I am amazed how much our lives change when we move from one country to another. I am the same person whether in Washington or anywhere else, very much a creature of habit. Why should my life change at all, except very peripherally? Yet I find that my routine has changed dramatically. I am eating differently, spending my time differently, even thinking differently. Convenience may have something to do with this, but surely my habits and inclinations would work in the opposite direction and keep me in my place. Instead I notice in me a seismic shift, in the way I react to people and things.
When I walk, I look at every shop and every passerby. Everything seems to have a strange aura of newness. The new faces of men and women strike me with a curious piquancy. Many look preoccupied, some look sad or indifferent, but some look upbeat and happy. They jolt me into remembering that there are quite a few things in my life to make me very cheery. Even when they carelessly jostle me, it fazes me no more than the lightest drizzle, and I walk on. Here sometimes it drizzles without notice, suddenly while the sun is at its dazzling best, and I am content to walk and let my jacket gather the moisture.
What is this special feeling I have? Is it just the fun of experiencing the newness of my world, the sharp taste of unaccustomed sights and sounds? Is it the hope of some kind of a new beginning, which is always full of promise? Is it just my body responding to the freshness of a new land, new lodging, new air? I could disregard it as the naive enthusiasm of a casual visitor to a new country. Then it occurred to me how little is the newness of my new environment. This apartment, charming as it is, is not so very different from all the apartments I have lived in. The food, intriguingly different as it is, is not all that different from the exotic foods that I have variously probed. The leisure, the ease, the company, valuable as they are, are not a category apart from the time and pleasure I have had with others at other times.
What is new is the time I have given myself to taste the newness. The freedom I have suddenly assigned myself to look at things, to listen to people, even to taste what I eat without rushing to judgment and asking myself how they really are. Perhaps unknowingly, but wisely – with the wisdom born of a thousand regrets and disillusionments – I have freed myself to experience the beauty that lies both hidden and open around us.
When I woke up this morning and rolled up the window screen, the sun was just coming up. My disorderly room filled instantly with a gentle light. There seemed a kindly promise foreordained in the quiet unveiling of the day. No great event is planned for the day, no plan for a mountain tour or a great outing with a special person, not even a candlelight dinner to look forward to. Still I felt a strange pleasure as I stood in the shower, smelled the towel and put on my new shirt. The world has something to offer me and I have something to receive.