Hello and welcome to the 65th issue of Place! If you’ve ever moved to a new country, or even the next town over, you’ve surely felt the strangeness that comes with your entire surroundings shifting around you, at times, in the blink of an eye. In this week’s dispatch, Place editor Kylee Pedersen writes about her recent move back to Canada from London, and the difficulty she’s felt in processing such a drastic change. While she’s felt pressured to be able to explain to those around her how she’s feeling, she’s also had a new avenue of explanation opened to her – her dreams, and the mystical places they’ve brought her too over the last few weeks.
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Nearly a week ago, I moved to a different country. Not one that’s new to me – in fact, it's the one I grew up in. I packed up boxes, put some necessities and picture frames in a suitcase, and boarded a plane. In a matter of short hours, my life, and the place I called home, had changed.
The speed with which such a drastic shift in circumstances can happen is mind-boggling. Suddenly, the setting for my morning coffee went from being an overgrown back garden in North London to the bank of a large blue river in Western Canada.
In the weeks leading up to the move, people asked me how I felt about leaving London, what I was planning to do to say goodbye. My answer was more often than not a jumble of words, a deep breath, or what I felt like must have been a slightly aloof look on my face. The hours were passing too fast for me to catch them, and any of my attempts at reflection couldn’t match their speed. Despite the whole thing being my choice, it was as if some rug was being pulled out beneath me.
Sometimes we find ourselves in our places – other times they betray us. Walking through the airport, tears streamed down my face minutes after I had texted my mom saying how excited I was to be returning. I felt both extremes, but at that moment, my physical surroundings didn’t reflect either ends of that spectrum. That plane that carried me across the Atlantic was agnostic to my emotions. It was bringing me to new promises, while at the same time taking me away. And it was doing so in the neat time period of 8 hours and 45 minutes.
The speed with which travel today happens – particularly by air – was a large part of why I wanted to be a part of this newsletter in the first place. I’ve always been intrigued by the grandeur of air travel and what they could be doing to our collective psyche. Distances which would have taken a lifetime for our ancestors to cross are now traversed in a day or less. With this reduced time frame, we are forced to process big changes even quicker – and we behave as if doing so is a completely normal human experience.
In the countless times I’ve flown back and forth between the place of my childhood and the place of my childhood, I’ve never had the words to express how I feel about this peculiar journey. But this time – this time I had my dreams.
I am a vivid dreamer, and usually remember quite a bit from them. Often, my dreams do not include people or places that I’m familiar with, but air on the side of the weird and the abstract. The week before my flight, while the words I was searching to express myself with did not, as usual, surface, my dreams were getting increasingly strange.
In one in particular, I was in an empty manor on an island that felt like it was in the Caribbean. The facade of the building was white, all of its windows and doors were open. It had nothing inside of it except for a large square object that I can’t remember the details of. In the dream I knew that the inside of the house was safe, despite the fact that it was void and insecure, with no doors or locks.
When I awoke, I thumbed through a well-used dream dictionary that had been lent to me by my roommate. It described that buildings often represent our hearts and minds - the outside of a structure being what we show to the world, and its rooms being akin to the rooms in our hearts, or the thoughts in our heads. The fact that the house had been empty made sense to me. In this time of transition, my insides felt blank –– I had no clarity about my feelings or thoughts. The single reassurance was the absence of anxiety I had felt in that dream house. I may not have had the words I needed to describe what was about to happen to me, but even still there was a sense of peace.
The next night, the night before I flew home, I had another dream. This time, I was buried to my waist in sand. It was hard and dry, and seemingly immoveable. Suddenly, one side of the sand that entombed me broke away, and I began to dig myself out. As I dug, I uncovered several large rocks that had been buried there beside me. They were shiny and black, and in them, were small fossils. The dictionary had no explanation of the sand, but I figured it stood for something like transience again, some form of erosion happening in my life. Rocks, it said, were the true parts of the soul. Fossils, or anything prehistoric, something significant from childhood.
I couldn’t stop thinking of the dreams as I packed. When I took a final stroll down my street, and got a last coffee at my local cafe, I saw shapes of them like ghosts haunting the real world I was looking at. It was as if something in my subconscious had taken over, something to take the place of the unexplainable.
When I spoke to my roommate about it, the dreams and what the dictionary had said, he let out a chuckle. “The same thing happens to me,” he said. “I always dream vividly before I travel, especially by plane.”
“I think it's your body preparing you for that journey,” he continued. “Your aura falls away on a plane, it can’t keep up.”
I asked him if he thought every time we flew we lost some of this aura for good.
“Sure,” he said. “I’m sure there are lots of bits of auras sprinkled over the Atlantic.”
I haven’t dreamt since I’ve been back. It’s been nearly a week. The place I’m in, while being the one I grew up in, still feels foreign. My presence in it is inconsequential. The river I drink my coffee beside has been flowing ever since I last left, it hasn’t paused for my absence. Even more unnerving, I sometimes forget my life in London even existed. Like it, in its entirety, was a dream as well.
I wonder what all of those back and forths across the ocean have done to me over the years, and what, if any, their lasting impact will be. I don’t foresee myself moving anytime soon, so, at least for now, they’ve come to an end.
Here, in my new home, the sky is bigger, and the wind feels wilder, like its come in off a gale in the middle of the sea. Maybe it’s brought some of my lost auras with it.
- Kylee Pedersen is a writer and editor now based in Canada.
An ode to the Eurasian steppe,
and how to make salt.
Join us next week for another journey.