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July 04, 2011


Candid and true. I could not ask for more.

Thank you for sharing your lovely days. Montreal sounds like such a delightful blend of city, nature, various cultures. I hope to see it some day.

Letting go of material things doesn't necessarily lead to grief and depression. Letting go can be a liberating, indifferent, revengeful, beneficial ... act. Things only contain the meaning we give them, and the act of letting go is as varied as our personalities.

I agree that digital relationships are less genuine, deep, and warm. We are so eager to make new connections that we forget the value of flesh and blood...

This is so lovely. Apropos letting go of things: my next-door neighbor of 15 years moved last week. I used to walk with her several times a month, sunshine or rain. As I watched her having to disperse all her worldly possessions (she and her husband are buying an RV and traveling for the next 2 to 3 years), I watched her face and realized how incredibly wrenching the process has been for her. I worry about her in an RV. She seems like a person who needs a "nest." The experience has woken me up to the fact that it's time to let go a little of all the "stuff" we have before we have to do move like hers in one, fell swoop.

I can't believe you've been in Quebec for five years!

Hear hear, Beth, aye aye. You and Jon obviously have a gift for making friends and integrating into a new community. This is a talent some people don't have, no matter how much they might like to feel a sense of belonging. I can think of two people I know who both (separately) moved to a country very different from their own, in rural locations. One of them within a fairly short time became completely integrated, knew everyone around. The other one, who was quite shy and didn't frequent the local pub, remained an 'outsider' and never felt accepted. I doubt whether one can change such fundamentally different attitudes. Do you think that some people will always be loners?

Eva, you're quite right, and I didn't mean to imply that letting go of material things is or was the cause of sadness. I found it liberating too. What was hard was such a complete change of life, from country to city, and a family- and village-centered social system to the diffuse and anonymous character of a city where the dominant language is different. I felt grief for two things, mainly: the loss of my garden, which I had built and tended for thirty years, and the loss of three of our four parents (and the resulting sea-change in family patterns) within a short span of years.

Mary, I hope your friend manages all right - that sounds awfully difficult and extreme. Yes, we've been here quite a while now! It seems astonishing to me, too.

And Natalie, I'm not sure, it seems to me that some people actually want to be loners, and some want friends but find it very difficult to make them, for a whole variety of reasons. It helps to be curious, and interested in other people and willing to listen to their stories and draw them out. People who are extremely self-absorbed, needy, or negative do find it hard to sustain lasting friendships, I think, and shyness can make things very difficult. My mother was very shy, but she was also pretty happy being on her own, and she had a rich inner world and a lot to say -- she just didn't like crowds or the superficiality of cocktail party chatter, and was uncomfortable in new situations. My father, on the other hand, is a born extrovert. Their friendships were completely different, just as each individual is different!

It seems to me that good friendships are mutual, though, and have a lot of give-and-take. People are attracted to those who exude positive energy and curiosity about the world - nobody wants to be around complainers for very long. Developing a cheerful, buoyant attitude to life is a lifelong proposition, but it's the only way I've seen that attracts people rather than driving them away -- and it exists in people who have every reason to be miserable. Do you agree?

It's interesting how these things always come in waves...and helpful, too.

Feeling connected to a place is so satisfying. I don't know the magical formula that lets it happen (time+built routines+friends+work).

I'm reminded of our first winter in Germany, the hesitation that crept into our actions in public. Winter was an unfamiliar animal, and even simple tasks like scraping snow off our car parked outside acquired an uncertain character. Friendly neighbors, watching us struggle, would remark on what a hard winter this was, which made us feel a bit more comfortable and made us believe that we too could learn, and belong.

In a way, I miss that awkwardness that accompanies journeys into unfamiliar spaces.

Beth, yes I agree. But there's a type of individual who is not negative, complaining, self-absorbed, needy or neurotic and yet does not easily fit into normal social interactions or ever really experiences a sense of belonging. I don't think this is a necessarily a character flaw or that such individuals should necessarily learn how to "win friends and influence people". It's simply another way of being in the world.

I have missed you. I shall have to visit you here more regularly! This post is lovely along with several others I've read today and tonight. Life has pulled me away from my routine, away from my computer. I've found there are certain things I really don't miss much. Something to think about.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.