To all immigrants, newcomers, refugees, or anyone who has discovered what it is to love more than one place, this one’s for you.
This year’s holiday observations feel a bit deeper. I just took it all in because I became amazingly aware of what a gift it was to even be on a holiday after two years of the pandemic shadow. My brain was a super sponge keeping all the sights and sounds and the smells. But—most importantly the feelings that go with the obvious sensory experiences.
I’ve been to Greece so many times in the past two decades. I do not take this sentence lightly. I am very grateful for my financial ability to do so, and of course, my health to also do so. Greece and specifically Thessaloniki is very special to me. A literal second home that I am incredibly thankful for.
The sights: From my cousin’s flat, I look over the city. My eyes fall on landmarks: the White Tower, the Old City and Byzantine walls, and the fortress Yadi Koule. I look at the endless blocks of white apartments all the way to the waterfront. Ships float calmly on a deep blue sea. On this clear day, Mount Olympus shows up—still a few snowy contours on those top bits.
The smells: other people’s cuisine, the bakery with fresh bread every morning—honeysuckle, herbs, thyme, basil, lemon, plants, laundry detergent of fresh hanging wash, cologne, perfume, and souvlaki or fish on the grill …and the dark and subtle seeped smells of the sea, a line of pollution, exhaust between it all whispering “hey humans this odor is your reminder to do better.” But we don’t really hear that whisper, do we?
The sounds: A variety of music plays from various balconies—modern, folk, Greek, English. Cars and traffic, dogs, and wailing cats. The fruitsellers and second-hand collectors with their megaphones announcing their sweet watermelons or their need for scrap metal. These folks are often hard to understand—at least for me. I can see the hilarity in the mix-up of junk and fruit. The wind weaves through all of that coming from either the seaside or mountain top. Sometimes it hums. Sometimes it groans and sometimes it whistles.
The feeling: an irreplaceable reminder that I am of two places. That home’s front door may be two doors or even revolving doors. That I walk these streets with familiarity and although I know where my house is and how to get there, after time I long for this place.
It’s the similarities that put me at ease. These similarities are the good people who surround me in both places; the diverse paths of nature; the comfort both countries offer; and the gap each fills in my heart when I am present. There are only a few similarities and they overlap like rings in a chain that hold my past present and future together.
It’s complex to love two—places. To honor both. To honor Greece when I am in Canada and to honor Canada when I am in Greece. Anyone who has felt a bond to another land understands this. How can I want to leave when I feel so attached? How, when I’m so in love with my home am I urged, by my soul, to go somewhere else? And, how can I find balance in these places and these feelings? I don’t have the answers and I have thought long and hard about each question. For now, my feelings get placed in the metaphorical gratitude jar that I am grateful and attached to these different places.
I am fortunate.
I picked the photo above because it could be a road at Jade Beach, Vernon, British Columbia or it could be a road at Nea Potidea Halkidiki, Greece. The trees, the color of the water, all of it. Same. Totally the same.
As always, thank you for reading lovelies.