Monday, February 20, 2012

Ghosts of My Own Construction

There certainly is something special about going home.  Not something that is inherently "this" or "that."  But something significant.  Something that sticks - less like pine sap, and more like a mouthful of sweet, sweet honeycomb with a few bee stingers still left in it.  Depending on how and where you grew up, it may be more stingers than honey.  Not in my case, though.  And I feel comfortable with that metaphor because I'm confident that most people who read my ramblings have, in fact, eaten honeycomb. Right?
Sunrise highway drive through the gum and canebrake....flat, straight, and homeward bound

I'll spare you the emotive tales of a childhood at the beach, descriptions of how close I was with all my friends, and lamentations of how we're not all that close anymore.  We were a group of kids who experienced a lot together - an understatement capable of bearing some amazing, fun and very sad stories.  But that's not what this is about.  This is about what happened when I last moved away from the beach, intending to return (permanently) three months later.  It didn't happen. I never came back, except to visit.  I never really said goodbye, either, to anyone or anything there.

Queens Creek.  A special place.
I won't call it regret, but maybe that's because I didn't stick around to let some of these ethereal thoughts turn into solid regrets.  But ghosts they are.  250 miles from home and 15 years separated from many of these memories, I've found a new life, a full life, and there's plenty of external input to keep 20+ years of ghosts at bay - particularly those those of lost, special places and lost, special people. Even when I've come back home, it's almost always been with my wife and now my son - not enough time or energy to pay attention to what lurks in the shadows.  This trip, on my own, was different, though.

They set upon me as soon as I drove across the James River and south of Richmond, starting as cues of lost memories - her grandparents lived on a farm here - they had beef cattle.  We stopped at a bar one night there - that band was amazing.  He finally picked a fight he couldn't win HERE.  As I drew further and further south, the cues turned to thoughts, bred like infections.  Why didn't I ever tell him I found out about what he did?  How did I forget to apologize to her? Why haven't I been back there? Of course, at one in the morning, there are no good answers to these questions, and so I did what I always do.....I kept going.  But it's so much harder when you can see things stacking up in the rearview.


The third harbor crossing. I remember the first time
I drove it,  what I was driving, and who was with me in the car.
The car's been crushed and I haven't spoken to her in 17 years.
 
Don't hold your breath for some kind of zen storybook ending to this depressing tale, because it doesn't have one.  I don't know what the way forward is.  Sure enough, the "to do/to see/to say goodbye" list that I should have written for myself 15 years ago still remains unwritten, although many people and places on the list  hover just in the margins of the places I go in southern Virginia.

I saw them - I saw you - there.  There are so many people and places that I miss. I could list all of them - the people and places - but they'd look no different than your list, if you have one.  And if you ever left your home and didn't return, I bet you do. Even if you never wrote it down.

One day, I'll allow myself the mental clarity to write down what I need to say, do, hear, and see to close out these old chapters, which I already know includes some ghosts that must be left alone.  The other ghosts, be they places, events, or people (living or dead), can all be assessed on their merits.  That's how important I think they are.  So who can really tell what it all will look like, or sound like?

Until then, I can't say that I'll change.  It's kind of funny - I'm a person who thrives on accepting challenges and taking the difficult path.  I overcome challenges. It's what I do.  But I am not ready for this kind of introspection.  Un/fortunately, my most recent trip to southern Virginia resulted in a bombardment of imagery, personal history, and places that I once knew, and I'm now having trouble ignoring it all.  Perhaps it was just a wakeup call to let me know that part of my history still wants something from me.

These are the ghosts of my own construction, and I owe it to them to either set them free, or let them come home....back to me.





4 comments:

Map Monkey said...

a very beautiful and evocative post. and sometimes, believe it or not, it's even worse (the feeling of unresolved ghosts, that is) when you still live in the same place that you grew up in. They're there constantly, no escape.

River Mud said...

You know, I didn't consider that possibility at all, and it's an accurate one. I know my old friends live with it!

Steve Zakur said...

Most of us have those ghosts. You don't need to leave to have them though like you I did. I live my life aggressively looking forward and those to-dos from the past belong in the past.

An excellent piece of writing and photography.

tugboatdude said...

Map Monkey beat me to it.How do you think it feels to be reminded almost daily of the "ghosts" from the past.There they are,everyday,looking you in the face.It's one of the reasons I can't bring myself to leave Virginia.Way to many doors I still need to close.