Friday, October 19, 2012

Layered Memories

Old Main, on University of Arkansas campus; image at

A few days ago I was in Fayetteville, AR
visiting my son who started his freshman year there this August. 

It was of course glorious and wonderful to be with him, 
laughing, joking, stealing glances at him to make sure he looks happy and healthy. 

And being in Fayetteville is so bittersweet. 
So many memories of that town. 

Adrian was born at the local hospital. 
I found Unitarian Universalism at the local UU Fellowship
My call to ministry awakened there. 
My love of urban planning and local politics caught fire
in conversations with friends at Arsaga's
and later in meetings at City Hall. 

We moved to LA in 1999, and for a few years I'd visit friends there. 
And then I didn't visit for almost ten years. 

When I finally went back, 
seeing those same streets and buildings made my heart hurt. 
It was like seeing an old lover, 
remembering his face, 
but knowing he wasn't the same person anymore. 

Fayetteville is more beautiful than when I left. 
Walking down Dickson Street
around the historic square during the Farmer's Market
or through campus, 
I'm flooded with memories. 

It makes me think of Pentimento, by Lillian Hellman. 

She describes pentimento as
the old paint on a canvas 
that becomes transparent 
as it ages, 
allowing the original lines to come through. 
The painter "repented," changed her mind. 
It's a way of seeing and then seeing again
what is there. 

That's what my trips to Fayetteville feel like. 
I see what is clearly in front of me, 
but ghosts of my past also walk 
on the sidewalks. 

I see yard signs of city council campaigns past. 
I see white party tents and chairs set up for a garden party
for Friends of Fayetteville. 
I see old friends, 
no longer there, no longer in contact, 
but still dear to my heart. 
I see a Baby Adrian. 

I see a younger self. 
Full of hope, 
Longing to make something of herself, 
so her tiny son will know 
that one person can help change the world. 

As I wander around that lovely town, 
I know that Adrian will also awaken 
to the deeper longings of his life there. 

Maybe he will brush by 
the faint lines of his earlier life, 
gently waving him on
toward Love and meaning. 

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