Li Po was looking through his rice paper screen. He had taken a moment to rest his eyes; he sat at a low table, his brush in his hand. It was summer in Sichuan Province, and the herons skimmed the river water.

Conrad Aiken put down his pen for a moment and looked through the screen door of his New England home. He sat at the kitchen table, it was summer and sticky, the fireflies flickered in the damp air.

The present writer looked at the screen of the tablet she had just switched off. She sat in her cottage at her old kitchen table.

Outside was summer in New Zealand, but inside, in the cool shade, she gazed down at her iPad, and all she saw was the reflection of her own tired face.

She had wished for so much, had dreamed of so many things, but now, all she wanted was to be a Marilyn Monroe of words.

Ms Monroe had famously said, or had had famous words attributed to her,

“I just want to be wonderful.”

That’s all this woman, this would-be writer, wanted too. She wanted to make something wonderful, to describe in words, the see-through screen of feelings through which she experienced her life.

The screen of her constant longing for spring in America.

Conrad Aiken held evocative words at the end of his pen; he has left the world much beauty, in the wake of a life blighted by tragedy.

He too was from New England and ended up living further south.

The woman smiled a sad little smile, “not as far south as me,” she said to herself.

If she ever went home, in the long away maybe future, she thought she might go to Savannah, Georgia like Aiken had.

It had lodged in her heart after she had seen the movie, In the Garden of Good and Evil. Films, television, videos and streaming, were all different semblances of thought, viewed on visual screens, through which we try to decipher life.

The writer lifted her eyes from the dark tablet’s screen. Her thoughts were in another hemisphere.

Why? Why did her mind wander to that other place when she had all she needed here?

Because it was home, and home in the spring meant new everything.

Her America.

When she was there she had feet a few inches from the ground, it was like being in love and a character in a novel in one.  Some part of her brain was narrating as she went. “You are in California, now you are in New York. You are here on home soil. You are somewhere you belong.” The narrator in her brain never ceased to be amazed at the fact of being  “at home.”

But she had grown up in the Land of the Long White Cloud, and even as she pined for the North American spring—buds bursting; flowers popping up; birds twittering about their nests—there was another craving she knew would come.

That ache for the autumnal glory of her adopted home would arrive, for the place she grew up, the people who knew her struggles and herself, those kind people who had known her through all her trials, those individual memory containers, screens in their way, screens of protection and perception, people who could help her make sense of her life.

She was old now, and the autumn was more suitable than spring. All her dreams of a life in America, the land of her beginnings, would soon come to an end.  She would be sprinkled in her Connecticut when she died. Half of her ashes would flutter over the Connecticut River, where so many foreign souls had lived and died.

The other half would be flung over the Pacific Ocean, the sea that threw itself against this small nation’s shores, her southern home.

She was European and British by descent; perhaps America was always just a dream, the dream lived by two generations now, but, in her, returned to the commonwealth?

Yet, how much she felt that she belonged to America. She was a vessel carrying the strength of her mother’s passionate desire to “go home.”

What are desires and dreams but screens through which we decipher our reality?

“Oh, Mom, did we bury our hearts along side the Connecticut River, like old Captain Kidd’s treasure?”

Spring has sprung in Connecticut, the state of my birth, but here I am, sheltering in a cottage overlooking the sea on the other side of the world.

In life, if we look around the screen, how much there is to love!

How can I choose between two equal halves of me?  I will always be an other, an outsider, a visitor, an alien, on two beloved soils, with oceans in between.

Oh take me to Spring in America: woodpeckers nesting; humming birds drinking sweet nectar; blue jays; robins; sparrows; squirrels and chipmunks. How we would laugh at their antics, my mother and I.

But in the distance there were dark shapes in white apparel: crosses burning; eyes hating; minds raving; and then the war for no reason.

Why is horror so popular in America? Because it is there, everywhere, everyday.

And here too.

The clear-eyed sight of your narrator, who is me, becomes clouded, occluded, when I look through the screen of our recent past.

Where was I? What did I do? Did I help change the status quo or did I just ride shotgun to history?

Did I hide here in the safety of my South Pacific paradise, afraid to go out, afraid to go home to the physical vastness of the United States that holds such a great pile of souls?

Conrad Aiken went to Georgia; perhaps then, I am allowed to be here?

I must stop feeling like an imposter, an alien, a freak wherever I go.

My roots here are longer than those that were torn out as a child.

Memories persist of the place I came to, which no longer exists. This country has become more like the one I left. They cannot imagine now, standing for the national anthem before a movie, my father, of course, resolutely sitting throughout, proud to be different, to stand out.

And at home, do they still stand every morning and pledge allegiance to the flag? I remember I did before we came here.

Foreigners, like us, were unusual back in the day.

I still remember them pointing and laughing at our car. I lay down in the back seat of our left hand drive, to avoid their gaze, there can be such embarrassment to a child in being different.

They were curious about our clothes, our food, our accents, but to me there was always the perception of dissonance.

My America is no more, as my New Zealand has passed.

I have descended, or ascended, into the age of reflection, where the world is only seen through the screen of memory.

Perhaps, if America is forevers and summer for me, then I am for once in the right place. Here in Aotearoa, where Maori have welcomed me, understood my iconoclasm, and laughed kindly as my attempts at cynicism fall flat.

Here I sit at my old kitchen table: here in my autumnal home; my place to die in winter, where memories may flood my grave with no screens to bar them.

I love you America. But I live here.