It was later than autumn here on Project Earth. The cool winds intercepted the previous warmth of the September month. We had past the times when the leaves were changing and the woven tree-covered mountains took on the various colors of yellow, orange, purple and even red. The trees took on a sea of color to make the canopy of autumn more vibrant and alive.
I swear, one could walk outside and smell the aroma of the season. One could smell the hint of wood burning from fireplaces and escaping through chimneys to permeate the air. At this moment, I could feel the nostalgia. I could feel the memories and taste the emotions which I admit were bitter sweet and beautiful.
I love this time of year. I am not afraid of the cold weather nor is it safe to say I love any season more than the other. No, I view this the way a parent views their children. I love them all, equally, and for their own reasons. But this is not about that.
I have to tell you that I love the healing power of a warm sweater and a bowl of good soup. I love the idea of a long drive, north of New York City and upwards into a state which I love and cherish. I say this but there is so much of it that I have not seen or heard of. There are so many places that I don’t know about nor would anyone know about them unless they were there.
That being said, I am a small town fan. I am a fan of places where the town is little and the town folks know each other by name. I want to be at a place where people gather and greet each other as family – or even extended family and therefore, a friend of yours is family to me.
I always wondered what it would be like to live in a place like this or even visit, just to see what the local diner serves or where I can get the best slice of peach cobbler or maybe even some sweet-potato or pumpkin pie.
Incidentally, I took a drive up north for an unfortunate reunion that needs no coverage. However, I can say that old friends and people who were instrumental in our lives and the people who truly helped us form the fabric of our existence are (and should) never be forgotten.
I was alone in my car and driving with the music on in a semi-state of awareness. I was thinking about a time in my life when I was reborn. Or, at least, in a sense. I say this with caution because for one to say reborn immediately causes the assumption of a religious rebirth. However, this was not that kind of rebirth. No, this was a close of a chapter and the turn to the next page. This was a memory of old friends who grew older and a memory of times when we were young, which was crazy to think about because, wow, decades had passed between us.
We came from a family. We had families of our own now. We had homes and cars and bills to pay. (I hope you can feel this.)
I was driving and thinking about a diner in a small town called Hancock, New York. To me, this place has meaning. This place was somewhere that I would go to get away from the folks on the farm. I ate here a few times and if I could, I would be there right now.
This place is a memory of an old time, a hard time and the best time of my youth. It’s strange though.
It’s strange because the things we remember such as the tiny little pieces of things that we never expected to recall are alive and well in our mind. These crazy little things are subjects that we never supposed would be so special or memorable – yet, we remember them.
Take for example, the smile from a nurse who helped weave stitches through my finger after a mower accident that was beyond my control. I got out of barn duty for two weeks because of it.
Or, there is a memory I have of a snowstorm in which: We the people of a small community; living on a farm, learning how to rethink and restructure our lives as a means to find a new life with better health and sober minds, as a means of freedom and spiritual liberty and in order to form a more perfect union without ourselves; took to the side of a hill behind the main house on the compound.
We cut holes at the top of big black garbage bags and poked holes at the sides. Then we placed the bags over our heads, which popped out from the top hole and poked our arms through the side holes.
We took to the top of the big hill and then slid down on our bellies and on our backs. We yelled and we screamed and we carried on like kids on a playground. This was perfect or, more to the point, this was my best sleighing experience ever.
As I drove and relived these moments, I took in the scenery. I drove north past old places that were familiar to me at the time of my youth. I drove past towns that I could remember. I drove past landmarks, which at one point, were landmarks of my personal redemption.
This is a memory from a time when I shed my skin and let go of the old battles that no longer needed my attention. And, oh, how I’ve grown since then. Oh, how I have put on miles and gained experience, knowledge, wisdom and understanding.
I’ve gained some weight too. Maybe too much weight. And maybe this is why I looked back on my mental pictures and laughed to myself about being so young. To be unforgivably young; that is the thought. This is the memory and these are the times that altered the trajectory of my life.
My thoughts took shape but more than shape, my memories and sense of nostalgia took on the depth of sound in which, I swore, I could hear my old friends talking to me.
