Thirty-two years ago I arrived on American soil and have never left for anything more than a vacation since. When I disembarked, I was a strange mix of a native and a tourist. I vowed to make life happen again.
Tonight, all these years and all this wisdom later, I watch as the rain changes over to fat flakes of the first snow, falling gently, melting into oblivion immediately – it is not time yet….
Years of living near the equator left me ill-equipped for life in New England as the land hunkered down in darkness and cold. I owned no winter clothes; not a single pair of socks, gloves mittens or even a wool scarf. I built a wardrobe from the kindness of friends and family. A Civet Cat fur coat (hand-me-down from a family friend) still hangs in my closet. It is too fragile to wear, but the beautifully striped skins of this animal come from the dark forests for Southeast Asia. That and layer upon layer of textile got me through those first winters.
Many years later, I have tamed the cold, though I still wonder what drew me back to this stark contrast to a tropical environment of rain forests and ancient temples.
It fascinates me the little traits I have learned along the way. Indonesia, Jakarta in particular, was a very cowed world. People had much less personal space; particularly when you compare my acres that stretch to the ledges vs. life in a city of millions. I learned the most basic and comfortable human position – the squat. It’s a seat no matter where you find yourself, it brings your vision in line with every small detail of life, it is the perfect posture for aligning the body in a relaxed posture.
After the first few self-conscious attempts, it becomes natural, almost instinctive. When I perch on the raised hearth, in front of my fire to coax the heat every night, I find I am comfortably posed in the Indonesian squat…