Today I took a walk into town. Somehow shorter than I thought it would be, I arrived in about 20 minutes. I dressed with a little more care, not the usual t-shirt, jeans and green Birkenstock garden clogs I’ve been wearing every day. I do jazz them up with bright-colored socks though, always one to provide a little flair I put on some make-up but I have to say, a more minimalist application than before. I admit to feeling elated when I styled something new. Joining me was my camera, a mask, and a determination to leave some of my isolation behind.
During my time alone, I work in the yard and do yoga outside for my physical and emotional well-being. The study of creative writing and photography keeps my cognitive abilities from slipping away. Calvin now spends so much time commuting I don’t want to burden him with taking photographs of me in his free time. I want him to enjoy our house and the boundless pleasures found in the garden.Using a self-timer and a tripod I practice finding the right f-stops, shutter speeds, ISO, and the art of self-portraiture. A book about women photographers sits on my piecrust table, a flea market find. I explore those who took on the study of self like Cindy Sherman, Francesca Woodman, and Claude Cahun. I photograph “things” that move me at the moment like rainbow-colored vegetable peels on the grainy weathered wood of an old cutting board before their trip to the compost heap, dark violets, and green leaves like a Rembrandt painting, old books, and architecture from where I live now. I take creative writing classes and take part in writing groups in the hope I can transition to a less academic way of writing about big ideas.
On this walk I take a photograph to remember a nuance or something that strikes me, exploring all the textures of this unfamiliar landscape as if it were the body of a new lover. Like me, my new little city is becoming. Old homes like mine are being renovated by those who came from the city known as “exurbanists.” In the early stages of development, there are still many opportunities to not repeat the mistakes of other river and valley towns once abandoned and come to life again through gentrification. There’s still time to make sure that those who lived here well before us, do not get displaced or priced out. Neatly divided, the demographic pie of this city is three equal slices; Black, Hispanic and white. Given the enormity of the challenges my country and the world are facing at the moment, focusing my activism on this bounded microcosm of society that is now my home feels doable and way less overwhelming. I’ll stand on my porch, talk with my neighbors and see how I might be of use. This will come from them and not me.
I reach the center of town, a small through street now closed to traffic, filled with tables and chairs. It’s bounded by a coffeehouse that lives in a flatiron-shaped building sharing space with a gallery and new shop that makes me feel like a visit to Brooklyn. There’s a cafe that provides live music on the weekends, now in the warmth of spring, outside. When I enter the coffee shop, known as the living room of our city, a wave of familiarity engulfs me. Yet there is something different and unknown.
Laptops are open, books and newspapers too and the hands holding them reflect the slices of pie. There’s a tin ceiling, an eclectic and mismatched bunch of tables and chairs from the 60s and 70s and tattooed, nose ringed baristas. There’s a contest for “badass” of the week and bags of coffee with graphically pleasing and colorful labels. There are vegan food options and colorful art from local artists sits on the walls. People of all ages mingle together, and I am delirious with excitement. After weeks of being home, I feel like I just took a trip to the Taj Mahal or some other wonder of the world. If I look out the window and down the steep hill, I can see the river, the mountains that surround us, the parkland and trees vibrantly emerald green because of the moody weather of this delayed spring. Every possibility for blooming like the tight balls of the peony buds in my garden exists here and the isolation and anxiety I feel about “not knowing” what will be or what comes next drifts away. Face to the sun I sit with my Chai latte, notebook, camera, neighbors and just be.
What’s your “bud”? Where are you seeing possibilities?