Armchair Peregrinations

March 26, 2005

There is no point in trying to relive the past, I know that.  But it seems to me as I get older, and especially as the fifties accelerate, I find myself amazed at all I have done, all the places I have seen in my travels, and all the people I have know over the years.  Each place I have briefly called home, where I worked at jobs of generally short duration over the years, has its own set of memories indelibly etched in my mind.

  I have particularly been thinking about New Orleans where I grew up in the 50s and 60s.  I think back to the live oak-lined streets that were once so familiar and comforting to me.  I remember each of the houses, the adjoining streets, the shopping centers and libraries, restaurants, and barber shops.  Now they seem almost like distant dreams of placed it seemed I would never leave when I was young.   Time passed a lot slower then.

I want to drive all over New Orleans and see places I have not seen in ten or a dozen or even 20 years.  City Park, Audubon Park, St. Charles Avenue with its 90-year-old street cars. The world-famous French Quarter. My old high school and junior high. The elementary school just a block from where I lived. My college campus along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, adjacent to the long-gone amusement park we went to as kids, and the surrounding neighborhoods which used to represent freedom from endless classes and tests.

I want to go back to Columbia, S.C., where I began my journalism career in the early 70s and where I met some of the best friends I have ever had.  I'll sight-see on the street in the old section of houses called Shandon where I rented a room in an upstairs boarding house for $80 a month, including clean linens and towels every week. 

I'll go back someday soon to North Carolina and the tiny college town where I had such a great time as the editor of the small-town weekly there.   I will go to Seattle and Edmonds, Washington and tour all over, reminiscing and retracing my steps in the University District and out to the towns and mountain country I loved to visit.

I might even visit those two towns in particular where I had very unpleasant things happen to me and which are filled with both very good and satisfying and very horrible memories and which I have avoided even thinking about, much less visiting.  I think I have to settle some things in my mind about those places, and I have to re-connect with as much of my past as I can, knowing that it is my past and I can't run from it. 

Just as I want to embrace the pleasant memories and times, I want to know what lessons the good and the bad times have taught me, and sometimes I think, as I look way back in the past, the only way to do that fully is to go back, to return to the places that made us who we are today.

It's the real, physical places I can't forget but which, unless I visit them again, I am afraid they will gradually just be traces of memory, losing their power and their connections to the present.

March 7, 2005

Like water which can clearly mirror the sky and the trees only so long as its surface is undisturbed, the mind can only reflect the true image of the Self when it is tranquil and wholly relaxed.

Indra Devi
20th century Russian-born American writer.

I am drawn strongly to reflections, especially clouds and trees in still motionless water. Something about them has always fascinated me. It's as if I was looking into an adjacent or parallel universe to the one from which I am gazing at the reflection. Things are familiar in the world of the reflection, but different; similar but curiously unfamiliar as well.

Trees reflected in still water seem to inhabit and grow in the sky rather than the in the ground. Maybe that is why I like them so much -- I am always gazing up into the sky.

Reflections of cypress and tupelo trees in the still waters of a swamp allow me to look at them from a totally different perspective. With the slightest breeze they become illusions -- wavy, moving, and changing appearance completely, from something that mirrors reality to something which no longer looks real. A distortion of reality only partly explains it.

Are parallel universes like these reflections? Are they rearrangements of what we think of as real so that we can apprehend intellectually but not know anything more about them? Just some thoughts on a very cold and windy winter day as I look out the window at the bare veins of the oak tree that is etched against a blue sky.


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