By the way, my small town memories prove that in the depth of winter, there was nothing in this world as warm as a pancake breakfast. The ground was covered with snow. We were all out of our environment, but hell, my environment was nothing so special at the time. We were late in our teen years and successfully taking on a new direction.
I suppose this is where my love for small towns comes from. Maybe this is a yearning to re-feel old feelings or to honor an old itch of nostalgia that deserves to be scratched.
I will say this about the reason for my drive; there is no loss in the world that is more unnatural than a parent burying their child. However, I was reminded of the spring.
I was reminded of the great thaw and the return of the red-breasted robins. I was reminded of the first walk without a coat and the resurgence of life and the leaves, which inevitably took over the branches of empty trees, and the aromas of Mother Earth and all the encompassing was a reminder that ashes to ashes, dust to dust. We are all just pieces of this place.
I know that life is cyclical. I know that in each life a little rain must fall. I know that it can’t rain forever and that even at the darkest hour, there is always hope and there will always be life.
It is surreal though.
Don’t you think?
It is surreal to see someone who you hadn’t seen for nearly 30 years and stand there with them, as if time never mattered, to embrace them as family the way they once embraced you.
Something you should know is that sleigh ride I was telling you about with the garbage bags; this was something that happened right after my Father died. I will never forget this. I never forgot who came up with the idea or how the event took place. I never forgot the station these people have in my life – and even if our versions of time and memory are different, or even if they differ by a mile. I will never forget them or my choice to remember them as they were.
I remember them as young. Beautiful as ever. Loving. Caring. Old friends who were there at a pivotal point in my life.
This was the when and where of the death of my youth. This was the death of a Long Island burnout. This was the farewell to fears and pain and even the unspoken abuse that no one dares to speak about. These are people who were there for me and whether they believed so or not has nothing to do with me. All that mattered to me was the stations I had allowed these people. These are the positions they hold within my heart as well as my memory.
My drive was otherwise a blur. I knew where I was going. I knew how to get where I had to go and I was not thinking about anything per se. I was reliving old thoughts and ideas. I was reliving the autumn and the winter, the rebirth of spring, and then summer and return of autumn as well as the full-circle of our cyclical lives.
I had the chance to see two people who mean the world to me – and even though we seldom (if ever) speak, I had the chance to see them, stand with them and hug them with all of my heart.
I drove home and the thought machine was still reeling back through my stages of nostalgia. I took a slight detour. I went back through the town of Hancock and up an old road to an old life-saving place from my youth.
I drove to a place where I considered the people “family” and I stopped my car where the old hill was. I saw the acreage. I saw the changes. I saw my dream come alive and it was here, right here, that I made peace with some of my demons.
I thought of the words from a kind, gentle man who smiled at me and said, “I don’t know what you did when you were doing it but whatever it was, you’re not doing it anymore.”
I thought about my friends Shane and Brad, John and Kevin, as well as John W, John Q and the list goes on. I thought about my will to live, which was changed from my will to die and thus, I thought about the stations of my heart in which these people will always have. The people we love are loved regardless of time, regardless of their placement in the world and regardless of whether we see each other again, in this life or the next.
I love these moments of nostalgia. I love this window of time so that I can share this with you. So this way you can see me. You can see all of me. Hopefully you can feel this and yet; I am more than this. I am more than the man I am now. I am more than the boy I was then. I am more than a beating heart. More than my location. More than my accent. More than the tattoos on my skin. I am the sun and the moon and the stars and as the source of my memories and, gratefully, I have come to a place of peace with this.
It matters more how I love. It matters more the way I value. It doesn’t matter what comes in return. Besides, I am not in the results business.
I am in the effort business.
There’s so much more that I want to do.
I hope you see that now.
I hope you know how I feel.
I hope you realize that the stations in my heart have been designated by the wealth and the broken features of my life which in turn has only proven to make me whole. Indeed, at last, and from this moment forward, I will never turn from who I am nor run or be afraid.
“To everything there is a season.”
Appreciate this with all you have and with all of my heart, at any age, never allow yourself to be anything but unforgivably young.
Until we meet again.