Sunday, 3 July 2016

Independance Day

The Facebook memory posts of this weekend in years past are rife with longing. Homesick references to hotdogs and fireworks. Wishing for Rockies games and American food. Truth is if I could have returned “home” yearly to the US for any holiday I would have chosen the 4th of July over Christmas every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

You know what I’m like. I always cry at parades. I ooh and aah over fireworks and have been known to clap my hands and squeal for particularly good displays. I’m a sucker for a good hotdog and would still choose an ice cold Dr Pepper over a delightfully cheeky rosé more often then my classy-side would like to admit. I know almost all the words to every patriotic country song they’ll play this weekend and have a small stash of stars and stripes decor that come out every year no matter what part of the world we inhabit.

Last year I threw a party. With hotdogs—or the closest estimation I could come up with in Oz—and watermelon (even though it was winter there I found one!), and cokes, and iconic American music. We played whiffle ball in the park across the street and I decorated the house with stars and stripes and red, white, and blue.

I’ll be there to watch at 9:30 sharp tomorrow as the firetruck leads the kiddos on their decorated bikes and scooters around the neighborhood loop. I can’t wait! I know the pool will be stinking fun with its baby games and splash contest and all day bbq. Our friends hooked us up with their yearly firework watching spot and I am looking forward to every sparkly moment. 

Still, as our first 4th of July weekend as US residents for almost 8 years unfolds I find myself filled with longing. Homesickness. The funny blessing and curse of an expat: my heart lives on several continents. I suppose no matter how American the holiday it still brings that point to bear. 

The pool was closed all day. Since I couldn’t wear a swimsuit I accidentally stayed in my jammies all day. Slept a bit. Cried a lot. The sky this evening is overcast and thundery. Even the cardinal rule of absolute family togetherness on holidays in a new country is being broken: Middlest is 600 miles away.

Listen, there’s so much to celebrate and much gratitude for the place we find ourselves in. This incredible neighborhood. This lovely state of Colorado. Old and new friends that surround us. In spite of all of that though the truth is I’m melancholy. Filled with memories and the truth of how far away everyone is. Filled with a bit of worry about the state of things in all 3 of the countries I’ve grown to call “home.” On Independence Day it’s my interconnectedness that brings this emotion. I love all the flags my family has unfurled under. All the combinations of red white and blue that have given me life. Brought my family together. Showed me more of who I am. Taught me in more ways than one about brotherhood from sea to shining sea. 

I’m going to get dressed now. We have a very important neighborhood gathering to attend. With streamers and ribbons and all the paraphernalia needed to make that parade really shine. Love you British friends and Aussie friends. I’ll be eating a hot dog and drinking a Dr Pepper for you tomorrow. I sure miss you all!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016


Sometimes the universe conspires. It communicates. Everything speaking in the same words and language. A book suggests the thing you’ve been missing. A movie’s central theme matches that of your longing. A friend speaks the themes your heart has been wrestling. Then as the day closes you read the word in memories from Facebook posts not once but twice and three years past. 


I often described experiences abroad as magical. England brought magical castles visited with sweet boys transformed into knights as they passed the turrets. Magical forests dripping with history and story were most certainly inhabited by the wood elves and spirits of my childhood’s favorite books. Mushroom rings and hollow trees we swore were signs of fairies. Around any corner in London might be a tiny little alleyway filled with culinary delights or hundreds of year old bookstores or tiny toy shops. Everything felt ancient and beautiful and deep. Winding roads. Storybook woods. Here was Pooh bridge where one could play Pooh Sticks. There was Portobello road where Paddington shopped and had his cocoa with Mr Gruber. Not to mention Arthur’s castle or the Pevensie’s train platform or even Bilbo’s shire. 

Magic. Everywhere I looked. Everywhere we went. Magic was the light in our eyes and the delight in our hearts. We found it everywhere. 


