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Worlds Away

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I was born in a land of lush green, surrounded by the sea and the humid salt air. They say my husband and I were exiled from heaven, but I can think of no greater paradise than my home. There are no plum blossoms flowering despite the snow, and we do not have the millennia of history that heaven can offer, but here instead are a multitude of people and voices, cries in a hundred languages ringing out from the crowded street markets.

They say I stole the elixir from my husband, but how could a dry pill from the Queen Mother of the West ever appeal to one who has had the ambrosia of mangoes and durian and lychee? No, we had no such promise of regained immortality, though dreams of a different sort were enough to send me away. Heaven was in our past, our future still to be written, but the present is for me to live through alone: a woman in a strange land, far from what she once knew.

Here it is cold and dank and chill, the leaves drab, not verdant and bright. Thin silks are no longer enough, and though heaven too would snow, the gray here seeps into the bones and the heart, the dark hiding away our one remaining sun. I have changed myself to fit my surroundings, learned new language, manners, and thought. The ways that were once confusing are now partly my own, and I have not only found others like me, adrift in a new world, but also mentored after having been taught in turn. Those before me have braved exile once before to find a home and roots, and though the soil here is rocky and unyielding, I shall do so once again.

We eat tang yuan on winter solstice for togetherness and dumplings for wealth, though we must look the date up; we do not speak one language when three will do; we crack sunflower seeds and drink tea as we play mahjong, everyone's rules different; we wear red and clean house come the new year and gather together for dinner the night before, our family and kin a world away. And no matter how long I have stayed here, I keep the memory of vibrant green alive in my heart, my old home forever with me.

I have many homes and many selves; one world alone is not enough to contain me.