Blog

i fell in love again (all things go)

Lately I've been revisiting places which have strong nostalgic holds over me.

Like Denver. For three summers during college I spent time living at the base of Long's Peak, watching the sun set on Twin Sisters, soaking in beauty and living an undistracted, singleminded, physically present life. Driving from Denver towards the mountains last month just made me sad. I wanted to be 19 again, hiker, camp counselor, unencumbered.

At first, Chicago made me sad too. Chicago was where I had always imagined myself moving after graduation: working for a publisher, living in an apartment in the city with Mollie and our spiky-collared cat Beowulf, going to jazz clubs and basically becoming sitcom characters. Clearly, that never happened, but Chicago did become a special place of deep richness for me during the three summers I spent taking grad classes at Wheaton.

Coming back to America after the somewhat stark, spiritually barren, monocultural landscape of Vinh, it felt luxurious to be in green parks, hearing live banjo music, surrounded by the beauty of ethnic diversity. For the first time in months, I could go out anonymously, rather than being stared at as the one obvious foreigner in the city. I could go into a bookstore and browse titles in my native language. And at Wheaton my soul rested in the presence of friends who understood - because they had experienced it too - where I had been, what my life had been. I felt known and nourished by them. They let me talk, or they let me spend hours reading alone. I was flooded with gratitude.

The following summer, after I came home from Cambodia, Jack visited me at Wheaton, and we spent a week in Chicago when we were just five or six months into our dating relationship (see picture in sidebar, taken at Millenium Park!). We saw Andrew Bird play at the first ever Pitchfork Music Festival. We went to the Art Indtitute, and we did go to that jazz club, with Derek and Mollie, and I drank one glass too much. We got lost (this was before smartphones), and Jack saw me do my crazy walk for the first time.

I have always loved Chicago, and as we drove into town Friday night, accompanying our ESL students from Taylor, I started to feel sad. You can never go home again; and you can never go to Chicago again, or Estes, or Florence, or Taize, or Chiang Mai, or anywhere, can you? There are so many places I have loved, and I can never return to any of them. Even if the city is unchanged (it won't be), I am changed.

What I have loved about these places is partly imaginary, as all memories are, and even if it once existed, it never will again. What I loved is lost.

But by Saturday I realized that even if you can never step into the same river twice, you can still love the river every time, because I still love Chicago, in its earnest, unpretentious, midwestern big city-ness, and I also love sharing it with the coolest kids of all time.