A rectangle of white, bordered by red, centred within by a leaf all in crimson. Maple in tone. The sight of which gives my heart a small jolt. From a young age, this surge of affection for all that I know, encapsulated so neatly in such an odd form. A tree's own debris, one that falls with the cold that defines our wide land? Why should this stir a young soul with an erotic full force. Perhaps we latched onto our country as we would to our mates -- because it was so damn familiar, recognizable. There.
Being abroad for so long only intensifies notions of sweet special access. This land is my land, not your land. I come from a zone that activates my emotions with notes from a song. I know, I know, you don't have to shout: you do, too. But this is the thing, the 'thing' you can't get -- my place is better, and fuller, and musical in shape, almost aquatic in tone. It does things to me, this place does. Your so-called 'country' may do the same, but not to me, and that distinction exists as the fence I can't cross. You stay on that side; I'll stay on my mine. We'll both sing our own songs, and tear up together, but I won't look over your way, and please, don't glance at my path.
Perhaps this truth that I sense is not as plain and banal as I once believed with such force; that we all hate our own neighbours, and despise those small gaps that remind us of us. My neighbour's fence touches my grass five inches too far; China's ships coast through waters too near to Japan. Cambodia fears (with a fury!) that Thailand covets its land; Canada grumbles at the States' indifferent ennui. The fences look different, their paintjobs unique, but come on. Let's be real. We don't like the looks of those folks in that house next to ours. That's all we need to be real to forge our small hatreds. I once saw this as simple, but now I think not. Something within us demands an allegicance to the land that sustained us.
Yet I think of a 'me' born in my country of birth, but elsewhere, a place that smells of fresh piss, and booze bottles uncapped, freshly drunk, then discarded. Hallways that echo and moan with the clump of tired shoes. Guns fired nearby; drugs snorted so close. My country exists as nature's playground and small lab, but the cities, too, are valid and squalid in equal small measure. Suppose straight from my birth: my land as that building, decrepit and dangerous. When I saw the police patrol those dank streets each night (or not!), what I would think, as a child, of this country so wide? Not for me, that breadth; not for me, that 'nature'. (Of course, urine is natural, as is the need for another small swig of that tiny brown bottle.) If I lay out in bed, and stared at my ceiling, and heard the fresh fight of the couple upstairs, would I feel the pride in my land that sticks with me still?
For now, I'll let the question subside. Easier that way. Best to stare at my flag, and feel that small lump in my throat and know it's not cancer. Instead, it's my country's sweet song rising up from within. Reminding me of my youth, and my hopes that this ground that I tread on allowed me to dream.
Easier that way.