Beauty in Simplicity

The movers arrived; a band of brothers in matching red T-shirts, rustling packing paper and ripping long strands of clear tape. A city of cardboard was erected in our home as we watched the color drain from our surroundings.

Art, carpets, toys, and belongings were dismantled and packed away, stripping the house down to brass tacks. Biscuit, our Golden Retriever, and I both vacillated between moments of zen and anxiety, unsure of where to go, feeling a bit homeless inside our own house.

To foster a sense of normalcy while changing houses, schools, friends, and countries,(especially for our nine-year-old son, Ramsay), we have made it a point to set aside certain ingredients and supplies to do fun things: make s’mores, bake cookies, make art with leftover food coloring, watch Christmas movies.

Once the moving truck was loaded (protected by guards to prevent theft), our life in boxes drove away and we took deep breaths and prepared to ride this wave of transition. We have chosen this life, embracing this lifestyle in the foreign service; supporting American ideals abroad, helping developing nations while enjoying their cultural wonders, experiential travel, and interesting places and people.

The moves and farewells, though, every few years, are the tough parts. Eight months from now, we’ll be excited to resettle into a new house and community in Libreville, Gabon, after living in temporary housing for several months, (yet to be assigned in Virginia), while attending the Foreign Service Institute for French.

I feel a twinge of envy when I see cozy homes preparing for Christmas with pretty decorations as our bare space has been pared-down, like leafless branches in Winter. But then I remember, in the trunk of our car, I’ve saved our beat-up old Charlie Brown Christmas tree to enjoy until we leave.

Loved for a decade, this little tree has survived three international moves. With its warped shape and glued parts, it looks worn down like the Velveteen Rabbit. I bring it inside and plug it in, smiling at the glow and instant warmth it gives to the room.

In a few days, we will lock the doors, donate whatever we can’t carry, and anticipate our next adventure. For now, left behind here in Honduras are just our suitcases, a few pieces of Embassy furniture, a handful of Legos, the books we are reading, and this brightly shining tree, its light reminding us there is beauty in simplicity.

Have you ever moved during the holidays?

However you celebrate this time of year in your part of the world, may it be full of joy and health.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and abundant blessings to you and yours.

Sending Holiday Magic and tail wags and a kiss from Biscuit,

Tracy

A soulful explorer living an inspired life

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A Process of Unfurling

There are always those first night noises in a new home that take some getting used to, such as the loud clanging as cars drive over a loose metal grate outside our front door. Standing in the garden each morning, I relish the temperate climate and beautiful bird calls. I smile at the sight of fuchsia roses blooming, but feel isolated inside high walls and loops of wire studded with unfriendly razors. I try to remember that in our apartment in Cairo, I would long for a patch of grass, which we now have in Honduras.

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I see a crow flying overhead with a twig in its mouth, nesting just like me. It hasn’t sunk in yet that I live in Central America. I’m not a guest here. I’m a neighbor. This is all part of the transition, acclimating to the newness of everything, and practicing gratitude to buoy myself on challenging days. Making meals from small grocery runs and figuring out what’s near our neighborhood without a car. There must be 8 sets of keys for all our doors and I never seem to get it right the first time. Our alarm didn’t work upon arrival because “someone stole the fiber optic cables a few days beforehand.” My broken Spanish fails me, and I feel defeated, until I remember I have Google Translate on my phone, but then hear in my head the repeated advice:  “don’t take your phone out in public.” Sigh. One step forward, two steps back.

It’s overwhelming trying to ascertain what are the real dangers vs. those just perceived? Can I really not walk around the city during the day at all? “Absolutely not.” and “Yes…before dark, but no jewelry, no purse, and dress down” are the different answers. So, I make the choice to venture out on foot, albeit carefully, and buy myself flowers at a tiny roadside tienda 2 blocks from my house.  I return with a sense of victory. Is this ridiculous behavior on my part? Is my reaction? I don’t know yet, frankly.

It’s always about 3 weeks into these international moves that something shifts for the better. My mind that has been racing starts to slow down, my thoughts no longer like a skittish cat. We have found good coffee, sleep comes more easily, and we are feeling more centered. My body that has been on high alert and achy from moving furniture starts to relax. I can begin planning beyond today and a process of unfurling happens incrementally.

Happiness in life really is about the little things. I get out with some great women for lunch and we explore a lovely pueblo outside of town. I make my first Honduran purchase, a pretty hand-carved lantern made of clay and green marbles. It seems fitting, this gift of illumination for our home.

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On a second outing,  I venture downtown with another expat who has lived here a few years. I’m elated by the pretty architecture, careful landscaping of a gorgeous courtyard, the rich history, and colorful markets. Too, though, there is peeling paint, graffiti, areas of abject poverty, too much litter in the river, and the story of a bus driver who was shot for not paying taxes to the extortionists. Like any relationship, in committing to a new country, you get to know the good, bad, and the ugly. (I usually end up falling in love with these countries, even the tough ones).

The house is settling in a bit with the arrival of our art, books, photos, carpets, pillows and blankets, pots and pans and favorite coffee mugs. Things that make me feel more like me. Organically, we have all quietly created spaces in the house that are “ours.” An office for Brad, a toy room for Ramsay, a writing space for me. And today, I got out my fountain pen and my journal, a sure sign that everything else is okay and I have time now to sit and ponder, feeling fortunate to be a part of this very interesting life in this new place. The journey continues… oxoxo, Tracy