I am far from my country. It’s been long enough now that I am not sure what that means any more, apart from a nostalgia for things from my younger days, each year more frozen and remote, filled with artifacts and dioramas of a life long gone.
I am far from the people I once knew and cherished. Many have passed away, the great aunts and uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents. My mother, too. Those who remain have changed or disappeared. At least one has succumbed to mental illness and is no longer the man we both knew.
I am far from everything that once made me who I am. I carry some of this with me, in the food I cook and eat, the songs I play, and the point of view I have on the things that surround me now. But it’s not quite complete, this lonely authenticity of the exile.
I live in only two times: the past and the future. In the past, I feed on my memories and fill myself with pride and sadness all at once. The longing for places I have lived pulls me like a current, begging me to return to places I can no longer find. I revisit the important points in time when I could have done one thing differently, one thing that might have changed the course of my life. I wish, and then I lose my wishes against the impossibility of having done what I now wished to do.
In the future, I am different and splendid, having come through a desert separating one world from another. Here I am, or at least I will be, a man who carries the burden of his life with a wisdom all can see. Here I am, one who rose and fell and rose again from the very bottom of bottoms to a new place that is my home. Yet this new place that I call home is always just up there, around the next corner, over the next hill, just the other side of that magnificent stand of oaks reaching up to the sky.
It is never now. It is never now that I have lived my life, even my life past. Never have I sat down to rest, to stop my thinking and dreaming and yearning just to say “thank you” to the universe and to those who love me. I never have, I never did, and I don’t know if I ever will. In those moments when I try, I don’t feel like I have truly stopped. Something deep inside won’t let me. The urge to get around that next bend or hill or stand of trees propells me forward and keeps me going, like a fish that will die if it stays still in the water for too long.
It is the special irony of the dreamer that our inability to live in the present poisons the past and the future, rendering both lands inhospitable and just out of reach. The dreamer is the exile from time itself, a man or woman who has no home and no place to go, for home will be always around the next bend. The only redeeming thing in the dreamer’s life is that his or her dreams may one day be useful to others. This, at least to me, is the only way to fill an empty present with meaning, enough so that I can embrace the exile, take him in my arms, and give him the sustenance he needs to wake up one more day, neither closer to nor further from home but, as always, the exile.
Notes and Credits
Photographs taken by the author. Sunset: February 13, 2012, at Eagle Beach, Aruba. Frozen pond: December 17, 2011 in the Catskill Mountains near Walton, New York.