  I went to Summerfest, I drank a bloody mary with my Grandma, I saw my cousins and aunts and uncles,  I toured the Lakefront Brewery, I walked on the beaches of Lake Michigan each morning with my mom and my dog, I ran with my Lifey,  I spent SO much great time with my sisters.  I went up to my parent’s cabin in northern Wisconsin, ate cheese curds, drank wine spritzers at sunset with Britta, swam and went trail running.  I visited camp and had the pleasure of feeling quite old and removed from it. I also took a side trip to Richmond, Virginia for Rick’s brother Bradley’s gorgeous wedding where I saw Rick’s whole family and then some.  It was everything I needed and could have hoped for.

Being home it felt like I hadn’t skipped a beat. It seemed that if I were never to return to Australia, my time here would simply linger in my memory as an unusual dream. I am not sure how to feel about that.  I enjoy my life here and the sense of constant discovery, however I think it shows just how few real roots I have established here that I could so easily think of not returning. Many times I thought it might be nice to linger indefinitely for a long lunch of cold cucumber soup in the shade of the porch overlooking my grandma’s gardens, or to wake up every morning to the cool Lake Michigan breeze winding its way through the narrow, twisting hallways of my parent’s old house and into my bedroom. I ran through the trails of the Lakeland Discovery center wishing I could see the passing of a whole year on the trails, rather than the infrequent vignettes I’ve gathered over the years.  It was so sweet to savor all the things I love and know how much they mean to me – especially in light of the fleetingness of my visit.

I came back to Brisbane, however, and though I was sad to leave all the people and things I love from home, it really hit me that THIS is where I live now.  This is where I need to set roots, at least for now.  I need to stop living my life here as though I can put off the necessities until my vacation ends.  THIS is my life.

So, all of a sudden I find myself rediscovering Brissie through the eyes of someone who isn’t on an extended vacation – who lives here.  As such, I have stopped putting off things like getting the MRI for the massive bone growth (an enchondroma or a bone chip healing badly) on my knee from the weekend I went hiking before the marathon.   I finally went and began playing tennis with Rick, like I had talked about doing for months.  I have begun setting up a CSA delivery box for our house.  And it feels so good to let myself sink in and feel like this is home and my life is not some extended experiment in living abroad and doing without.

So I guess in the silence of the last month, while I have been on multiple continents, seeing so many faces and places that I love, a lot has happened.  I recognized just how much I love and value the things I have at home, but I also realized that home is where you make it.  If I am to go on living in Brisbane and not feeling like I am on vacation, I need to do more to make THIS place my home.

This afternoon while I biked under the trees along the Brisbane River as the sun was sinking below the western hills, I was reminded that this is a beautiful and interesting city.  I need to embrace it and live in the moment here.



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