Summer comes again.


It is summer again, and although summer generally denotes a seasonal change, as a teacher it has an additional sort of significance. Waking today – a Saturday much like many before (and hopefully after) feels slightly different than those recently passed because the reality is any day that I want to feel this way can for quite some time. This reality serves to temper many other feelings one might have, and so of course for me, in the summer everything seems so much more manageable, tolerable, deal-able.

This is my fourth summer since I came home. I realize some people think I place undue, even undeserving I’ve heard, emphasis on the compartmentalization of my life based on my geographical orientation, but I have come to understand that those who do not take the leap to experience expatriation will never under stand how (among other things like marriage and childbirth and divorce -I would guess without knowledge- matriculations and commencements, and of course death, to name a few) there are experiences that quite permanently become markers of Before and After.

These Befores and Afters become the chapters around which we build our stories. So I think they have inherent significance.

My story today starts with the rumination that this is the fourth summer I have commenced here in San Francisco, which I suppose is home as much as any place might be for me. And it feels familiar, but rather unusual in a sort of Alice and Wonderland kind of way. For example, the light is different (my building is being painted and so I am living behind scaffolding and shade cloth) but the rhythm of the morning remains the same.

The World Cup has begun. Another familiar pattern rearranged with the indelible imprints of four more years of life – rather like the pattern the shade cloth spreads across my floor. Four years ago I contemplated the World Cup as I prepared to leave my home of the past five-plus years on a small island in the South China Sea. And of course that made me think of #5. This week as the Cup kicked off in Brazil, things are so much the same – I am certainly thinking of him, but it is not the same.

Repatriated Summer #1 

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall

To come home was a cause of some celebration and my friends – people I have counted on for decades and certainly will for more to come – allowed the landing to be a bit of a cause celebre. It was a summer of embracing complete unknowns. It was seemingly open to infinite possibility, and I was distinguished by my “fresh off the boat” status (being distinguished has a lot of gravitas in a world like ours it seems.) This was the summer that the power of a hometown and lifelong friends became clear. But I still didn’t want to be t/here. I chose to interpret the uncertainty as freedom and it worked. For a minute. It was all so easily manipulated and perceived. In moments I had a house, a job, as if it had been effortless.

But nothing really is as it appears.

Repatriated Summer #2

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall
Tell ’em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
To call Alice, when she was just small

The grey of the City was heavy. The cause and effect relationships in California public policy, and my personal public policy weighed heavily upon me. I still was free – in a way I’ve only recently begun to acknowledge and appreciate – but under the weight of unpleasant circumstances, perception mirrors the unpleasant. This summer I employed my freedom in the willful pursuit of terrible decisions. And then that was that. As quick as the fog rolled in – it went out and another paradigm shift occurred. A new job – swept up from the pit of despair with apparent ease straight out of a parking lot at an A’s game.

I recalled (as I have so many times) the words of one of my yoga teachers who warned of the potential unhappiness that awaits those who allow themselves to place too much stock in the capricious highs of life, as they will certainly then be ill-equipped for the inevitable lows mirroring the misplaced euphoria with equally mismatched despair…. But not really. It was summer, when all things are possible, positive and perfect. So I got another cat.

Repatriated Summer #3

When the men on the chessboard get up
And tell you where to go
And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice, I think she’ll know

Much stayed the same. The home. The job. The cats. But suddenly the freedom shifted. No longer the open ended possibility of a summer of unknowns stretched out in front of me, but rather a summer of (seemingly) known facts. There was someone telling me where to go and how to see things that I was sure were not right.

No. You are wrong. Your feelings are wrong. You should not do the things you think you should do, he said.

The gaslight was illuminated. And I did what I was told because surely my feelings must be wrong because they did not match anyone else’s.

I was right. But it took another year to work this out. And it took another year still to realize that when people tell you the way you feel is wrong, they are the ones who are mistaken, and they are not your friends regardless of what they say.

Repatriation Summer #4

When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the white knight is talking backwards
And the red queen’s off with her head
Remember what the door mouse said

A beginning that suggested the summer would be one of the mythical summers of antiquated literature and cliched perfection.  Settled. Work, home, patterns. All combining to allow for a hideous misappropriation of confidence in perceived reality.

Cracks became too real to ignore, and deep contemplation of what steps to take became the focus. Because the magical elixir of summer allows one to feel super heroic and powerful enough to manifest all illusions of reality and control, this summer set me on the required route to internal combustion.

All would break in the fall. Though not all would be revealed until the  subsequent summer.

And now here: Repatriation Summer #5

Feed your head,
Feed your head

The World Cup is back. Work is behind me. The same job awaits me. My village remains steadfast and supportive. The fog has rolled in. The cats get along better.

But this summer everything is different. I have broken free in amazing ways; unburdened as my mom said. Yes.

Like that first summer back in America I feel like I have the freedom to do anything I want to do -and that is inspiring. I am very clear in my heart & mind where this freedom has come from and my gratitude is immense. Suffice it to say that a debt has been paid in a way I never could have imagined and it has gone so far beyond what I thought I was owed.

This summer I am doing the things I should have been doing all along and reclaiming my true self. Thrice traveling. Sharing time with people who feed my soul in a way that cannot be explained. Practicing. Breathing. Reading. Writing. Taking photos. I can’t recall feeling happier… but it’s not that wildly euphoric kind of happiness. it is reflected in balance, and calm, and awareness. So I’ve got that going for me.

Feed your head,
Feed your head

Feed your head,
Feed your head

Feed your head,
Feed your head

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