Written In My Bones

by Anna Blanch on April 25, 2012

This morning I went to my first ANZAC dawn service in 6 years. I had managed to find opportunities to mark this day while living in the US, but always found it very strange that the rest of the world still turned on one of the few days that are universally marked and respected in Australia. It caused me to reflect on the sacrifices of friends and family who have served and still serve.

It made me think about my own journey over the last few years from my own short time wearing a uniform.

My world is different, but am I?

The decision (made late last year) to make Australia my base raised quite a few (almost) existential questions. Questions that relate to life as much as work.

I asked questions in my journal like,

When I’m ‘back’ there, will I soon forget the amazing experiences, people and places I’ve lived in the last 5 years. Will the identity I’ve taken on as an expatriate be painful to shed? Will the objectivity I feel I’ve gained in observing international happenings as an expat get in my way, and make it difficult to find home, and make place?

I’m not sure whether I have answers to any of these questions. I know that there have been moments of cognitive dissonance, of confusion, of self awareness that I have changed and that this country — my country — has changed. I feel a little like I’m in limbo. It feels wyrd when my dad calls me on my mobile phone, because he never did that when I was living overseas. It doesn’t matter that he tells me the same stories that he tells my sister (who I live with), what matters is that he calls. Yet, It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel strange.

I feel like I’m in limbo. I need to focus on this thesis. I need to finish this, so very little energy is exerted on building new relationships. I just don’t have it to give. I make time for those I know, and those I live with, and my family. I make time to run and exercise. I make time for those I love. I’ve been facing the realities of the academic job market in Australia and that has done nothing to make me feel more settled.

But yet, I know that to finish this thesis as far away as that idea feels sometimes, is in my bones.

Bones and hair can tell scientists a great deal about where you’ve been. Hair, for the last four weeks, and bones, much longer. The strontium levels in the bones can enable identification of your origin with almost pinpoint accuracy, within 100 miles even. It really depends on the geographical features. But whichever way you look at it, the rocks literally get into your bones.

As scientific a description as that was, it’s made me realise a truth, and a part answer to those questions: no matter where I go, everywhere I’ve been is literally in my bones, whether I like it or not. And as such, there’s no need to be anxious about forgetting the places you leave behind, for they are never really left entirely behind.


I read, not just for my thesis, but for my spirit. I revel in the poetry of Australian writers and read the wit of Judith Wright with a wry smile and an outburst of laughter when I just can’t help myself.

They say that one day, like Gattica, they will be able to read our potential, our lifespan, from our DNA. That somehow it is written in our very genetic code what we were made for. I wonder whether even then, humankind will fail to understand what is written there. For there is potential, and there is god-given abilities. And then there is hard graft.

I am not a genius. There are many many people out there who are endowed with far greater intellects than I. But, just as my past is written into my very bones, so too is my present. And surely, that makes a difference to my future, while yet failing to limit where I could go and what I might do and be.

When we are knit together in our mother’s womb, the psalmist says that God counts every hair on our little bobbly heads. I believe that then our very worth is written into our bones – that we are children of a living God. But this is not to stifle us, or our creativity, or ability to dream and hope and change what is not good about this world. Rather, our very bones tell us who we are, they give us the ability to stand on our own two feet, knowing that it is only by the breath of God that we have life.

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  • http://ordinarilyextraordinary.com/ Amy Nabors (@amykiane)

    I love this post Anna. When I visit the area where I was born and grew up I realize that I miss it. I don’t want to live there, but when I’m there I realize I miss the valleys and mountains. So incredible to think that it really is in my bones. 

    • http://www.goannatree.com/ Goannatree

      Thanks Amy. I think i’ve always felt a strong connection to landscape too. It’s amazing being able to look out at the foliage and just know where you are! 

  • http://www.seeprestonblog.com Preston Yancey

    You know how I feel. Yes, to this. Absolutely. We carry it within us. There has to be a kind of science, or something, bound up in the sacrament of the created thing that we are, that this world is. Maybe not a science we can explain easily or well, but a science that points us to a reminder that we are known. We carry time and space within us; we carry place within us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=556280930 Kellie Nicholas

    Thanks for this Anna. 
     I think those of us who have lived as aliens in another country, have the privilege of understanding more fully what it means to be ‘aliens and strangers’ in this world.  Although it is often hard not fitting in, it reminds us that the place we live now is not our home but that God has a far better place prepared for us.  
    There are often times that I long for the beautiful beaches and open fields of Aus but in those times I remind myself, just how much more glorious my real home is.

    Praying that God gives you peace in your current ‘home’ and yet keeps you uncomfortable enough that you may not become complacent:)Love Kell

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