Where should I begin? After all you have never been there; or if you have, you may not have understood the significance of what you saw, or thought you saw. A window is a window, but there is looking out and looking in. The native you glimpsed, disappearing behing the curtain, or into the bushes, or down the manhole in the main street--my people are shy--may have been only your reflection in the glass. My country specializes in such illusions.
As for the country itself, let me begin with the sunsets, which are long and red, resonant, splendid and melancoly, symphonic you might almost say; as opposed to the short boring sunsets of other countries, no more interesting than a light switch. We pride ourselves on our sunsets. "Come and see the sunset," we say to one another. This causes everyone to rush outdoors or over to the window.
Our country is large in extent, small in population, which accounts for our fear of empty spaces, and also our need for them. Much of it is covered in water, which accounts for our interest in reflections, sudden vanishings, the dissolution of one thing into another. Much of it, however, is rock, which accounts for our belief in Fate.
. . .
Sometimes we lie still and do not move. If air is still going in and out of our breathing holes, this is called sleep. If not, it is called death. When a person has achieved death, a kind of picnic is held, with music, flowers and food. The person so honored, if in one piece, and not, for instance, in shreds or falling apart, as they do if exploded or a long-time drowned, is dressed in becoming clothes and lowered into a hole in the ground, or else burned up.
These customs are among the most difficult to explain to strangers. Some of our visitors, espcially the young ones, have never heard of death and are bewildered. They think that death is simply one more of our illusions, our mirror tricks; they cannot understand why, with so much food and music, the people are so sad.
But you will understand. You too must have death among you. I can see it in your eyes.
I can see it in your eyes. If it weren't for this, I would have stopped trying long ago, to communicate with you in this halfway language which is so difficult for both of us, which exhausts the throat and fills the mouth with sand; if it weren't for this I would have gone away, gone back. It's this knowledge of death which we share, where we overlap. Death is our common ground. Together, on it, we can walk forward.
These passages are from Margaret Atwood, a Canadian writer. The above selection is from an essay by her called Homelanding. Not bad, eh?
(I'm just practicing speaking Canadian.)