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Amber Paulen

Letter from Another Lettera

I’ve been intending to write this post for a couple weeks now. Many times there tends to be more intentions than actions. Though last week I wrote about having a sharp tongue to which much of my past intentions were related. The first intention always, was to give voice to my good friend Kim’s defense.

Some two weeks ago I saw through the slats of the casetta hanging on our door with delight. There was a typewritten envelope from Kim to me! In it, among other words, were these:

I just finished reading your post-Michigan reflections and it left me with many emotions. The first oddly enough was sadness: for an inexplicable desire to defend myself and my friends who reflect anything but those qualities associated with the America we see when we come back as visitors, and sadness because I haven’t been gone long enough to experience the culture shock of coming back.

Michigan now again seems like a long time off once back in the comfortable habit of my routine. But it wasn’t really and it never will be and that’s what I’m realizing more and more. Within me are two Michigans and two USAs—well, probably even hundreds more—there is the objective and the subjective, the personal and the not-so-personal, the memories that stir with the present, old ideas gone stale, fresh ideas not born, identity, language, friends, family. I don’t believe that we live in one place nor are we circumscribed to one time: that’s what’s meant by eternity.

No matter where we live, many of us do not do much about the vast potentials that we have within us, fecundating in us always. The States, for me, is a dry well for my creative potentials have always gotten confused there. That is not so for many people who have created many good and great things there. The dryness is a personal dryness and probably is made more dry by the hot winds of past and memory.

Then, as I continue to think about The States, there makes itself known to me the great joy of being the outsider, the observer, the one on the outside looking in. I probably desire exclusion more often than I desire inclusion—which is of course completely dependent on people and situation. To live in a foreign country is to always be guaranteed of alien status; where all around rushes the gibberish of strange tongues, where the undecipherable and the misunderstood are the norm and where the most simple of tasks can be made difficult. Everything can be questioned and what is important rises to the surface like a cork.

And so, as a self-excommunicated outsider of the USA looking in, it’s not really a surprise that what I tend to see and pick out of the country is what appalls me, shocks me, what causes the shifts and sudden halts and quick-forwards and backwards of my emotions and mind. The good of that place, the wide-open space, friends and family, the experiences I have had that have formed me, are always with me. It is this good that is in everybody, that does not pay heed to imaginary lines. It is the part that goes without saying but is never said enough: tap-tap-tap! goes our beating hearts. This good is without separation.

I guess my second intention was my own defense, so then my third intention was to say how happy I was that something I wrote made Kim feel something, that to my words she had a re-action. The day-to-day of our lives, the habits and routines, no matter if we live in the country we know or one that we don’t, tends to make brutal monotony of our days. We need as many shocks as we can get; not more YouTube, not more of the same! Awake! Awake and awaken!

What is better than reading Vergil? This! This expanding moment which has not defined itself in ticks or beats, this eternal moment which destroys all values, degrees, differences. This gushing upward and outward from a hidden source. No truths to utter, no wisdom that can be imparted. — Henry Miller


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