Thursday, April 23, 2009

Root Collections

I'm down in Boston this week, visiting the bubs. Ten days ago there were still little piles of snow in my backyard in Quebec, and a sizeable mound of the hardened, dirt-encrusted stuff still perching on the front lawn. It's all gone now (yay!) but what a strange thing, to go, in a matter of days, from brisk, chilling winds and biting frost to almost 80-degree weather, daffodils and cherry blossoms everywhere, and luscious green grass.

Lots of people in town last weekend for the Bruins/Canadiens game and the Boston Marathon on Monday. It's been raining, off and on, for three days. I've not yet had a chance to revisit some of the neighborhoods here that hold a store of memories of my time here for so many years. It's always strange, walking past a house we'd once lived in, seeing the changes (or that it has remained EXACTLY the same), unable to imagine myself, today, still living there. Times change, situations change--people change. But those memories hold a special place, they come flooding back, in waves of little nostalgic nudgings, evoking surprising turns of reflection.

The word "roots" always signified to me the place of one's birth. But then you leave home and go out in the world and set down new roots somewhere else. You can live in a place 20 years, happily re-rooted and comfortably acclimated, then one day discover a place you immediately fall in love with, feel completely at home in, and dream about living there forever. Not just as a tourist daydreamily musing "I'd LOVE to live here" but something deeper--a great, sincere longing to really always BE there, as in "I BELONG there."

It sometimes happens that you land in a place not by choice but by circumstance, fully intending it to be temporary, definitely not a place you normally would have chosen--in fact, you might at first really hate it. But in time you become accustomed, what was once strange is now familiar; you find, much to your surprise, when you're away from it, that you actually start missing it. You've put down new roots again. It is that way for me now, with T-R.

Home is not a place. It's what I take with me, wherever I go. The memories of past places, the dreams of future places, the nowness of my present place.

Yesterday at the park I overheard a father pushing his little boy on the swings, speaking to him in French. I asked him where they were from and he said, "Senegal." We had a mini-conversation, en francais, and I realized, somewhat to my surprise, that even though it'd only been four or five days that I've been here, I miss hearing French.

Tomorrow I'm going to visit old friends, some of whom I haven't seen for many years. And breakfast in my favorite kitchen in the whole world--S's kitchen--with the domed Turkish ceiling and from whose plant-lined windows one can watch squirrels traversing the limbs of adjacent trees; the smell of warm toast, hot coffee and the hum of a lively conversation, news to catch up on, projects to discuss. I love his house, nestled in a hidden cul-de-sac, the booklined walls, book-filled (from floor to ceiling) hallways, subterranean study, the thousands and thousands of books--everywhere and everywhere; paintings, artifacts from journeys abroad, my most favorite house in all of Cambridge, in all of Massachusetts! Then a train ride out to Concord, Thoreau's old stomping grounds, then back to Cambridge and drop in at the Tibetan store (can a place be an "old friend" too?).

I am unable to post any Boston pictures to the blog until I return because my camera is one of those ancient digital ones that uses floppy disks, and the computer here doesn't have a drive to support them. Pictures to remember a former life, a present-day visit, a thread in a continuing journey.

It was Earth Day yesterday.

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