30 November 2012


Occasionally I get a phonecall from one or another of two people in England who are "just checking" to see how things are going for me. Today was one of these days. This person had patiently called at least four times over as many weeks before we connected. I was in the abbey, I was teaching, I didn't get to the phone on time. And I don't return overseas calls to my cell phone. But finally I answered. It was the same friendly concern, how am I coping? Am I "doing OK?" I admit to difficult times, but each time I answer I realise how unimportant this is. I am living a privileged and wonderful life.

These friends who call to check up on me are people I met when I volunteered at the museum five years ago. One has a house in Italy and another really wants a house in Italy. Both have partners who are not the slightest bit interested in joining them in their "Italy dreams". It seems important to them that I am still happy here, still coping.

Occasionally I might say to a New Zealand friend that I am not sure how long I will be able to stay here, and maybe I should start thinking differently about my future. This is invariably greeted with an emphatic "you have to make it work, you are living our dreams. If you come back, how can we dream of doing what you have done?" Or words to that effect.

Occasionally I wonder, is my purpose here really to give other people something concrete to think about when their own dreams are so unobtainable? My dream is to be useful, to change the world. Really I can only change myself, and hope that people around me might change too. But little by little we can make a difference. And that difference means living the dream.

Today I woke to a message from Avaaz celebrating that Palestine has finally been recognised as an independent nation. I didn't make that happen. But maybe my one tiny vote, added to so many hundreds of thousands of votes across the world, helped to bring some sense of support to a troubled people.

Australia abstained, and Canada surprisingly joined  Israel, the US, the Czech Republic, Panama, Palau, Nauru, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands in voting against accepting Palestine as a nation in the UN. Despite this, the result gives me hope that slowly slowly peace may be achieved. Peace within families, peace within communities, peace within a nation, and finally peace between nations. 

Anything is possible. But only if we all do our part. That might be as simple as sharing a smile with a stranger, or as big as volunteering to serve in troubled places. But I do believe that sharing of resources and personal talents is the way to bring change to the world. 

So why am I here? Perhaps so I can see things differently. When you are living in an unfamiliar world you see things that you might have overlooked before. And despite difficult times, despite negative comments, despite gloom and doom, I feel optimistic that positive change is achievable.

I sit here on a rather bleak day and look at a ray of sunlight that floods a part of the valley in glorious spring yellow, defiantly ignoring the fact that winter has not yet arrived in full force. It's a day to reflect, to wonder. I am ordering my house, and with that comes time to order my thoughts. What am I really doing here? Sometimes I am  mopping up the water in the cantina, stretching my budget further and further, dealing with ticks and snakes and thunderstorms, with power cuts and price hikes and wondering why my 20 euros ($NZ 31.70) only buys me 11.3 litres of petrol. I doubt that it sounds particularly romantic to you now, but yes, I will happily stay here and live your dream. That ray of sunshine changes everything. I have Andrea Bocelli singing (third time I have hit replay, sorry neighbours), two little dogs are happy, the house is getting tidier by the hour (with computer breaks) and life is pretty good.

Is living in Italy a wonderful dream? Is the grass always greener over the fence? I read somewhere recently that it is nothing to do with the fence, it is all to do with where the grass is watered. Right now the countryside is well watered, as is my cantina as the water finds its way inside. But as I mop I think how beautiful the restored space is, how wonderful it is to be living on this mountainside, and how green, with shafts of yellow sunlight, my valley really is.

Today I am grateful for optimism. 

1 comment:

Kay said...


First they came... wise words about political apathy.