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On what disappears and what once was
Landmarks disappear, squirrels roam the streets, and getting older detangles importance. Post + (intense) writing prompt.
Once upon a time, I lived a few blocks from the Wonderbread factory near downtown Columbus, Ohio. I woke to the buttery smell of fresh bread wafting through my window. My bedroom was my safe space.
Three of my walls were blue, like the sky. My father, along with my parents’ artist friends, had drawn mythical creatures near my door. One of my walls was brick, so the room was always a little cold, no matter the season, but it was divine. It was my space. And the quiet mornings, especially, embraced me.
I remember getting ready for school while listening to pop music and dancing around my bedroom as I teased my bangs. I’d walk to the end of my street and stand in front of a row of yellow apartments that sat catty corner to what I’d heard referred to as “the old folks’ home,” which was notable to me as a kid ever since I heard afternoon gunshots only to later find out that the shooter had been a resident of said “home” trying her hand at squirrel population control via attempted sharpshooting from her bedroom window (no squirrels or other entities were injured, as far as I know).
Across the street was a beautiful woman named Marla who practiced and taught yoga, and at the end of the street was my best friend and dancing mentor, Nikki. Some years later, another friend, Lisa, would move in, and she’d become my confidant and partner in crime for years.
While the homes are still there, the smell of bread baking at 5 a.m. in that neighborhood is gone. The apartments are gone. The geriatric living facility has been replaced by new, single-family homes. The Columbus City squirrels are safer, and I no longer tease my bangs.
What I don’t know is where Nikki or Marla lives. Lisa and I connect every few years. And my parents no longer speak to each other.
Nothing lasts, but this brings me to an idea I had for a workshop I taught this morning. At the risk of sounding cliche, what better reminder is there to stay present than the ephemeral nature of things? The promise of change is an invitation to fully embrace what’s happening now. And if the moment sucks, well, good news! It’ll be over in a flash. Erased. Poof!
I understand the impetus to want to conserve (spaces, places, rituals, and relationships), but sometimes the idea that things have their time and place is what makes this human journey beautiful in my mind. We are not meant to live forever, nor are our structures or behaviors.
At forty-three, I now live less than an hour from the neighborhood I grew up in. I will soon read at Prologue Bookshop, which is in a very nice part of a neighborhood that was not very nice when I was growing up.
I will look at unfamiliar landmarks as I drive there, and I will occupy space that holds a past but has also moved well beyond it. While I cannot wait because it’s a beautiful bookshop and I get to share the stage (which I love) with an immensely talented writer (Karin Cecile Davidson), the space itself is entangled with quite a few memories that I won’t unpack here.
Instead of dwelling in the past, I’ll attempt to honor the space for what it is now. This is my challenge and my call to action.
And it is this move to detangle feelings that gave me a very cool writing prompt, which I just shared on Aura and would like to share with you now. There are four steps. It’s not the easiest prompt, but I hope it brings you somewhere that is full of gratitude for the ephemeral.
Write about a place that is or was safe to you (real or imagined). 5 minutes. No overthinking.
Write about a place from your past that no longer exists. 5 minutes.
Write about where we are now. 5 minutes.
Attempt to braid these three sections into an essay. Take as much time as you need.
If you write from this, or even part of it, please share with me how it went. Wishing you all good things.