I have a very active imagination.
George and I went to the zoo in Baltimore today. George had never been, and it was really neat to show him this place which holds so many memories for me. It's not like it was when I was a kid - there are things that are the same, but the travel, the moving around, is a lot different. No more prairie dogs at the entrance, no more pink flamingos, and most importantly, no more secret and unguarded entrance to the scum-soaked, dilapidated boat lake. It's more limited now, and the feeling of getting lost in this maze of animals and of parkland is gone.
I remember going to the boat lake with my dad. We walked around the green-tinged water, and stared off into the boat house, and we imagined what it must have been like - back then, you know, back then when the world was different and a little bit brighter. The boat house looked as if it were about to fall apart with memories - dancing, picnicking, romance, and quite a lot of wood rot. Dad and I talked and created the past like wisps of perfume, champagne, and elusive music.
The entrance of the lake was guarded by a white marble fountain, and I used to sit on the rough stone and think about dipping my feet into cool water. This place was a secret. This place was death-in-life, and it and its memories belonged to us. Sweating, beating, soft-sweet-low, impressions of something gone and never to be recovered.
It's very easy for me to imagine the past. I grew up with hundred year old transferware, and furniture to be perched upon, and pump organs, and choral music. The past is a known quantity, in some ways - we have artifacts and treasures that give us something so full of dead passion and grace. I can imagine the past because we, as a community, have lived it.
The future is a lot harder. Technology beats its own drum, and things change in this uncontrollable way that is both inevitable and unbelievable. I'd like to think that my life will continue in some known way - just like life is now, but a little different.
I feel like I'm missing something important when I think about Columbia, because when I look at the buildings I have nothing to imagine, or nothing I am capable of imagining. That music isn't there - the scent of still waters. We in Columbia are engaging in the practice of creating the future, and I don't quite know where I stand in that process. I have no connection, no boat lake, no dancing with fireflies. That doesn't mean that I won't have those things eventually. New buildings become old, and my life becomes a part of someone else's imagination.
There's an incredible amount of love that comes from knowing the past. I think I've mentioned identity before, and history creates identity in a lot of ways. I don't know what it means to be a Columbian, because I don't feel I have an identity that is rooted in trees, parks, architecture, change, and the whispers of the past. In Columbia, I don't have a boat lake.
But I want to. I want to take my children, as my father took me, and tell stories of the imagination. Someday this place will give me the gift of secrets, of antiquity, of the stark People Tree and still waters.
I love Baltimore, but I'm not giving up on my life here because I am determined to be a part of that thing, that soft thing, that means home.