Saturday, August 27, 2011

Summer into Autumn

If I could have been granted every wish for my resettling into Seattle, it would have been no different from what I have been welcomed with in the past three weeks. An apartment waited for me not only in my old neighborhood, but in my old building, bigger and brighter than the one I'd lived in before. Sunlight pours through my eastern window in the morning, the western as the days end, and my view is of brick, terracotta and a furl of green trees on a nearby hill.

Summer in Seattle is an intoxicating season which came late this year. I like to think that it was waiting for me. Having warm sunlight strike my skin as I drink my morning coffee is a blessing--and one that had often eluded me in my final months in Bangkok. Here through the buildings that slope toward Puget Sound it's almost always possible to glimpse the water, which glitters and sparkles with sunlight and always stops me cold when I see it. Loveliness.

Although the pain of giving away my horrendous little Bangkok cat was enough to make me feel I wouldn't have another for years, life thought otherwise and an orange kitten and I found each other. I've wanted an orange guy for decades and was always claimed by a different shade of feline, but Mean Mr. Mustard Mulrooney walked in and took over me, my apartment and everything in it without a bit of hesitation. Happiness.

Yesterday I wandered through Seattle looking for presents. My youngest son's birthday is coming soon and for the first time in a long time I'll be able to spend part of that day with him. There is no word to sum up what I feel when I think about that.

Life is very, very good.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Finding Home

In the past three years, as I bounced from Bangkok to Beijing, Hong Kong to Penang, and points in between for briefer moments, I'va always asked myself, "Could I live here?" And except for Penang, with the jangle of noise I heard for hours every night, the answer was yes I can. My way of traveling is to find a neighborhood and settle in for a month, then return and repeat again and again (which I should have done in Penang). I wander and develop small aspects of daily living and learn the city as much as I can. And yes, I did find a way to live in Chungking Mansions and in a hutong tangle off Xinjiekou Street and of course on Chokchai Ruammit. I love all three of those neighborhoods and if I could clone myself, I'd be in all three right this very minute.

But...long ago I made two decisions that changed my life forever. I had children, at a rather young age. I always told myself that when they became adults, I would become a late-life adolescent, roaming the world, having adventures, finding stories--and I did.

What I didn't realize was how much I would enjoy and be nourished by the company of my adult sons, and how shriveled I would feel after I turned sixty without their nearby presence in my life. I'm lucky. They both live in one place, which is where I live now too.

We don't see each other every day or even every week, but for me saying goodbye to them at an end of a visit without fighting off tears is a great and marvelous joy. It has brought me a feeling of tranquility that is almost alien to me; one afternoon as late afternoon light turned the floor of my room to soft gold, I looked up from the book I was reading and felt that the squirrel cage that had been in perpetual motion for almost three years was quiet.

I haven't divorced myself from Asia. I live in Seattle's Chinatown/Nihonmachi/Little Saigon neighborhood where everyone I see every day has made a home far from home. The lady in the dollar store is from Vietnam as is the family who roast whole pigs in huge ovens and serve up pork in various dishes all day long and the lady who makes egg tarts and cakes and banh mi in her bakery/cafe. A Thai man has a little video store on my block and Chinese herb stores are everywhere. Little groceries and two large supermarkets are devoted to food stuff from all over Asia; my first purchase was a ten-pound bag of hom mali from Thailand and the fragrance of steamed rice fills my studio apartment every day.

I'm planning my next visit back and it will be for at least two months when I do. There is so much still to see and to explore, and friends to be with, and stories to find. But I am luxuriating in a sense of happiness and calm that has eluded me during my time in Asia. Is it age that makes this so sweet to me? Or is it the knowledge that I can have the jolt of seeing and learning something new right outside my apartment building?

I know that darkness will be the prevailing quality of my days here all too soon. The clouds will settle over Seattle and they won't go away before next July. But I have people I love to brighten the gloom and books to write and food to cook. I have holidays to celebrate that over the past three years I have done my best to forget.

It's taken a long time to understand that home is where you are able to feel peaceful, and where you are near the ones you love best in the world--and yet that this doesn't preclude wandering and discovering in places on the other side of the globe. I feel blessed to know that in every cell of my body, in every portion of my brain, and best of all, with my whole heart.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011