Musings on the Wonder
Of Seasons Down Under
Warm, gentle breezes tickle palm trees outside my living room window across the Swan River. Is it really December? Looking up from my work, laid out across my home coffee table, my situation grows ever more hopeless. Hopeless, that is, to refrain from lapping up the serene eye-candy; hopeless to refrain from pondering the weather of Christmas seasons past.
It’s nearly 30 degrees (that’s 86 degrees to my friends and family stateside). The quivering palms awaken me to this new December experience. They beckon me to escape within my own “down-under” dreamland. December in Perth, Western Australia is not at all like wintry climes of all my earlier Christmas seasons. Here, spring is giving way to summer; hardly my usual Christmas experience.
Shall I abandon the task before me? Or — now distracted — shall I politely refuse the palms’ offer and, instead, meditate with gratitude on my family, my friends and cheery memories of Decembers-past? With 21st century magic, “home” is only a click away. Contemplation on the gifts of family, friends and memories of earlier Christmas seasons nudges my thoughts to drift away … drift away to special people and times when holiday pleasantries were carefully exchanged by hand-written letters and cards.
People in my life, many dear to me, have had first-hand experience of “the wonder of down-under”, and had already explained some of the mystery to me before I arrived here, some four months ago. My mother’s sister and my father’s brother had been to the “Land of Oz” on work related travel. My paternal grandparents made a vacation during my childhood. My 3rd grade teacher did a one year life-swap to Australia as well.
The much younger me was so excited to have pins, stamps, boomerangs and even Vegemite from someplace that — even in my dreams — was a wild and far-off place. These were before internet was commonplace and mobile phones with video chats were still a far-off dream. I will never forget that I was a part of those trips too, for example, by the Expo Oz (World Expo ‘88) stuffed platypus and postcards I received. But those times were different, as now I can share my own experiences daily, and often instantaneously.
What a wonderful thing to be able to just be a part of so many others’ lives … and share experiences from so far away! It is no small wonder that we can forget what it was like before. I have been lucky enough that on all of my travels of the last decade, I have had instant communication and do not know what it is like to truly be far away. As in: “out of touch; Incommunicado.” However, this may not be all good, because now I am very far away on a regular basis, and the sheer wonderment of thought that my family is literally a half a world away is somewhat of a triviality.
But as we know, there are pros and cons to everything, and if I take a step back and remember the excitement I had as an eight year old lad — with a tube of Vegemite in one hand and a map in the other — then the pros very much outweigh the cons of this ability to share on a moment’s notice. We can be a part of someone else’s life while also having our own adventures, and then all the adventures in the world seem attainable.
My few months here have underscored my own experience of how the world has changed in just a few decades. We can meet different people from all over the world in one place: physically and digitally (i.e. via internet-based video). We all know that ‘Western Civilization’ is changing the way things work. But would you have imagined that an American and Romanian together could walk into a grocery store in Australia and both can navigate it and say “this feels like home”?
The homogeneity of the way we live our lives is sometimes more mind blowing than the differences we experience. I still love to meet and talk with people from all over the globe, no matter where we are at that moment. It’s true that many of my closest friends call “home” someplace far from mine. Even though the world may seem big, with friends like these it can feel small. And yet: the world is still a very large place and home can be very far away.
Sometimes I may feel like I don’t have a home in the physical sense, but being part of a closely knit group of people can make almost anyplace feel like home. Colorado is where I grew up, and a major part of my family is there. But the houses I grew up in are the homes of others now; when I visit Colorado it is just that: a visit. This is why I am so happy to have the chance to share my life with people through electronic communication and fast modes of transportation. I feel lucky to have that connection with people in many places all over the world, at the same time.
To me, Christmas is not about the holiday and the shopping, but about spending time with those who mean the most to me. We have a chance to catch up, share stories, and be connected when we may have not felt so during the rest of the year. We spend time together over the Christmas week of “down time” to relax and recharge – to prepare ourselves. It is a time to reflect on the things that have happened, and to look forward to new adventures. The time between the holiday and the celebration of a new year is just under 2% of the entire year, but often seems to be some of the most memorable.
This holiday season, I am farther away from my family than ever before, but still close enough (thanks to high speed digital magic) to share our life experiences, our hopes, and our love for each other.
So much has happened this year as well, for me and the ones I care about, that it’s difficult to get my head around it all. Many of these experiences I will hold dear for the rest of my life. I hope all of you have had a very busy and memorable year – in a positive way – and will keep those memories with you as well.
We are lucky when we have people in our lives that are important to us, and vice versa. It’s what makes the human race a very special race. Because of that, I know that my home is wherever I decide to put it, and that no matter where my family (blood or not) is, they will be a part of my home.
Much love and a happy blessed 2015 to you all,
Aaron Girard © 2015
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Aaron’s earlier (not so cheery) Guest Essay