I’m moving to Romania in the fall.
This has been a long time coming. From my first visit in this country nearly two years ago, I’ve felt that my return was almost inevitable. There are some places that press on your heart like that, I’ve learned.
On my most recent visit to my future home, hauling over the majority of my belongings from France just a few weeks ago, a Romanian friend asked me why I decided to come, to live in this place. I have a hard time articulating the reasons why in English, let alone in Romanian. I stumbled around my words a bit, but finally landed on the truth: “I feel good here.”
This is the most simple and honest answer I can come up with, but the question I’m still asking myself is why? Why do I feel so good here? Why does this place already feel like home?
I recently listened to an episode of the On Being podcast called “Carlo Rovelli—All Reality is Interaction.” On this episode, Krista Tippett interviews Rovelli, a scientist and the author of the global bestseller Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, and the main impetus of the conversation gave me a bit of clarity.
“We don’t understand the world as made by stones—by things,” he explains. “We understand the world made by kisses, or things like kisses: happenings.”
Stones are easy to define, to explain, to place. Kisses much less so. The ways that we understand our world are volatile and impermanent. They do not always lend themselves easily to words. But still we try. And so, on the flight back to France, I sat with my notebook, and I wrote. I think I was trying to put words to these happenings, the “kisses” that help shape the way I see and understand Romania.
The crocuses we touched on Sunday
Are likely still open, cup-shaped and low
On the side of the mountain.
When I return they will have vanished
Sunk back into the damp earth with the snow,
Left in their place purple clumps of wild thyme.
I’ve traveled quite a lot in the past year. I’ve visited many new countries that I’ve enjoyed immensely and I’ve lived in a country I’ve always dreamed of living in. Still, I’ve never felt the same level of attachment in any of these places that I’ve felt in Romania. When I step off of the plane in that country, it feels like I’ve come home.
I have never known how to explain this homesick love I feel for a country that is not my own. Maybe that’s because I’ve been trying to place the feeling in “things” when they really belong in moments, in “happenings.” It’s these moments that make us fall in love.
It’s the way the kids joke and argue and play, slinging arms over each other’s shoulders, calling each other by their nicknames.
It’s the sweet cheese pastry, puffed in powdered sugar, that I ate on the streets of Bucharest in warm, blue rain.
It’s the morning runs through mud puddles and empty fields, past dewy-eyed cows whose noses I pat and frantic dogs that I did my best to avoid, ending in cool waterfalls or in a crop of wild blueberries.
It’s the boiled eggs and smoked cascaval cheese and raw red peppers and unbelievably sweet peaches I ate for lunch on long days at the crag.
It’s the hot, crowded maxi-taxi with red curtains framing views of purple and green mountains.
It’s the everyday blessings the people exchange like handshakes, constantly wishing each other well.
It’s the paella we made together in a warm, light-filled apartment.
It’s the swinging arms of the orthodox women, forming crosses that reach all the way down to the earth at our feet, the way it feels as if they are drawing a door into which I may step.
Perhaps all of this is dor, that heavy word that means lack and joy and sorrow and desire and sweetness. I’ve glimpsed it everywhere it seems. It sits at the top of the wild, insouciant mountains. It grazes in the knotty herds of sheep on the side of the road. It floats in the jar of home-preserved sour cherries offered happily for me to taste. It lies among all of those crocuses that will not bloom forever.
Jenna Griffin loves foreign music, old cookbooks, public transportation, and sunsets in new places. After graduating with degrees in writing and French, she is spending her first post-grad year as an English teaching assistant in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France.