Australia had magic of its own. It inhabited the sand that squeaked under our toes. The sea shell and sea glass and shark egg and coral treasures left to us by winter waves and collected on quiet mornings walking side by side. The whales brought it. Breaching and blowing and bringing their precious babies closer and more often than my local friends had ever seen them. The dolphins stirred it up around the surf boards of my sons. Or brought it laughing on my birthday morning. Or racing by on camping trips playing and dancing in the waves. They came so often. Saying hello then saying farewell. I looked for them. They nearly always were there to see. It was magical. 

Sometimes it was in the bush. Crazy flowers we’d never seen before. Beautiful gum trees releasing their smell into the briny air on wet mornings. Painting the air with their blue haze over the nearby mountains.  

Australian birds are full of magic. Ridiculous colors and color-combinations that make you grin and even giggle to think something real could be that fancy just by being born. Pink birds. White birds with yellow mohawks. Bright multi-colored birds so loud the three year old once asked if I could turn the volume down. No. There was no turning down the volume on all that magic. All around. Daily in my ears and in my nostrils and filling every sense with the NEW the beautiful the magical.

Even at school! Littlest’s sandpit included buried crystals from the “fairies” to help them learn their pincher grasp. The big boys classes included music and gardening and two languages and drawing every single day. Even school was a magical place.

Not a single week went by those three and half years in Australia without one of us remarking, “can you believe we get to live here?”


Magic has filled my heart and my mind for much of the last 8 years. Adventures abroad. Shared with these wonderful men in my life. 

It was evidenced the other night. In three different Facebook posts. All posted on the same day, a few years apart. All referencing magic.

We’ve been “home” from our Grand Adventures for 3 months. Months of transition. Unpacking, repacking, unpacking. Jumping from place to place. Then Moving In. A huge task of epic practical, emotional, and spiritual proportions. Boxes of things were put away. Holes were made in walls. Boys registered and sent off to school and sports practices. Doctors appointments. Bedtimes. Packed lunches.

After the hustle and bustle of transitioning and traveling I was surprised that the fairly restful state of settling in and settling down was so unnerving. Sure there was grief at saying goodbye. To friends. To places. To a sense of home. To the adventure. 

Except this wasn’t quite that. This was a small feeling. A nagging, frustrating, off feeling. Little and persistent. Like when you’ve forgotten something and can’t figure out what it could possibly be. Like a niggling pain that never quite goes away.

On the same day that the “magic” posts appeared on Facebook the boys and I watched The Secret Garden. Reminiscing as we pushed play on the afternoons and evenings Middlest and I spent reading that book. Snuggled up in my same bed in a house thousands and thousands of miles away. I had forgotten that lovely story. The depth and beauty of it. It struck me then as it strikes me now. How Colin insists on inviting the magic. Insists they all do it together. That they all pledge steadfast commitment to the magic. So of course…the magic shows up. He walks! His father and he are reunited! It works!

The movie included a story I don’t remember from the book. Mary tells Colin a story her Aya told her in India. About a boy. When this boy opened his throat you could see the whole universe inside of him.

On the same day I saw the “magic posts” of my own on Facebook and watched the movie with the boys a friend wrote about looking for joy and often finding it in adventures and traveling and dancing and falling in love. “Then things got normal” she wrote. And I wept when I read those words. 

“Then things got normal.”

My friend went on to write that when things got normal she tried to find joy in ice cream or alcohol or shopping. Except joy wasn’t in those daily normal things. It was inside of her.

I can be fairly stubborn and thick headed. So it will come as no surprise to any of you that all of these things conspired with one other fact: for weeks I’ve been reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. 


The word in my posts. 


The healing magic in the movie.


The words of my friend, though she called it joy.


The book speaking about being part of it. Inviting it. Being a vessel for it.

Inside of me. A universe. Inside of me. Joy. 


I looked for it in England. I found it in the woods and the castles and the nooks and crannies of London. I looked for it in Oz. I found it in the sea, in the skies, in the scents and sounds and tastes and feelings all around me. 

Then things got normal.

Except perhaps. Just maybe. The magic isn’t “out there.” 

Perhaps. Just maybe. The magic is “in here.” If I look? If I open my throat? I’ll find a universe of magic right here inside of me.