Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The stone stops here

For much of my life, I have been a rolling stone. I have lived in ten places, in five countries, on three continents.

Because I did not have a geographical anchor, I used to get a sense of identity from my circle of family, friends and acquaintances around the world. I used to feel that being known by that group of people was what confirmed my existence. I had a low grade fear of dropping off their radar screens. I used to put effort into staying in touch with them, sending Christmas letters and that sort of thing.

That changed when I followed my bliss and moved to Nanaimo, British Columbia last autumn. Although I had never lived on Vancouver Island, relocating here felt to me like arriving home. Since I have settled on the island, it has felt insignificant to me whether or not there are people around the planet who know me.

I put this down to the fact that I am basking in the warm glow of a friendly and caring community whose ethos is compatible with my values. I am referring of course to Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community, which constitutes my home base in Nanaimo.

Ironically, at the very time at which I no longer needed them, I received a cascade of e-mails and Facebook messages from former classmates from my Johannesburg high school. These developments had been triggered by a classmate who had done some detective work and had found out where many of us lived. In most cases it had been forty years since we’d been in contact with each other.

It has been tremendous fun for us to catch up. Happily, I will be able to see some of them in the United Kingdom and South Africa when I travel to my mother’s eightieth birthday celebration in Swaziland later this year. We’ve also discovered that a handful of us live on the west coast of North American, all the way from Vancouver down to Los Angeles. This contingent is planning a mini reunion in Vancouver.

I may have confused you when I said that I didn’t need my former classmates and yet was enjoying hooking up with them. Well, yes, that’s exactly what feels so delightful. It is cool to communicate with friends from a former life. Yet, because I really do have a life, I don’t need them. I hope for their sakes that they can say the same.

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