As I look back on the last four years, my immigration to and settling into California reminds me of growing up.
|SFO – the “maternity” ward!
First, of course, you are born. You arrive to a whole new world where everything is novel and fascinating. The temperature is different, the light is bright (the sun being almost alien to Irish folk!), people sound different to what they sounded like muffled in the womb of the Irish brogue, missing Irish chocolate, and exchanging the love of the smell of turf smoke for the perfume of California sage bush (aka Cowboy Cologne). Moving to the other side of the planet brings change in every sense of the word.
|Dawn in Yosemite Valley
I was lucky/unlucky (in a glass half-empty/half-full sense) enough to be moving without a job. This presented benefits along with problems. The obvious advantage was time to get us organized. The less obvious disadvantage was time on my own that left me bored and fighting loneliness and homesickness. Fortunately, I’m a silver lining seeker and knowing how many people would have loved to have been in my position, (some of whom are dear friends and relatives…) in their honor, I always counted my blessings.
So, like a young infant that is mesmerized by everything from her own hands to the clouds in the sky, I marveled at the world around me. I exercised my new-found vision to better focus on the important things that my new life had to offer. In those early days, I had hours and hours to spend on any project I chose – buying the furniture we needed for the new apartment, swimming, and even knitting (though the sweaters turned out to be too warm for this climate!)
But without a job, I found it hard to find people to make friends with. Without kids, I had no Moms to chat with at the school gates. As the novelty of moving wore off, I revisited a feeling I hadn’t truely experienced since I was a kid. Boredom!
Like a cooped-up puppy, I’d pounce on my husband when he came home exhausted from work, demanding his full attention. As patient as the saint he is, he encouraged me to follow my dream of writing and dissuaded me from feeling guilty for not bringing money into the household.
|Tollymore Forest Park, County Down, Ireland
With this freedom to pick whichever path I wanted, I decided to write and also try out some volunteer work. (Writing is a lonely job.) I joined the Edgewood Weed Warriors and like a kid in primary school (kindergarden-elementary in the US), thirsty for knowledge and friendship, I found exactly what I needed!
|Tidy Tips – California wild flower
Just as a child’s perspective changes from the toddler’s egocentricity to the peer sensitive middle-schooler (which is first – third year in the Irish and UK school system) as I met more people and acquaintances became friends, the new life blossomed and with the move to our house and garden another dimension of this brave new world opened up to me – the garden.
|Pulling out the oleander to make way for the natives
This pulled me happily to the high school stage – here I could pursue projects that gave me personal satisfaction – producing my own food – my husband teases me about being like those pet cats that present their owners with their dead quarry so as to contribute to the pride, as I bring in the produce from the garden.
My writing is still a daily anchor, and the people in my writing groups now valued friends as well as peers.
Along with these, I have other play mates for swimming, biking, hiking, shopping, coffee chats and generally hanging-out, so that my poor husband can finally have some “alone” time outside of work – like the parent whose kids have reached an independent enough stage to go off on their own for the afternoon to hang out with their buddies.
|Mono Lavender – South African hybrid
With a vibrant circle of friendships blossoming and lots of things to do now, I find it harder to find the time to sit down to write my blog, an activity that gave me such pleasure back as an eager sixth-grader in “immigration” time.
During the week I was at a Master Gardener talk. I was standing at a stall at the back, the speaker was just about to begin and another MG came in at the last minute. As she passed me she leaned towards me and whispered, “I love your blog.” She moved on not waiting for a reply and my heart bloomed with gratitude towards her. Those few simple words mean so much. To be appreciated by even one person makes the effort worth it.
Now, I’m like the sixth-former (high school senior) with gardening, my budding business and emerging novel being the subjects that are my seeds for future enterprise, my ‘after-school’ clubs – namely Master Gardeners, swimming and biking, and a circle of friends to enjoy it all with.
Thanks to modern technology I can still hold dear the friends from my old life.
No longer do I hear myself echo the teenagers whine of, “I’m bored,” and thank goodness too, for now relaxation time can be exactly that.
Instead, the mantra is, “How time flys!” I’ve learnt to appreciate the joy of “busy” because it sure does beat the butt of the other B word!
So in this “Thanksgiving” week I’m thankful for being kept busy with friends, family and projects, the hindsight with which to view the journey and sharing with you readers …whose appreciation keeps me returning to the keyboard time and again.