November 27, 2011
Find a few old letters and you’ve got rocket fuel for a trip in a time machine. And you may just like getting to know your younger self.
Three times one recent Sunday I loaded up a bellman’s cart with donations for the Salvation Army and headed for the lobby collection point. I had scooted a good 100 to 150 pounds out the door before finding a crate of letters saved from the basement flood last December. I dove in. I was lost in memories before I had settled comfortably on the carpet.
A quickly scribbled draft of a letter later tidied up and mailed read:
Did you ever you make it to LA during mud season? I keep forgetting to ask. Your lazy summer days in Steamboat are inviting. Are you painting at all?
I am writing from Cleveland – enjoying a break from stockings, hairpins and the Oklahoma heat for cooler, relaxed afternoons playing with my young nephew and niec Today we saw a Chardin exhibit downtown. I liked his subjects and mood, for the most part, but eventually had my fill of images of dead rabbits nailed to the wall. And I have to say, I still really prefer to see art somewhere other than in a museum. Afterwards we stopped at the Westside Market. THERE I could spend HOURS strolling among the stalls. Many have been in families for years. Great faces, stories – so lively!
The trip and staying with family has been a nice break after indulging my appetite for solitude during my first two months living alone. I am somewhat eager to get back to my place – a high rise flat. I really like where I live. My flat is small but the whole north side is one big window. I keep the drapes open to a view of hills and city lights. Safeway, the library, the river, work – everything but school is within walking distance. Couples I knew in the building before moving in have gone on to buy houses but I meet plenty of new neighbors just coming and going …
The letter was dated 9.2.1979.
Today the windows in my 11th floor Portland flat frame views of the West Hills and downtown. A Safeway is next door and I am, again, relatively new to living alone. Neighbors still come and go and I regularly visit the Waterfront to spend time strolling through markets, taking in all the stories, sights, music, people. After years of involvement with the arts, I still view vibrant museums as those flinging open the doors for events with living artists and could-be patrons and I seek out galleries in a new town before paying admission to museums.
The girl who wrote to Carl was less than half my age. At first I felt shamed to have spent 3 decades seemingly going nowhere. Then it struck me. Many days I feel 21 again – in a good way.