Sunday, May 20, 2007

settling in

Since moving to India, I have felt generally unwelcome. Not in a bad way, nobody seems to want me to leave. I am not negatively received, just somewhat unreceived. I feel like our life here has to be carved out of old stone. It will be years before we could belong here, years before we could feel familiar, and even then we would be surrounded by the old group. The old group, who has lived on this mountain for generations, whose forefathers were here to see what Gandhi was so uptight about, and who will always chuckle and think of us as silly westerners. The old group has severed ties with foreign lands and expect to die right here in Mussoorie.

The unwelcomeness means that I see the daunting and yes, impossible, task of settling in to any place. I will never be a local here, and anywhere else we go we will be new until we settle, which simply cannot be to the extent of those who are most settled. Even in Brodhead, I feel like a newcomer just because my family has only lived there about 17 years now.

Today I was looking out a particular window in our house and realizing that there are things that only settled people have. Things like rusty sheds full of rotting boards, lawns, stand-alone houses that they can yell in and lock up and invite people to. We have all of those things. The thing that made me notice it first was flowers. Our back yard, a small patch of dirt crossed by a couple of low clotheslines, has a few crumbling stone walls on the mountain side. They form a few crude terraces, and offer a home to dozens of little lizards. We imagined that the overgrown flatter areas had held flowers in some former age. We are far too busy to plant flowers or weed beds or even find out where one buys flowers around here. Yet this morning when I looked out, I saw that we have several beautiful flowers starting to bloom. I noticed a tiger lily, or at least an Indian flower that does the trick. Joie had a tiger lily in her wedding bouquet. I thought that it was really not very fair that we should have such a colorful flower garden in this borrowed house of ours. It is becoming our home, in a very tentative manner, but I suddenly felt very welcome. I felt like we were allowed to have a real yard, that I was able to put a fire pit in, and that has flowers, even though we are very temporary residents, reluctant and unable to settle in. We even have ivy growing on the front of our house.

Anyway, the whole sensation reminded me of a passage from the Bible, Moses speaking to the wandering Israelites about, of all things, settling in:

Deuteronomy 6:10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, [11] houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, [12] be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Anyway, I am familiar enough with my attitudes that I figured I had better write this before the flowers were eaten by monkeys or destroyed by hail. I am probably the only one left in the school building, and it is a very lonely place to be alone.

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