Drive along any highway and a place will reveal itself to you. The way that Ohio folds into Pennsylvania, along Route 80 East, as the Great Lakes basin abuts the watersheds of other rivers that lead you into Pittsburgh, such a uniquely hilly city along three rivers. Here they forged the backbone of our rail system, our skyscrapers and our American bootstrap myth and carried it hot over steel bridges and inclines to warm dinners from many European countries. You may be driving across the Great Plains, or maybe just across the palm of Michigan, from Detroit to Chicago. From Detroit’s carapace of refineries and shipping container yards to the signs of university life in Ann Arbor. Across to Jackson, which always used to be the halfway point for me between Battle Creek and Detroit. Past Kalamazoo and into the berrylands. The place in southwestern Michigan where berries and fruit trees abound. And then onward to the dunes and sandy grasses of the Lake Michigan shores, past Gary, Indiana, itself a reminder of our industrial prowess of yore and into Chicago. Chicago! A city that seems so large from the highway and limitless once on the ground.
On a drive across Macedonia this summer, I was astonished to find myself blown away by the way prayer minarets took the space I usually occupy for crosses in my concept of pastoral highway drive-by views. I expected them but I didn’t. I’m conditioned to see crosses atop picturesque churches in little hamlets. By changing an essential symbol, I found my mind open to understand more. But also, to have lots of questions that may never be answered. Example: why did everyone in Greece and Macedonia refer to each other’s respective lands as “mysterious”? Is this a compliment?
I recently visited Chicago, with some dear friends. We stayed in lodgings (because that’s the best word for it in this case) above an inn in Logan Square. We ate, laughed, perused bookstores and farmers markets and enjoyed the interestingness of this neighborhood new to us. On the way out of town, we bought some pie. What could be a more quintessential summer food?
I’ve been thinking a lot about memories lately. Never a nostalgic person, I find myself wistfully wishing I could be more so. Maybe that’s nostalgia in training? I am a live in the moment and charge toward the future kind of gal. This American Life piece about Emir’s memory of how his educational future heightened for me the mutability of our memories. We write our own stories.
We write our own stories. I need to remember this.