I recommend living in the house you grew up in, at least for a while. Long forgotten memories have a peculiar way of surfacing. They’re not always photo album keepsakes, either. Sometimes they roar in from the past, binding themselves, somehow, to your present life. Not at all disjointed. Your past, a little like a story that speaks, loud and yet subtly, to your present situation.
Zen masters, gurus and CEO’s all would say that’s bad: the past is weighty baggage from which you must find freedom. In their view, the past is not who you are, now. Others, of a more academic persuasion, claim that a past unexamined is a past that forever shapes your destiny, while you remain an unwitting participant. Once again, you’ll find me straddling the fence. Possibly because it feels good, but mostly because I can’t help it.
The town I grew up in has grown a lot, itself. Tim, a close friend from high school, left for the West Point Military Academy. I had a dream last night. It began where I first went to college, in Bellingham. Nils and Matt stood with me, looking up a deep green mountain. There were two paths up it. One was a street, the other a trail. We never decided.
I was then at a busy intersection, 5 lanes wide, in my home town, during rush hour, packed with cars. Tim and I were walking. He was pushing a bike. I saw my wallet, made of black leather, bulging thick with stuff, laying in the middle of the packed 5-lane road, cars zooming by, knocking it around. It had money, credit cards, identification, and was bloated with important receipts. I wanted to leave it and go on. Tim wouldn’t hear of it.
I thought I could walk out, and the cars might stop. Or, I could wait a very long time until some break might just happen, and I could safely retrieve it. Tim was always impatient, so I walked out. The cars never stopped or even slowed — they just swerved, treacherously. Tim stood out there with me. I forgot what I was doing, being amazed by the powerful flow sucking at my limbs from every side. He handed me my wallet. He told me I did good. And I thanked him.
When Tim left for West Point, I couldn’t follow. I gave him my saxophone to take with him. I got it back a few years later from his parents. He was off doing military things. I gave away my saxophone one other time, a few years later again, to Tabetha, an artist, who also had to move away.
But that wasn’t part of the dream. A path, still, has not been chosen. There are so many people, in so many cars. They swerve, get flats, gas up, and carry on. And in the rear view mirror, maybe a reflection when changing lanes. A signal to others, out of courtesy, during positioning.
This is rather more like smoke signals. Or heads on a totem. A chanting medicine man, uninvited yet undeniable. A message through the past, informing the present. In a dream.
Where today, lillies have bloomed, after thunder and rain. And the dog sits, panting, muddy-pawed, lapping at milk.