Friday, September 21, 2007

The small history shelf (My Sacred Life, day 28)

This simple picture of a small built-in bookshelf, located on the wall between the main room of the cottage and the screened-in front porch, is sacred to me. It's not that I have any tie at all to the items which are displayed on the shelves. They are all things which are either belongings of past cottage residents, or ones collected from the era.

I picked a book at random from the few on these shelves. It was published in 1903, and the dedication was to a person who helped the author, "...learn to pluck roses from a cabbage patch." If we all learned that lesson, life would be far less contentious!

What this bookshelf represents to me are the very roots and deep, rich past I envy that others have. It's not like I don't have family history, as my family goes back several hundred years to an indentured servant who made his way to Philadelphia in the early 18th century from Great Britain.

Ths issue for me is that my own roots were never allowed to gain purchase when I was growing up. I am someone who, if the times allowed, may never have journeyed 50 miles from where I was born 'til the day I passed away. That's not where I came into being this time, though. I am the son of a retired Air Force officer, a dentist who served the teeth of those who serve our country. I was born when my dad was still in dental school (all hail, UNC Tarheels!), and grew to early school age when he was in grad school (Go, Buckeyes!). When it came time to move again, I was distraught beyond what my family could handle or accommodate. I certainly don't blame my parents, as it would be pretty unusual to find a set of parents who let their 7-year-old decide if they were moving or not.

So, we moved to Japan, where my last sibling, eight years younger than I am, was born. Not long after, we moved back to the homeland of North Carolina while my dad established a place for us where our new, longer-term (in a short-term world) home was to be. Once he had everything in order, we joined him in Burkburnett, Texas.

We lived in north Texas for almost five years, and it was, again, very hard to leave. Finally, though, we moved to the place I have considered to be home for about forty years.

I went through my high school years in Denver, even as we moved one more time to divide my experience into two school districts. I still know a few people with whom I shared some stormy high school times. Our school was a focus of forced busing, as kids from poor neighborhoods 30 minutes from the school were given no choice but to ride the bus to this school they were unfamiliar with, and they were forced to pay for the bus ride.

Little wonder that there was some racially oriented violence in the school. I felt far worse for my black classmates than for any of the kids from my ethnic background who whined about how hard it was to have these new kids from a different background in our school. Thanks to monumental efforts on the part of a few people, mostly teachers and students (no thanks, I have to point out, to the school administration), we were able to complete the school year when I graduated.

Ever since those days, when I drive past my high school, only a mile or so up the road from my own home, I have to point out that it is my school. You can imagine how tired my wife is of this routine!

When we are headed anywhere in Denver which requires that we pass a place I have lived, or worked, or visited for any reason at all, I mention it. See previous paragraph for reaction of dearest family member.

I often point out that a particular building has arisen to fill a gap left after another building I knew and loved had long ago been torn down. Yes, I have been known to note the same new building more than once. Okay. More than a few times.

To sum up, I have become obnoxiously at home, roots deeply established, in my small neighborhood in Denver. It is everything to me that my childhood lacked, as I live right now only six blocks from the townhouse I lived in with my mom the year my dad was in Vietnam: 1970...only eight blocks from the tiny house where my high-school girlfriend lived (I only had one). These few square miles in southeast Denver--we do live inside the city limits, unlike about 75% of the people who say they are from Denver--have been my home for more than forty years. I have been all around the globe during that time, yet only one place summons me with the undeniable call of "home."

Even after all this time, I still consider it a miracle that I now have the roots and the familiarity and history with one place which I so craved when I was seven, and eight and ten. I know that, should I move away from Denver, its place within me is secure, its spot in my heart forever precious. When I drive up I-25 from the south and come over the last ridge before dropping into the valley of the South Platte which Denver occupies, when I look out the window of the commercial jet making its final approach into DIA, when I drive down South Monaco past George Washington High School, it will always make my heart leap up. That's what home is supposed to do.

I can wish nothing greater for my fellow travelers than to have a home such as I have today, a family that provides Love a place to nest such as I have, and a sense of peace like I feel, in knowing I am where I belong in this world.

Home, Love, Peace. What is mine, I wish for you, as well.

In departing our magical vacation spot, it is only appropriate to include a sunset shot. Many who visit this place strive for the perfect image of a Lake Michigan sunset, and I was no less diligent than others in my pursuit of it. I have hundreds of photos to enjoy reviewing after we get home. What this is, though, is not the best shot I took, or even a mildly spectacular one. This, instead, is my impression of the typical sunset, one you can see maybe four or five times a week, complete with the anonymous human figure at the lower right, appreciating with her eyes what I saw through my lens. Sacred doesn't mean "special", necessarily, as we all have come to know over the last month of the My Sacred Life project. It can be a simple, common element in our lives which has caught our attention and gotten the time in the spotlight it deserves. I don't recall who said it, but I appreciate the sentiment: life is what happens while we await further developments.


The Dream said...

Thanks for sharing about your early life, Rick ... and your strong sense of the importance of HOME. I enjoyed reading all about your vacation ... and will continue to visit your blog even now that the Sacred Life Project is officially over (I started later than the rest, so I have 2 more days to go). I have never been to Colorado - and people tell me that if I ever went skiing out there, I would never ski East again. Hmmmm ... hopefully, one day!

Julie said...

I love this post!

I had to spend a week in Denver a few years ago and loved it. It's like the midwest in so many ways, but with beauty.

Hopefully you will continue on with "Sacred Life Sundays?" I didn't do so well on the daily project but think I can commit to a weekly one.

sharryb said...

Reading your feelings about your home reminded me of my own journey. Not that ours are much alike, just the sense of memory. I guess that's typical,someone else's story reminds us of what it means to us.

I loved the scared shelf/alter in your cottage.