The Heartache of Particularity

Facade decoration, Mdina, Malta

Whenever I travel my imagination runs wild with possibility…I wonder, what would it be like to lighten my load, uproot myself, and move to a foreign place for an extended period of time? Rather than living vicariously by watching “House Hunters International” on HGTV, I fantasize about searching for property somewhere half -way across the globe and immersing myself in the traditions, cuisine, and language of an unfamiliar culture. There are so any wondrous places to explore that it seems unfair we are only gifted one lifetime to sample the banquet of the world’s diversity.

When I board a plane, I cannot wrap my mind around the physics of what it takes to defy gravity and be airborne in a double-decker Airbus 380, flying through time zones, through space, across oceans and landscapes…When I arrive at my destination, in my mind’s eye I attempt to configure the spacial relationship between where I’ve landed, and the place I have left temporarily behind. I envision myself looking downward from the vantage point of Google maps, trying to comprehend the actual physical distance between my body and the far-away familiar ground of home. This mental exercise enlarges my perspective and helps me contextualize myself within a particular geography.

I have not traveled extensively, but have been privileged to visit some esoteric places, including Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, and most recently the Islands of Malta and Gozo. On each adventure I have met fascinating people, have learned about ethnic folkways, tasted regional foods, been inspired by local artists and artisans, and have been intellectually enriched by archaeological and historical information. My myopic worldview has been enlarged and I’ve experienced myself as a small incarnation in the sea of humanity. Deep within my heart I’ve felt a sense of “coming home” in strange lands, connected viscerally with ancient ancestral sties, wondered what my understanding of the world would be if I lived on a tiny limestone island in the middle of a vast sea…

And the other thing that always happens when I travel is that I appreciate the beauty and uniqueness and simplicity of the place I call home. I am tethered here by many logistical constraints: job commitments, investment in a home, family loyalties and duties, community involvement… all those things that day by day and month by month and year by year and decade by decade, make a life. Sometimes my heart aches with this reality – that I can only live in one place at one time, only have enough energy for a limited number of meaningful relationships, that it is only through the particularities of my “one wild and precious life” that I know myself as part of a larger whole. Returning home after an adventure is like putting on a pair of old shoes – in comparison to the excitement of novel surroundings, somewhat bland and ordinary, but oh-so-comfy.

2 thoughts on “The Heartache of Particularity

  1. Wonderful writing, as always, Yvonne! This makes me think that it does, in deed, seem rather unfair we may be “only gifted one lifetime . . . ” Reading this, I feel rather hopeful God does give us other opportunities! Who knows?! I am fascinated the way people live their day-to-day lives, too~~and how people do make their homes “oh-so-comfy.” I’m working on that!! Keep writing, keep writing!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I appreciate your perspective on the push and pull of travel and home. You articulated some of my feelings about that dynamic. I do find that there are certain places that, somehow, feel like home, even though they are not. I can’t always explain those feelings of connection, another of life’s many mysteries.


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