The summer is over but not forgotten, though usually by this time of the year it is nothing but a faint memory. As I write, the summer is still very much present and alive.
A few other friends I have spoken to in recent days have shared the same opinion, they too having had an ‘intense time’.
In my case it involved reviewing my position in relation to my own roots and culture.
The first Art to Heart course in Italy has taken place and the general consensus seems to be that it was a success.
On the first day I had invited the participants to ‘open up all the senses’ and to experience the week in its many different manifestations.
This they did splendidly considering that there was no shortage of challenges, which were dealt with a great sense of humour, aware that ‘When in Rome…’
What I was unprepared for was the effect that the week would have on myself, and the shift that it demanded on my usual way of viewing my country.
Like many people who have chosen to emigrate, going back home for holidays can be an ordeal. It implies a mixture of contrasting emotions that span from love to hate, longing and irritation that make you declare that you’ll definitely go somewhere else next year.
Strangely this summer, by the end of that week, a profound internal transformation had taken place to the extent that the relationship with my native country had shifted dramatically.
The act of having to ‘facilitate’ the indigenous art and culture for others and to witness their response in words and pictures caused many strong emotions.
In inviting the Irish to ‘open up the senses’ I allowed myself the same experience and for the first time, free of judgement.
I saw my country for what it was, warts and all, and loved it.
Back in Ireland I debated these feelings with other people who are living a similar experience, namely wishing that we would stop wanting to be here when we are there and vice versa.
We agreed that many elements connected to the senses constantly weave in and out driving us to compare and criticise; the weather, followed by food, customs and attitudes.
We discussed what it means ‘to belong to’ or ‘feel at home’; how much of your native culture you feel you can import and share and how much of the new one you are prepared to embrace.
Perhaps our times demand that we learn to be at ease wherever we are, either for a day or for years, aware that we share much more than divides us. Myths, legends, stories and symbols look much the same the world over, we just express them differently, variety being the spice of life.