I love information about almost anything. And one of my favorite parts of life is when several pieces of information, be they ever so small, fit together into a new pattern, a new insight. So, on with my thoughts for today.
I am an immigrant to the United States. John and I moved here from Canada, with most of our children, when I was almost fifty. And it has not always been easy. I was used to short summers, long winters, fresh-water lakes and vibrantly colorful falls. The ethnic influence of my childhood had been French, evolving over time to Italian and – more recently – everyone! (I believe Toronto is the most multi-cultural city in the world)
Now I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is a beautiful southern town with long summers, short winters, man-made lakes and muted autumns. The ethnic influence is almost entirely Spanish, added to the Caucasian and African- American majority. It is so very different. And, you know what? In one way I like that. In another way it is just plain hard. I am having to adapt in so many ways – an old dog learning new tricks.
So, I wonder, am I normal or abnormal in finding this adjustment difficult – even after thirteen years in this country? To answer myself, primarily, I have pulled together a few fragments of this and that that I have read or thought about over the years.
John recently bought a bunch of old Horizon magazines from the 1970’s. They are wonderful cultural/historical anthologies. One of the most interesting accounts I came upon was that of a Russian princess of the 1850’s. She was kidnapped by a primitive Muslim group in retaliation for the prior kidnapping of their chieftain’s son, taken by the Russians many years earlier. An agreement was reached for an exchange of prisoners. But the young man involved had grown up in Russia. He was, essentially, Russian. His ‘own’ culture was now so alien to him that he quickly died of a broken spirit. And he was young and vigorous when he made this transition. I was not young. I am obviously not planning on pining away any time soon, but this story confirmed to me that major life transitions are hard!
And I suppose most of you have read the “Little House” series of books. In one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder-related books (perhaps a Rose one?) it tells of Almanzo’s father dying very quickly after his children mis-invested and lost his money – the wealth of a long lifetime of hard work. Basic economic changes can be just as hard as cultural ones. Really, they are cultural, aren’t they?
It is interesting how attached we become to life circumstances. Canadian air, soil and water as opposed to American air,soil and water. Life in a brick house or a frame one. Money in the bank or not. Hearing French on the street, or Spanish. These attachments are visceral. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with this. In its own way, it is beautiful to be bonded with your own sub-culture. It gives context and comfort. It is just ‘humanness’.
But God can take all that away. And, when he does, I don’t think it is wrong to weep and mourn. But then the Christian has to get up, truly learning to value someone else’s soil, air, water, and culture. Or a new economic culture. Or both.
You know, I appreciate lovely Ruth’s desire to make Israel her new home. Who doesn’t? It is one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible. But, mostly, I am in awe of Jacob who – as an old man – was willing to leave his home and go to Egypt….But he wanted his bones taken back to Canaan, didn’t he?. To the land of promise, of course, as a token of his faith. But also because it was his home. His bones had to be in his own soil. Humanness is so interesting, so poignant, so fragile even as we await that eternal country where there will be no strangers, no strangeness. And everything will be home.