Monday, March 2, 2015

we have high hopes

It will be the past 
and we'll live there together. 
 Not as it was to live 
but as it is remembered. 

--Heaven, Patrick Phillips

 Cruising down the interstate, listening to music from old memories and new roads, I looked at the snow frosting the naked trunks of trees and the plump branches of fat little troupes of evergreen. I wondered what these woods looked like before the interstate cut through their midst. I wondered what this snowy world looked like when it was first encountered by the European explorers that landed on these shores.

As we speed across the country, I'm always fascinated by the image of what traveling looked like before interstates and Rand McNally atlases, and GPS satellite imaging. The world must have looked so much larger and scarier without clearly marked exits and passing lanes. What would the trees around me have looked like when the only path that winded its way through their branches was the trail you were blazing yourself? What would have leapt up in your heart when you approached the coastline: a steep wall of rock and endless forest beyond it. How would you even understand what you were seeing, as you wandered aimlessly in Appalachia, up into Vermont's pine forests, down into the Florida Everglades, without any context in which to place this world? How would your feet have felt as you stepped onto Plymouth Rock, if you had no idea that Minnesota, Oklahoma, Colorado, and California were all out there, waiting for you.

The past has a romance of its own; the stories from the past are hidden in the present, and I am eternally enchanted by them.

 But part of being here, now, is letting go of the past. Being present must also mean letting memories be memories, and not wishing that the present was anything but what it is. We shared so many stories this weekend, sitting on couches with beer and laughter, and it struck me that these stories are now the story. We don't have a chance to go back and erase moments or, an even scarier thought, add to them. What I didn't do is left undone, and its omission will forever be a part of the story.

It is so tempting to snatch moments of the past and try to change them; to latch on to moments whose ends are still unraveled and whose chapters are still unfinished. It is so tempting to go back and pretend that the past is still the present. But it's not. We are speeding away from the past as quickly as we two are speeding down the interstate, and what we leave behind us is a map of where we've been, a guidebook for future explorers, a chart that details the roads less traveled.
A cartograph that carves, out of this brave new world of the future, a familiar country for us to adventure in.

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