While running through a cool and crisp Canadian morning I encountered a misty field, a shroud of white, almost smoky dew that hovered atop the ground as if hesitant to descend, afraid to disperse. The sky was blue and the grass was green and here, in the almost empty Ontario outdoors, the silence of the morning broken only by the sound of my own footsteps falling on highway pavement, I could feel, if only for a moment, at home, yet reminded also of away, of another place, a distant place. For in the Philippines, in Baguio, the clouds touch the mountains; here, in Ontario, the mist touches the grass. Between two solitudes -- east and west -- I almost hovered.
When you've lived abroad and stayed abroad for any extended period of time, coming back home, if only for a week or two (or, in my case, three) is almost inevitably a shock to the system, a tiny volt of lightning to the heart and the brain. Not enough to fry, no, but certainly strong enough to jolt. For everything is different and everything is the same. Abroad, away, memories of home are simultaneously vague and vivid; it's all there, in your head, just stored and stuffed into boxes both bursting and empty. You open the drawers every now and then to reacquaint yourself with who you are and where you're from, but it's only when you arrive, again, in the land of your birth that you see who you are and where you've been. (And maybe where you're going.)
People on TV look a little older. Strange new fonts adorn the local papers. Malls and movie theatres have come up and come down. And in between these cosmetic trivialities lies the you that was here before, and the you that is here now. Thomas Wolfe famously said that you can't go home again, but I wonder if that's necessarily true. I think if you come home expecting to find the country you left, and the you that you left, then, yes -- you are pursuing a sense of place that has long ago packed up and headed off to Hawaii. But if you come back hoping to unravel another sort of mystery, an enigma of the soul, an intersection between that which raised you and that which remains, then perhaps, just perhaps, you can find a place in this new and familiar land.
People have moved on, yes; time has marched forward, definitely. But so have you, and to return is not to revert, or regress; to return is to discover. To seek. To consciously endeavor to unearth aspects of the self and the nation that may, just possibly, align themselves once more, in strange yet compelling contortions.
Before leaving Canada I had no interest in its history, its politics, its outlook and prospects. My immersion in Asia led to an interest in world affairs, world history, and so it's perhaps no surprise that I find myself eager to learn more about my country's past and its present, its political parties and nefarious politicians. Soon I will be back in the Philippines, but my home-hearted interests will linger.
As will the mist. I'm sure that tomorrow, as I run, the mist will return. I will stare at its translucent state; I will wonder when, and how, it will shift to sleet, then snow. I will be reminded of the place I left less than a week ago, and the clouds that cross the mountains. I will stare at the fields and wait for the sun to finish its rise. I will be happy to hover between two worlds for at least another day.