Connecting With Souls

Connecting With Souls

When was the last time you connected with somebody? I don’t mean by email or telephone, I mean looked into their eyes and connected on a much deeper level. I’m not talking about sexual intimacy either. I’m talking about friends. People whom you can connect with on a level that means conversation with them soars and dips and swoops like a flight of swallows. A conversation that to another person may sound stilted and broken, yet to those who connect, their very lifeblood is stirred. It is simply that so many words are not needed. Communication from one person’s soul to another means that not even language is a barrier.

When I met my friend Marianna, she spoke no English and I no Italian, yet we got on very well from the outset. How? We connected on a deeper level. We recognized something kindred in each other. In L.M. Montgomery’s ‘Anne of Green Gables’, Anne always goes on about kindred spirits. When you find someone you can converse like that with, you feel alive, on the edge of something incredible, something strangely intimate. I have another friend who is from South Korea. We both live in the same village in Switzerland and struggle to connect with other Swiss women here. We pass the time of day with them but nothing deeper, but she and I connect. Although her mother tongue is Korean and she speaks French at home, she also speaks good English because she is a musician for Zurich Chamber Orchestra. We have a love of music in common, and a general bafflement about some aspects of Swiss culture, but there is a lot more besides that we haven’t begun to explore.

I think we, as people, continually seek such connections. We need them. It reaffirms our own aliveness, for want of a better word. Yet, in this day of mobile devices, we seek more and more of these connections online. Why? We are multi-faceted people. We crave intimacy on many levels, different aspects – facets of our personality, our very beings. Why when we crave intimacy in all these ways, do we isolate ourselves more?
We all have different interests, likes, opinions. Sometimes we can share only one aspect of ourselves with someone, sometimes many more. I think this is why some search continually for the ‘one’. Someone they can share most of themselves with, open up and reveal their multi-faceted personalities and characters knowing this other person will understand, will ‘get’ them.

I spend a lot of time on Scribophile, a website for writers. Since moving to Switzerland this has been a Godsend because I can talk to like-minded people here. Yet, for all the communication I do, and connections I think I make, how much do I actually know these people? Perhaps we prefer to keep our connections on a one-faceted basis because that means if the other facets of those people do not suit us, we can leave it. It doesn’t matter. In retreating more and more to these one dimensional relationships, are we damaging our cultures by refusing to accept those parts of others we would normally tolerate? Are we restricting our search for a partner just a little too much? ‘I like this part of you, but not this part.’

Maybe one day we will all live in separate houses, have many one-faceted relationships within reach of our fingertips so we can glean what we need from any one of them at any time. Think of ‘friends with benefits’. At what point does the importance of what that one person can do for us outweigh the importance of the friendship? Do these online relationships make us more selfish? So many sites out there are about self-promotion. It’s not so much what we can do for others, but what they can do for us. I’m not saying everyone is like this, but could it be a general trend?
When was the last time you connected, met someone’s eyes and saw their soul? Or are we afraid of what they might see in ours?




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Once A Foreigner, Always A Foreigner

I have just finished ‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and I am still thinking.

This is a book I will read again. It’s the kind of book you read to find out what will happen, yet while you’re reading know you must come back to this page because there was something that gave you insight into your own life. And then there is that page where the characters seem too rich, too characterful to be true, yet you know they are and you relish the time you get to spend with them. And then there are the blog entries which are well-written, educational, and illuminating about what it means to be black in America. To be Americanah in Nigeria. It’s the kind of book where you can dig a little deeper, discover the story beneath the story, the reality beneath the pseudo-reality – or is it the other way around…


I live in a country not of my birth and no matter how I try to retain my innate Englishness, it’s surprising how much of the adopted country seeps into me and when I return to the land of my birth it takes a while for the pseudo-sweetness of superiority to dissolve.
I first moved to Switzerland in August 2001 full of hopes and dreams, and assurance that I would find my own niche in this beautiful country. After a month of struggling with the language, people’s perception of me as a foreigner, and nobody to talk to, the shine began to wear away and leave the naked matte of reality. The solution was a language course. I made one or two friends and could thereafter communicate in shops, albeit on a basic level. If someone talked to me about anything other than carrots or potatoes or what my name was, I received a sigh for my pathetic attempts to mumble a few words. I often drew a blank even when I could communicate better – the momentary panic that hits when someone expects an answer before you’ve even begun to process their question.

Slowly, I began to absorb the values and ideas of my adopted country. Then I visited my home town in England. And discovered how foreign I was, once more.

I always assumed England and my home town would remain much as I remembered them, but as soon as I set foot in my familiar country, an unexpected alienness began to wind its way in and alter my previously held perceptions. I wondered whether I had changed, or whether my perceptions had been false when I had lived there. A paradigm shift. I saw the good about Switzerland reflected poorly in my home town. It was not as clean. People did not greet one another. Public transport left much to be desired. But.

I could talk! I could ask a question and someone would understand! Better yet, I understood everything going on around me without the unshiftable shadow of worry that cloaked me whenever I left the security of my apartment in Switzerland. If something happens, can I make myself understood?

Going back to Switzerland was like returning to England, just in reverse. Trains were wonderful and people ‘Gruetzie’d’ like crazy, but I was once again an alien in a foreign country, struggling to be understood, struggling to prove I was worthy.

Has anyone else experienced this? Have you moved from your home town only to go back after a number of years and realize both you, and your home town, have changed?

It’s unsettling until we readjust, find our paradigms, and continue our lives.



Welcome to Spring

Spring!    Switzerland           


Welcome to my home, pull up a chair and ease your shoes off. It’s ok if they’re sweaty, slightly stale or even smelly, the window’s open and, if you look quietly, there is a bird out on the patio pecking at a stick. Maybe he thinks it’s a worm. Perhaps it’s a she, and preparing a nest for her offspring. Occasionally they nest under the eaves, but I have not yet been fortunate enough to see the hatchlings.

Early Spring is one of my favourite times. The cautious peeking of new leaves, the first blackbird to sing in the large tree outside, the first truly warm sunny day after a long season of grey. Last week someone mowed their lawn and the scent of freshly cut grass blew through the house. Of course, living in a farming area means less savoury smells abound too, but these fade into the background as the glory of irisies, snowdrops and primroses tantalize my other senses.

Spring is the promise that life isn’t over.

Spring is the promise of new beginnings.

Spring is the promise of warmth.

Spring is the promise that no matter what winter harboured, there is hope.

What are your hopes, this Spring?


Spring in Switzerland



Spring in Switzerland
Think I can put the stroller away now…


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