Writing science fiction, I've realized how often I like creating other societies and worlds. I pause a moment to remember Anne McCaffrey, RIP. She passed away this week, but not until after opening up worlds of adventures and interesting societies and people. I read that she began writing her dragon riders series during the Vietnam war, when war and issues divided the nation. She envisioned a world united, and invented a threat from outside their world to bring them all together.
I was surprised to read that. I like reading why writers write something. I enjoy thinking about their thinking. It opens my eyes to new ways of understanding why stories are found and told. My friend, Ellen Sussman, said she wrote "On a Night Like This" to change the outcome of a real situation.
So I think...I write to create worlds where the people come together. I often write about outsiders within the community, people with broken families who are none-the-less loyal to them. I write about homes and families with science fiction and fantasies' framework.
I can say I've traveled the world, but saw it mostly through the American military's eyes. That's much different than the tourists' world, the business world, and the 'local natives' as we dub everyone else in the world where we're stationed. As a tourist your interactions are normally limited. The business and student world allow more involvement.
Military assignments are different. Each one is different, though, depending upon why we're there, and the nation's state where we're assigned. Sometimes we're strictly limited where we can go and when we can go, and even what we can and cannot wear and say. Some places are desginated off-limits. Some military members prefer not to venture off bases when they can. They stay in the barracks, in the military housing, shopping in the military exchange and the commissary, eating at the base restaurants.
I enjoyed being overseas and experiencing the other great civilizations. Memories of these places proliferate my mind. Sipping wine in Sicily in a building overlooking a plaza built two thousand years ago. Anne Frank's house, and Mozart's house in Salzburg along with the amazing Salzburg salt mine, Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Arc de Triomphe, and America's Capitol. Visiting Korean and Japanese temples, and the great art galleries and cathedrals of Europe. Flying over the Alps and along Italy's coastline where so many armies have marched and civilizations thrived.
Everywhere I've gone has a strong military flavor, and not because of our bases. There has been Gettysburg, Midway, Iwo Jima, Guam, Sicily, North Africa, the Middle East, the Phillippines, walls built by Romans, castles built to withstand the invading hordes and to install political power. So many wars, battlefields and tragedies. I've stood at the "Cave of the Virgins" and the last place were vegetation grew when the Battle of Okinawa finally ended, along with the plaza where Charlemagne was crowned Emporer, and Napolean entered Paris. There's the castle at Versailles and old Berlin wall, and the war scars in what was Czechoslavakia. I was born in Fort Belvoir and grew up in Pittsburgh, which was first...a fort.
I've been traveling and emigrating my entire life. My father was in the military and then I joined. After I retired from military life, I was in marketing and traveled, traveled, traveled.
What's always been missing is a sense of home. Some people define home by where their parents live, who they love, where they grow up, where they now live. In one sense, I've thought of home where my Mother lives because she, in the end, has been my life's greatest constant in a world of variables. Dad is disqualified; Mom and Dad divorced in the sixties and he's since remarried twice, and lived with another woman for a decade. He also continued his military habit of moving around. Now he's in Texas, been there fifteen years, and has set a new record for his longest marriage, thirteen years. He seems happy when I talk and visit with him but his home is not my home. He's the only thing there I know or recognize.
I did an exercise in 2006, listing all the places I had lived, countries, states, cities, bases, villages. I came across that this week as I went through a box of paperwork and read and remembered. Sometimes I lived in four or five different places while living in the same area. Updating the list, I've now lived in 52 different homes. That's a lot of moving.
None many of them have been home since I was a child. My places often seemed like home but some missed that element that makes me say, this is home, and I like it. Standing in the living room, suffering a food hangover from yesterday's rich food and overindulgence, I gazed out the window at my yard. The landscaper who planned it for me when I bought it in 2006 did a great job. While spring brings flowers, blossoms, and new shoots, and summer delivers rich varieties of jades and emerald, autumn has bought out flaming scarlets and brassy golds. The lawn is still green and looks good. I trimmed it for the last time for the year last weekend, and raked up all the leaves and put them into our composters. Robins, finches, and sparrows hunted for seed we put out while a gray squirrel twitched its bushy tail and raced up the old oak across the street and a scrub jay screeched, dove for the ground and flapped back up into the pine tree, and a kite took it all in from high in the oak's naked branches. As I stood, sipping coffee and regarding the plants and street outside, I thought, my house looks good.
I like my home. I hope the rest of the world, and the rest of my country, is as fortunate on this holiday, the Thanksgiving when Americans remember where they come from and what they have, and celebrate their good fortune.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com