Lost in TransitionJuly 27th, 2012 at 13:31
I think part of that sense of loss revolved around my evolving relationship with the city of my youth. It was actually years ago that my adopted megalopolis of Los Angeles started feeling more like home to me than the mid-sized progressive college town of my birth, but I still imagined if circustances were such I would enjoy coming back and living in Ann Arbor again and being nurtured by its tree-lined streets and familiar venues from my younger life’s narrative. This time, for the first time, I felt that that would not be the case, that somehow too much of what I had become would be lost or become irrelevent in this place imbued with my past.
To use a double negative, it’s not like I did not feel welcomed. My brother Peter was accompanying me and had arranged for us to stay at the home of the mother of one of our old high school friends, who was in town herself for the annual Ann Arbor Art Fair. Mom and daughter were so glad to see us and the hospitality they extended was heartfelt and just as heartily received. Also Mary Jane and each one of her four kids’ (now fifty-something) faces lit up when they first saw us. Again, we were rekindling a deep connection like the best of family.
Still, walking across town on my own on Saturday afternoon, threading my way through the crowds of people at what I understand to be one of the biggest street art fairs in the country, the faces seemed somehow naïvely white-bread and provincial compared to my massive and multi-cultural Los Angeles. It all seemed too quaint to nurture me now, as it had done so well decades before. But when you feel things like this, is it really so much about the place itself, or more about where you are at in your own development and how the place perhaps highlights or disquises that development.
And to see my friend and “guru” Mary Jane, now in her late seventies with her health issues, her swollen feet that made wearing shoes problematic, and her limited mobility, I wondered if perhaps this would be the last time I might see her, since I was not sure the next occasion that might bring me back to Ann Arbor. I felt like she still had so much wisdom to share as a thoughtful and provocative witness of human culture from the eight decades of her life, but really no venue or medium to share it. But again, that may be more projection on my part, since I would not be comfortable at this point in my life without this blog as my “venue”, my medium for sharing my own experience as such a witness.
Then at the wedding reception, held in a local bar (which I actually remember being there 34 years ago when I left Ann Arbor for Los Angeles), I sat with and spent some time sharing perhaps a bit too much alcohol with two old friends of Mary Jane. Their eyes lit up as well when they first realized who I and my brother were, the sons of their dear friend Jane (our mom died in 2006). They remembered us but had not seen us in maybe 40 years. One had had enough to drink to share some risque stories from the past that were really inappropriate in this situation and made the rest of us at the table uncomfortable. Seemed so sad to me that she had nothing more meaningful to share, particularly from the more recent thrity years. Again, I was probably projecting my own mid-life crisis fear of irrelevance that has pushed me to write.
So my great little hometown, this time around at least, was filled with a sense of ennui for me. Now almost a week later (back in Los Angeles at my local coffee place favorite writing venue) writing this, it has subsided some, but still is the overarching emotional memory from my most recent visit to Ann Arbor. So much swirling around me there that I bore witness to that seemed beyond my power to influence significantly. Still I showed up, participated in an important milestone for a circle of my old family friends, and renewed my connection with these people that have been significant in my life and my development.
The whole experience says a lot to me about the direction and continuing imperative of my own development, which writing this blog is a critical part of. There still seems so much inside me from my first six decades of this incarnation that I need to share or risk feeling the time spent and the wisdom gathered has less value than a person would hope their life would have. So I am compelled to continue to try and develop, to transition from yesterday to tomorrow.