Thursday night – next Monday I’ll be getting on a plane to fly back to Albania . . . . Why is it that anything one is passionate about so quickly becomes an esoteric exercise? I’ve been back in New York for two months now. For the first month, it was easy enough to live off memories of Albania – the smell of woodsmoke (oddly like bacon) was still in so many of my clothes! I could close my eyes and summon up dozen upon dozens of visceral memories. Just how Sose’s eyes sparkle, when she’s telling you something particularly funny that you can’t possibly understand, since she’s speaking Albanian, except, you do understand. How she thumps you on the back and says “Bukur!” (lovely) and “Good-good!” Just what it feels like to be able to look up, always, and see the mountains around you. What the water tastes like, scooped by handful from the stream pouring down the mountainside . . . . the particularly, peculiarly humorous faces of the pink-and-green grasshoppers that like, so oddly, to peer at you . . . . Basically, whenever New York wasn’t actively engaging me, I had an Albania-of-the-Mind to retreat to. And did.
A month later, it shifted. The second month of my exile was spent making up stories of things that might happen, if I were there. What the mountains will look like in autumn, how I might stomp about in my boots, where we will sleep when the cathedral-ish open wood-tiled ceiling of the of house makes it too cold to inhabit . . . . I’ve made up whole rooms that ought to exist, complete with fireplaces, bookshelves . . . and this in its own way is good, too. Another way of being in Albania. Because in my heart or mind, or whatever is most important, I AM in Albania.
But, and this is the important thing to know – stay away much longer, and the whole place becomes a figment . . . so I’m not. In four days, I’ll be flying over unimaginable stretches of space, flying back, like a fairy tale, like magic, back to Albania. I’m relatively calm. Albania is bigger than I am. I trust it. I’ve gotten dangerously close to making the whole place imaginary. But peace. I’ve remembered to be wise enough to go back. Check myself. So I am.