stepping away

I’m wearing close-toed shoes for the first time since I moved.

It’s still sandal weather here but I’m flying out tonight and it will be cold where I land. There’s sure to be a lot less traffic there and no cows lazing about in the street; possibly drivers who stop at lights and signal when they turn. I’m sure there will be lines at the cashier in shops and lots less garbage on the side of the road. I think there will be cafes galore, delicious wine from this region and that, croissants and more cheese than I can possibly dream of.

I will walk those streets and explore with a new set of eyes.

I’m pretty sure where I am going I won’t see crowds of schoolgirls on the street corner in the morning all dressed in plaid with looped braids and strings of jasmine in their hair. I won’t walk by beautiful, intricate kolams carefully drawn in chalk on the sidewalks lit with candles and adorned with marigolds and rose petals. Or women walking down the road in bright, beautiful saris, chattering in Tamil, on their way to buy bananas. There probably won’t be firecrackers blasting every night in celebration of a festival and surely there won’t be a tiny lit-up shrine to Ganesha at the end of the road smelling of freshly burned incense.

It feels weird to be leaving (even for just a few days) a place that, not so long ago, felt so weird to arrive in.

The last time I was out of India, I’d never been in India before.

Shoes and wine and cheese and orderly lines and things that made sense were my normal. I had never seen a man ride down the street on an elephant or cows lying in the middle of the highway or a woman with an incisor reaching down to her chin. I had never seen colors so bright or flowers so fresh, used with such purpose and sentiment. Before I came to India, I had never been this far away from home for so long. I hadn’t a clue about Hinduism or Jainism or Sikhism or how many religions and languages and cultures and traditions thrive in this country. I had never seen such extreme poverty and inequity. I had never been in a place where complete ugliness and pure beauty were so obviously enmeshed. I had no idea that I would have so many questions…

What was once my normal doesn’t feel so normal now. I am walking on new ground.

Some of the things that I thought I needed are no longer things that I need.  There are things that I thought that I knew that I just don’t know anymore. I have been cracked open and all of my insides are exposed and I can’t imagine what it would be like to put that all back in and tuck it away. I am, all at once, amazed and terrified.

Stepping away lends itself to seeing from a new perspective…

My desert-worn toes clad with Rajasthani rings wiggle inside of my shoes.

Change is complicated.

(Cheese is good.)

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. liza sue
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 18:40:50

    I love you, miss you, and think of you so often xoxo I can’t wait for a susannah hug

    Reply

  2. Molly
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 22:00:19

    Susannah, Life is so rich and you see to be able to grasp it all so well. I love you! Aunt Molly

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Reply

  3. Patrick McGlamery
    Nov 19, 2013 @ 23:16:01

    Traveling in deeply foreign places can be so grounding. Now the normal places will seem enchanted too.

    Reply

  4. Kelly B
    Nov 20, 2013 @ 10:19:41

    Safe travels and be sure to give yourself lots of grace with the culture shock that will surely go both ways.

    Reply

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