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Max Roytenberg

 
MAX ROYTENBERG: OLD DOGS, NEW TRICKS

Max Roytenberg, June, 2014, Dublin, Ireland

 

It was a sunny day today; the promised rain appeared only as a passing shower. There was just the delightful misting on the cheeks that is so endearing about many such interludes in Dublin life. The discouraging overcast was blown away by the courageous ocean breezes, rushing to rescue the beleaguered denizens of this island outpost, after several days of murky mystery. A brilliant sunshine bathed the afternoon hours until they sparkled, a harbinger of better days ahead as we blundered into the second week in June.

 

We have been comparing the weather here, day by day, with the weather in Vancouver. That sea-side city, an ocean and a continent away, has weather that is remarkably similar to that of Dublin. We have been comforted by this because, having made the decision to relocate from this place to that destination on the farther edge of North America, we are grateful that at least the weather will not change that much. We know that so many other things will change markedly.

 

 

There is nothing like a move of this kind to make the things that you have, that you have come to know, the people that you know, earn a keener appreciation, yielding pleasures every day that you may have been taken more or less for granted. And then you begin to realize that there are so many new things that you will have to be learning just to carry out the act of leace-taking. And what about constructing a new life from the ground up in a place you have never lived before? Even if we are going back to the country of our birth, how many things about that country must have changed there since we left.  

 

 

There is a lesson that I perceive in all this. As we painfully deconstruct the life we have built here, picking over its pieces, we discover how many of them have become precious to us. Places, people, regular occasions, parts of the fabric of our lives, habits we have formed, that have given pleasure or comfort, that now, with our going, we are reluctant to surrender. What about the buildings that I have viewed as if I was extending a caress, the places where I rubbed shoulders with crowds of Dubliners, those corners where I shared a treat with my Bride, drank a pint with a friend, the times when I clung desperately to a rail on a flying double-decker bus, or pushed in to find a place on the crowded Dart or the Luas? What about the special foods and special people? I can’t begin to tell the whole story. I am a sodden mass of nostalgia.

 

Suddenly we face the reality that we are leaving all of the pieces of our life behind and, in important ways, they will be gone forever. In our last few days, we glory in them, massage our minds and bodies with the reality and comfort they offer, before we bid them goodbye. Why did we not pay them more attention, why did we not more consciously wallow in the bath of the gifts they offered? Every last taste and sight of these soon-to-be broken shards of our Irish living experience, is bittersweet. We wander the streets of Dublin a little lost, not really believing that in a few days it will be, irretrievably, part of our past.

 

This is not new of course. We must have experienced these things before-we have been leaving things behind us all our lives-sometimes joyously. But when we were younger, somehow it was different. We say we will come back to visit, but do we believe it? This kind of parting at other times and places did not seem to have the same kind of finality. And the new tasks of learning in a new environment did not seem to be as imposing an obstacle to overcome. That may explain, in part, our inclination to cling to our familiars that we are feeling now. All that we have before us are the things in our imagination that we have yet to build, the unknowns of the come-what-may.

 

Yes, we will certainly have to learn some new tricks to cope with a new environment we have never before experienced. Embedded as we were, we were more shielded from the impact of many of the changes in the external environment in which we flourished. As fish in a new pond, (facing new predators?) we will face afresh all the new currents washing through the bureaucratic sea we are now entering. All the minuscule additions we all must make, to accommodate our surroundings to the intimacies that make up our day to day existence, will have to be identified, and discovered in their hiding places, and placed as flesh on bare bones. The human frameworks that make the all the difference in necessities, convenience and creature comforts, will all have to be re-assembled. Accommodations will have to be made to an entirely new space, and new street smarts will have to be developed.   

 

I do not doubt that we are up to the task. And there is a refreshing excitement in starting again from scratch. We get the feeling we are just a couple of kids off on a new adventure. And we are blessed with loving children that view us with bemusement and are always rushing in to offer a helping hand. On the one hand we feel a certain reluctance, a resistance, (after all we are the adults in the equation, aren’t we?) to have them interfere with our fun.  On the other hand, we are grateful for the oversight. We feel we can still learn new tricks, but it’s comforting to know there is someone there to pick us up if we stumble, as we are sometimes wont to do.

 

Up and at ‘em, Drs. Livingstone!

 

 
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