On Sun-Drenched Elsewheres


“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.”
Isabelle Eberhardt

I wake early on the off chance that there will be a snow day and the ‘non-essential’ personnel can stay home. I look out the window and my answer is there in the small amount of snow that has accumulated overnight. Hot coffee in hand, I sit in the couch by the window, a warm blanket tucked around me.

And I dream of my sun-drenched elsewheres. 

I’m sitting on the verandah at the Holland Bungalow, that big, old building designed for visiting medical staff to come for months at a time while they set up eye camps in Shikarpur and other nearby villages. It’s late afternoon in the winter and the sun is making shadows through the dusty screen. I am a teenager and am plucking out mournful songs on my guitar. The three chords I know are used over and over (and over) again. What I lack in guitar-playing skill I make up for with my voice, which is better than average. I am utterly content in that moment on that verandah. Soon we will have strong, sweet, tea in the garden, dipping sugar-covered Nice Biscuits into the steaming hot drink.


Fast forward and I am on Marty’s balcony in Cairo. It’s early spring in Cairo and Jacaranda trees are blooming everywhere. The weather is perfect covering up the fact that this is a city with pollution problems. I’m waiting on the balcony while Marty makes coffee. We meet regularly on her balcony — it is the safe space for me and many others. Marty has that ability to ask questions and get to the heart of what is going on. I love this city and I love this balcony. I love that the sun beats down and warmth envelopes my body.


Several years later I am in Phoenix, Arizona. Our beautiful yard faces the desert and the patio is perfect for resting and dreaming. The bright, blue water of our pool reflects sunlight and all is calm. I see a bunny running across the yard to hide in the Bougainvillea bushes. My children will be home from school soon but I have this moment of sun-drenched peace and contentment. I love my yard and I love the sun.


It is this past summer and I am walking toward the ocean. The rocky coast is in front of me, and a sunset that defies description lights up the sky. The whole world is bathed in golden color. Ahead of me a sheet hung on a clothesline to dry waves in the breeze, a perfect picture of nostalgia, better still saudade – that poignant longing for what no longer exists.


I give in to the deep longing I feel for just a moment, allowing myself the space to remember. Because there can be strength in remembering. 

Time to leave this dreaming of mine. The clock is ticking and my bus comes soon.

As I pull on sturdy boots over my thick socks I recognize that I’m not discontent, and I don’t dread the day.  But taking the trip back in time to sun-drenched elsewheres was a gift for me this day.

Where are your sun-drenched elsewheres? Do you allow yourself to have moments of longing or do you push them away for fear they will paralyze you? 

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14 thoughts on “On Sun-Drenched Elsewheres

  1. Goan sand stuck to my toes, pina colada in my hand, a journal on my lap, pen in the other hand ….I sit, staring out to sea. Quiet. Calm. Warm. Reflective. This is my sun-drenched other space….But it’s true, I dare not linger there too long or I won’t be able to crawl out of bed tomorrow…. The fetal position is only a curl up away from sweetly laying on my bed remembering….


    1. Yes – yes. This. I love the way you speak of paralysis being so close that you have to be careful. That’s exactly what I feel. The paradox of strength in remembering vs. paralysis in remembering.


  2. Ah, beautiful! I love the question you ask at the end about pushing away good memories for fear of being paralyzed.

    I’m spending my second ever sun-drenched winter living in Southern California, finding myself in somewhat the opposite situation – pushing away bad memories of winter (both real and figurative) for fear of being paralyzed by them. Sometimes it’s more tempting to just ‘move on’ from the frozen and bitter memories. This is a good reminder to not do either one, but to sit with all the feelings as they show up. Thanks.


    1. Oh good thoughts Jody. Are you finding the move to work well with your bicultural family? I had the same sort of thing when we moved to Phoenix. At the time, Massachusetts held 7 years of culture shock, sadness, never feeling like I belonged and so much more. When I got to Phoenix I just wanted to forget all of that – still had a lot to work through. Here’s to sitting through memories with a cup of tea and a side dish of grace.


      1. Oh yes, it’s been wonderful! We moved from the frozen cornfields to LA, and I’ve felt very much like you did moving to Phoenix… it’s probably part of the reasons I’ve been writing again – trying to do some of the ‘working through’.


  3. The C-Breeze in January….. baby turtles hatching and heading for the calm waters of the Arabian Sea, dolphins bobbing up and down, sea gulls diving for breakfast, tinkling camel bells announcing their presence on the warm sand, the rising of the warm sun and a cup of freshly brewed coffee, ….memories from “some far and distant place.”


    1. Bettie, you said exactly what I was thinking. Hawkes Bay is one of the loveliest sun drenched spots in my memory. The very first time we went to the beach in Pakistan was to the old CMS hut on Sandspit. It was a glorious week. I can close my eyes and see 2 year old Marilyn with an orange swim suit with a cape to keep her shoulders from getting sunburned, hand-me-down from Cindy Webster. The three boys building sand castles, getting up, napping and going to bed with the sun.
      Thanks Marilyn. We have been privileged to share many of those spots with you, such special memories


      1. I love that both of you picked Hawkes Bay. I’ve been thinking about writing about Hawkes Bay and think I will. Thank you for these wonderful sun-drenched memories from both of you!


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