Living Other Lives

Sometimes I wish I could steal someone else’s life.

An acquaintance of mine runs an organic farm. She spends her summers on the land making things grow. In the winter she curls up in her cozy cabin, tucked far away from the demands of the world, and writes poetry. She takes wonderful nature photos on her farm, too, and they make me want her life — or those pieces of it, anyway — so badly I can taste it.

Paris at dusk

Paris at dusk. Copyright Siri Paulson, 2007.

In another dream life, I’m a world traveller, an expatriate, living somewhere more glamorous, more full of history and culture, than anywhere in Canada. Or I’m a nomad, trekking across far-flung corners of the world or sailing across all the oceans, seeing everything I’ve ever yearned to see.

I might have been a scientist; I started out my university career as a physics major with astronomy in mind. I might have gone into marine biology and swum with whales and sharks, or ecology and lived in rain forests studying tiny frogs and bromeliads. I might have worked for National Geographic and gone down the Marianas Trench or photographed wildebeest migration in Africa.

For a while I badly wanted to be a filmmaker. I’ve dabbled in several kinds of dance, learned several musical instruments, and sung in several choirs. Another acquaintance is a weaver and a puppet-maker and a designer of yarny things; her house when I was growing up was filled with the most amazing art of all kinds, and I want my house to be like that too. I drew all the time when I was young. These days I knit slowly, painstakingly, and wish I had the skills to design knitting patterns.

Since I could never do all that in one lifetime, it’s a good thing I’m a writer. My characters have crossed deserts and tundras, travelled in tall ships and spaceships, experienced zero gravity, lived through World War II and the Black Plague, played music for kings, done magic, travelled through time, fought with swords, met aliens, shapeshifted, birthed and fathered children. I’m grateful for all of it.

Question for readers: What other lives do you wish you’d had?

Question for writers: What’s the best vicarious experience you’ve gotten to live through your writing?

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10 responses to “Living Other Lives

  1. Hi Siri! I’m such a grass-is-greener person. The danger is that I sometimes pursue these dreams and end up in new places that don’t end up fitting me. But it doesn’t stop me. I’m working on the expat thing now, actually. It’s going to take me a year, at least, but if it weren’t for that, I might have landed a job in Jamaica for the 2012-2013 school year. Which on the surface sounds amazing, right? I’ll probably never know because I have to put off leaving California for a year because of teaching certification issues, but from what I read, it might not have been a good fit anyway. The goal, though, is to end up in western Europe. Of course, it’s always possible I’ll get there and then yearn for the US. That would be typical of me.

  2. I wish to live in 18th century france, purely for the reason to wear those beautiful period clothes everyday.

  3. Sophia, you sound like one fearless woman with some big dreams! Even if they don’t all work out as planned, hey, that’s part of life too. Best of luck with your expat dreams.

  4. Katharine, I agree wholeheartedly! Anytime in the 19th century would be good too. Those skirts and fabrics make me swoon.

  5. One of the thing I love to do is that when I visit a castle or museum, i always imagine if i was born in that era, using all those antique furniture as if they were functioning the way they were supposed to be, as if they were mine: writing a letter on top of that marble table with tons of gemstones cut work on, or putting my earrings back in that rock crystal cabinet with a baby angel sculptures on the side…. instead of staring at them as museum displays.

  6. I love that idea! Usually I try to imagine the presence of the people who used the items — the sailors on that boat, the woman with the perfume bottle, the king who owned the suit of armour. Can be almost spooky.

  7. Haha I thought everyone would imagine themselves using those items!
    very interesting :)

  8. Pingback: Sara Walpert Foster's Blog » Naked Brownie Green Shoe One-Word Humor

  9. And that’s why we write/read fiction, folks. It lets us walk that other path for a while. :)

  10. That’s exactly it, Prudence!

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