Sunday, July 29, 2012

Letters from the Underworld: Greece, Twin Selves and Bilocation

An archaeologist's favorite mysterious places
My head may be in my office, but my heart is in Greece. 

As I sit at my desk on these long summer days, watching the sun's light hover in the sky until 9 p.m. I try to concentrate on my work. My fingers hit the keyboard, tapping out sentences, paragraphs, chapters. So my head is definitely here, in the work. But my heart

is here. 

It's like I was given two selves at birth. No, I'm not a Gemini, but I feel like one a lot of the time. 


I wonder if anyone else ever feels like they exist in two places at once? Some years ago, not long before this photo was taken (sitting with a friend on Ithaka, taking a break from the excavation) I had moved to Greece as a student. Living abroad alone for the first time, away from home, I had powerful feelings of homesickness. I was terribly sad and lost in this foreign place; I didn't understand the language and all the other people on the program seemed so much more together and happy than I was. I was scared but I didn't feel I could express it to anyone, so I kept it all inside.


One day as I was looking out the balcony door in the apartment I shared with three other girls, I had the sudden sensation that I was in my back yard in Minnesota.....really, physically there. Not in my apartment in Athens - a jarring foreign environment with the acid light streaming through the windows, the loud caw cawing voice of the vegetable vendor wafting up from the street, the sad peeling walls in my bare room. But home - really home - safe with my family, surrounded by a familiar world. 


Yes, I was under severe stress. Psychologists would probably explain it away as a profound case of homesickness. But I know I wasn't hallucinating. If you want something badly enough, mysterious things can happen.


Decades later, the tables have turned. Now as I sit at my desk, I regularly conjure up Greece. All I need to do is smell the mountain tea that sits above my desk or the handful of sage I bring home every time I return from Ithaka, and I am 


there.


Which makes me wonder — 


what part of our experience in life is a reflection.........



and what part is real? 

30 comments:

  1. I think the right answer is, 'I don't know.'

    Utterly beautiful post, Amanda.

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  2. Living about 2,000 miles from home for eight years now, still a bit difficult to fill the space in between. Thoughtful, much felt entry. Please have a good new week.

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  3. oh chills, amanda. what a fantastic post.

    i'm pretty sure i know the feeling. i am here, but i am also in provincetown. some real part of me. i've been thinking about my 'discovery'--haha- that we are each every age we've ever been, all at the same time. so it's not just place, it's time too.

    my basic rule is that i am where my feet are. but i have to add 'not always'. :^) the older i get, the more mysterious and interesting things seems to get.

    who are you toasting with? is that your Mother?

    i've had the best visit here tonight. big thank you.

    love
    kj

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    1. in the little bit of physics i've read, there is evidence for truth to your discovery that we are every age we've even been. linear time is a human construct and without it, some physicists suggest that everything exists at once- but we need time to filter experience as the human brain can only take in so much stimulus and information.

      that's my sister in the photo on the beach, but she does resemble our beautiful mother who passed twenty years ago this month♡

      thank you kj♡ and i agree - the older one gets the more mysterious and interesting is life

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    2. p.s. i have no doubt that a part of you is forever rooted in your beloved p'town

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  4. A touching post! Living in Greece, this reminds me of the good things still present. My best to you, Maria.

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    1. Thank you for visiting, Maria. With all the difficult things Greece is suffering through, it brings some peace to know there is eternal determination and creativity in its people and beauty in its landscape.

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  5. Now you've got my brain spinning! :)

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  6. oh yes, i feel your homesickness for your other home greece. i don't know the answer, but i feel it too. my heart is divided three ways, home to me is mexico, hawaii and africa. although i've lived in the first two places, africa has had a profound effect on my life and each time i return it grows deeper. what i think about this subject is it's an incredible blessing. and like you i can't wait to go back.
    love the photo of you and your sister toasting. :)

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    1. i know you feel the same way about africa that i do greece, lori. i'm so happy that you got to return recently - sometime i hope to visit this magnificent continent.

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  8. no wonder you miss Greece so much! Having spent so much time there, I guess it often happens when people are strongly emotional and attached to certain places!
    and besides...Greece is beatiful:)

    Blog about life and travelling
    Blog about cooking

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  9. Smells bring back memories all of the time...and if I close my eyes and bring to mind the visions...they seem very real. The mind is our instrument and we can play it....I time travel to my favorite places a lot....It's not really being there but I can feel it.....and embrace it....and enjoy it......Nice post Amanda!

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    1. smells do bring us back — my sister refers to them as "deja pews"!!! haha

      but it's so true - one scent of sage and i am back in greece - it's a powerful way to conjure up a place. the mind is our instrument, as you say, and perhaps we don't play with it enough!

