Here I am last week at the tiller of a skiff exploring the marshlands inside the barrier islands off the coast of the Eastern Shore of Virgina. I've been exploring, that is, wandering from place to place, most of my life. When I was ten, we moved from northern New Jersey to a small farming village in Massachusetts and since then, in addition to traveling around the world, I've lived in Arizona, Virginia, Key West, Iceland, Germany, Guam, North Myrtle Beach, and now we've bought a home in Onancock, Virginia.
And everywhere I've lived, I have experienced the plight of every new guy on the block. Although I lived next to a farm in a rual area of New Jersey and was raising chickens by the time I was nine years old, when we moved to Massachusetts, I was considered, with some disparagement, to be a "city slicker" and a "foreigner." In Key West, where I was a radio news reporter and anchor, I noticed that whenever anyone stood up in city council meetings to give an opinion, they first let everyone know how long they had lived there, the length of residency directly affecting the influence of the opinion expressed. The same was true, in different ways, everywhere else, and now, here were are, planning on retiring to the Eastern Shore of Virginia where they call folks like us, "come-heres."
"Come-heres?" That was a new one for me. The expression itself lacks any aliterative music, and sounds like a command rather than the derogatory label it is meant to be. The reasons for this "come-here" phenomena are as universal as they are obvious. The locals are both proud of their heritage and instinctively threatened by the intruder. On the other side, some new residents see the locals as rubes and maintain a distance. Of course, there are those on both sides who are eager to accept and be accepted and thus far that is how its been on the Eastern Shore. The people are smiling, friendly, and helpful. The owner of the hardware store that was once a showroom for Model A Fords and where you can find melons, fresh corn, tools, straw hats, and bib overalls, couldn't be more welcoming.
Mary Pricilla Howes, the late sage of Ashfield, Massachusetts, the closest thing to a hometown I've ever had, wrote that for her, happiness and profound living resulted from "staying put." But for me, much of the richness of life has come from being a "come-here." When you arrive at somewhere new, you have what the Zen Buddists would call a child's mind. Things are different, strange even, and so there is much to learn and all those new people to meet. It is this engagement with, this embracing of the new and different cultures that broadens us and teaches us that there is a wider world out there and that humanity's variations are what make the world such a fine place.
Here's what I'm reading this summer: The Blind Watchmaker and The God Delusion, both by Richard Dawkins the Oxford biologist and famous athiest (actually, he says he is a "Level 6 Agnostic, Level 7 being an absolute athiest and in science nothing is absolute). The Blindwatchmaker is good overview of evolution but takes some reader effort and The God Delusion is a very readable and scathing indictment of mindless, pervasive, and destructive religiosity.
Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal (http://bit.ly/1mMT6ZC). The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com (http://amzn.to/1j3axVk) and Crossquarter.com. Visit the author's website: douglasarvidson.com