Saturday, May 26, 2012

Came to See Friends

So, yes, I'm back in town for a while. I hope this means I'll get to see you on a regular basis again, but I understand logistics are still up in the air. In deciding to come here, I did not take it for granted that I'd be able to see much of you, but the possibility was on my mind. There are other people, individually and collectively, I came here for, too.

Came to see friends
walk old streets again

Yes, Jimmy Buffet again. I've only been gone a year, but I still have that sense of returning to a place once familiar, yet not quite part of my real life. I'm getting used to being here now, but for a while as I walked, or biked, the old streets, I saw the past much more clearly than the present. It's especially bad on campus, where I go sometimes for this or that reason and walk by classrooms and offices hallowed by this or that memory, most of them, I know intellectually, not particularly important in and of themselves, but they seem so. How is it that a trick of memory can, across only two or three years, cast such a golden glow on events that I know were actually stressful or irritating at the time? Yet here are these temples in my mind. Even off campus I see them. There, that street, is where a friend and I walked, talking about the light of the town, and Rilke, and our futures. It almost seems like we must be walking there yet, as though I might bump into myself and my friend, if I wait just a minute more, on the right street.

In another blog of mine, I write of a fictional group of classrooms that are renamed every year. When I came up with the idea, I was only trying to evoke a kind of magical changeability in a non-fantasy setting. Like how in Harry Potter some of the stairways in the magical school move. I thought that if the names of the room were constantly changing, that might be whimsical and confusing in the same way. But after I came up with the idea, it occurred to me that this might actually be a truer way to do something, to define places not only by space but also by time. I can go back to a particular location on campus, but it's not the same place that I remember, because it's not the same time. If I could find the right place again, I could walk in and it would be Thursday morning at eight sharp and I could take my place among the other students and the adventure would be just beginning.

It's not exactly that I would rather be there than here and now. As I said, I worked very hard to get from there to here. To some extent I'm reacting to the persistent illusion that the past was less stressful than the present, an illusion created by the fact that of course I now know how those classes turned out. I know I passed, that I made friends with some of my fellow students and most of my teachers, that I made some mistakes but none of them were actually lethal, and so forth. To some extend, too, I'm reacting to the childlike quality of being a student with a lot of required courses to take; it's the condition of being both optimistic and confused, and being constantly told what to do by wise and benevolent grown-ups. But mostly I just come loose in time, falling into the past whenever  the places that I see in front of me have a stronger hold on my memory than on my present daily life. It will pass. I will re-orient myself. I will look around myself and see the present again.

Today, in the present, there is too much noise. The camp ground we call home for the moment has been invaded by an excessively loud three-day music festival. If I were Queen of the Universe, there would be a law against this sort of thing. But I'm not Queen of the Universe. I'm not even sure I'm Queen of the Trailer--no, I just asked, and Chris says that I must be Queen of the Trailer, because he sure as hell ain't. So I'm Queen of the Trailer, hurrah! But my jurisdiction is extremely limited; I cannot entirely keep discordant noises out, nor can I order people to visit whom I miss. I can't even keep the dogs from puking on the bed. I must be more of a figure-head royal.

I saw a phoebe the other day and thought of you, not least because I was not entirely sure it was a phoebe, and you would have known. It was tending its nest, and trying to pretend that it wasn't, so that I would not guess where the nest was. The phoebe failed, in that I spotted its nest, precisely because it was so characteristically pretending not to have one. But the bird needn't worry; I will keep its secret.


  1. Great stuff! Don't really get the phoebe at the end, but I love the rest of it :)

  2. Thanks!
    And thanks for the feedback, too. The connection with the phoebe was very clear in my mind, so it's good to know maybe this is something to improve. Thanks again!