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  10. We are wherever we fancy that we are.

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    1. paul, on the most fundamental level, this is so true.

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  11. Mind the gap Amanda between homeland and Greece!!! Excellent post!

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    1. haha - love that philip - i will start minding the gap more!!

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  12. Like Suze, I don't know, but I know exactly what you are talking about. Perhaps bilocation does have something to do with homesickness. The year we lived in St Louis I was really homesick, especially for the particular type of light that only seems to exist in the Mediterranean, a honey kind of light. Anyway, each night, before I fell asleep, I would be transported to this street in my home town where my great aunt lived and where I had spent so many happy days in her rambling old house. I didn't question why it happened but I am so glad that it did.

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    1. for a Mediterranean born person, it must have been hard to be in the Midwest, away from that light - i know what you are talking about. there is an angle to it in parts of the world that is like no other - and it is picked up on so many emotional and meta-levels that it's often hard to describe in words. honey light, as you say - its color does change with location, and that is such an apt description for the Med.

      i wonder if you still visit your great aunt's house? sounds like it would be a lovely topic for a post~

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  13. When I gave birth I used the Bradley Method - which is exactly what you are talking about. You remove yourself to another place, and in my case I could literally not feel pain. We are wonderous creatures.

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    1. i've not heard of the Bradley Method - will look forward to researching it~

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  14. Yes, I think scents and smells above all can take us immediately to another, familiar place.

    Myself, I carry round many places in my head and my heart, and my imagination can take me there whenever I feel like pressing the mental button. I don't think I confuse the real place with the imagined one, or the real/imagined place with the one I'm in now — they are separate places, but with very strong emotional links between them. I'm comforted by the knowledge that certain numinous and personally meaningful places exist somewhere out there in the world, and that I can theoretically revisit them any time either in reality or in my imagination (which is also reality, but a different kind of reality).

    What's reflection and what's real? I think that's something the philosophers have chewed over since time immemorial, Amanda! My feeling is that the problem is largely a semantic one: there are all sorts of 'realities'; it just depends on what you mean by 'reality'!

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    1. you have shared a great depth of thought here, robert - thank you. i like the idea of a mental button - yes, the 'real' and the 'imagined' are two separate places, but as you say i heartily agree they are different kind of realities. many a philosopher, artist (and writer! - thinking of castaneda) have addressed this concept.

      perhaps in a way of speaking we, all of us, are en route to our own santiago de compostela.....and life is one infinite camino...

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  15. Dear Amanda, what a beautiful post. Reality is always hard to discus, as of course it depends on who is looking at it. Our views and perception can change depending on the way we feel, or on the state of our mind and our experiences.;)
    I have never felt like being in two places at once, but I can get a momentarily sensation of being in another place and another time entirely, just because I hear a sound or perceive a scent. It can lasts a few seconds only, yet the feeling can be very intense.
    I love the way you write and I bet your book will be a great success.;)
    Good luck with it and hope you are having a lovely summer so far.;)
    xoxo

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  16. To me this "other home" is State College, Pennsylvania. It is the place where I keep thinking part of myself has lived on in another existence, ever since I left (and never returned in "real life"). I also got married there, had children, was (and am) happy because I have that in me. Who knows which one is "the real existence"? Maybe we even have a third or 20th life, parallel to this one. Scientists do suggest that there truly ARE parallel worlds. What do we know? 150 years ago there were also radio waves in the ether, but no one could cach the sound yet.
    I like your story very much, Amanda, and who can say what is true or not true?

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    1. geli - i have read that as well, that some physicists believe there are multiple - perhaps infinite - universes and we inhabit them all as multiple 'selves', living out these lives simultaneously - quite a concept to digest, no?

      it would be wonderful one day for you to return to your american home where you lived so much of your life, and see how much (or perhaps how little?) it has changed...

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  17. I love your office with those gorgeous windows! Yes, I spend most of my office time thinking about places far away, but that's my job as a novelist. I wouldn't call hallucination a problem so much as the sign of an active imagination, as long as you can tell what is real and what is not. I enjoyed your photos too.

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  18. One of life's greatest joys is to experience a place so wholly, so completely that you can conjure a return in your mind and in your heart. I have multiple places that move me so. I can easily walk the streets of Paris in my dreams, making turns left and right. I can smell the air in the late afternoon light of Chania with the water reflecting in the port. There are others and I know that there will be more in the future. You are speaking my language.

    I love this post, the reflections, your story, and the poignant photo of you and your sister.

    Bises,
    Genie

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  19. love this. love you and that you share like this. thank you.

    sherry

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Thank you for visiting♡