I spent twenty years calling the city of "Dirty Water" home before moving to Lafayette, IN. The years collapse and intermingle and then come together again, making life in my twenties and thirties a series of random flashes, much like a meteor shower. At some point in the late-1980s, I lived with Maryclaire and our red-haired friend Amy in a brownstone in Cambridgeport. Amy, whom I once touted as my soul mate, introduced me to some of the most important things in life, like folk music and noodle kugel. In our apartment at Fairmont Avenue, we attempted the impossible: squeezing three independent and individual women into two and a half bedrooms. It was more than the low rent that led us to perform this herculean and ultimately impractical feat. It was also the exquisiteness of the well-placed apartment. The turn-of-the-twentieth-century structure had open faced brick walls, hardwood floors and an old-fashioned tub with feet. It was an irresistible space, in part, because Amy's dad, the landlord-carpenter, was inspired by the simple lines of Shaker design.
Charmed by Lafayette, I rented a two-bedroom apartment next to the Wabash River and began to learn the seasons of a Midwestern waterway during my early morning runs. In the spring, the baby bunnies ran rampant. If you went for a run at dawn on the Wabash Heritage Trail, their scattering made the grass whisper. In the late-summer, I noticed more grasshoppers, which darted from the high dry grass like bullets. At the same time, spider webs became more elaborate, presumably so that their inhabitants could indulge in the meaty grasshoppers for dinner. There were other fantastic--almost fantastical--fauna at the Wabash River. For example, what city-girl from the northeast had ever seen an eagle?! Or a fox?! When a fellow Northeasterner, a "city slicker" from Queens, visited Purdue University, he was equally amazed at the local wildlife. "Do you see," he noted, pointing to a furry brown beast just behind my shoulder, "that chipmunk!"
Fascinated, I decided to photodocument the Wabash River on a month-by-month basis. Eager to begin, I went out on 1 January 2008 and trekked through freshly fallen snow. I looked for--and easily found--beauty on the banks of the river. There were bunny tracks in the snow. There were bright red berries on a desiccated bush, a gastronomic beacon for a hungry deer. There were clusters of tall grasses--once green, now golden--standing tall on the banks of the river in the midst of a wintry storm. A dozen ducks treaded water, and I wondered if feathers really kept fowl warm. This winter ramble forced me to look closely at the world. I found beauty in everything, even the electrical plant stationed next to the railroad tracks a half mile from the pedestrian bridge where my trek began. I remember I had felt glum before leaving the house but returned feeling refreshed and mentally alert.
Thus, my love of rivers--a physical place to be present and mindful--has also fostered for me an imagined space that keeps me grounded and in recovery in the real world.
What image, I wonder, keeps you grounded? And why...?