Learning to Belong
How do you learn to belong?
How do you give yourself to a place and a people
so that you become
from there, of them?
You give yourself to the land
by walking it,
until its stones enter your shoes
and your sweat falls upon its soil,
until you breathe its flowers
and wear its rain.
You will know that you belong to the land
when you begin to protect it from those who come against it.
You give yourself to the language
by swallowing it,
the sweetness of honey
and the bitterness of woody herbs.
You speak to the people in their own words
until they begin to love you.
You give yourself to the people
by living with them,
playing their games, eating their food,
hearing their history
with ears as open as the wind.
You listen to them until their story
becomes a part of your story,
until the “I” and “they” of it
melt into “we.”
Say that you are a traveler,
Say that you have seen a hundred lands,
spoken a dozen tongues.
Still you will know the one that is yours,
the one to which you belong,
when you meet it,
as surely as a key knows a lock,
even though they were made in separate places.