Since moving back to the Midwest, I've been enjoying a much quicker commute home than I'm used to. For 30$ I can hop on the Wolverine Route from Chicago to Ann Arbor. Train travel is slow and somewhat antiquated, but also relaxing. I appreciate having the time to think and be quiet. The whooshing sound of the train rumbling beneath me and the passing countryside make for soothing accompaniments, too.
It's common to get lost in your past when visiting home after a long time gone. I tend towards the weepy and sentimental - I'll catch myself wallowing away in old photos, journals and yearbooks. Thankfully this time, on bike rides with my father and solitary walks around my grandmother's house, I felt flooded by more sensory details. November is such a beautiful time in the Midwest, and my hometown is no exception.
Bike ride down Strasburg Road, November 2009.
Had I never left, I'm not sure I would find it the same way. Peddling past the well spaced homes, I remembered people and moments I hadn't thought of in years. There are streets in my hometown where I can identify someone who lived in each house (though they may not live there now - my memory is stuck somewhere around 1997). I can visualize the insides of their homes as they were then, and recall the ones I liked to stay over at and the ones I preferred to go home from instead.
As I rode along Erie Road, and then on to Cemetery Road, all was quietly at work. Leaves raked that afternoon were burned now in barrels, sending a campfire smell wafting across the fields. Neighbors tooled around in their barns, tended their lawns, fed their animals. It was about a quarter to five, almost dusk, and I guessed that the late day industriousness was a result of waiting for supper to begin. Each person waved as I passed, not because they recognized me but because that's what you do. I waved back. A few gunshots broke out to my left; not an alarming sound in Erie, I took them for a hunter's target practice.
Barns in shadow, November 2009.
I took a walk, just across the field from my grandmother's house to my parents'. Heading up the lane, I saw animal tracks in the sand and remembered scampering up there as a child. I thought of my six year old cousin, who had just told me that although he would visit me in the city, he would always be a "country boy" (his words). His little voice sounded articulate and wise for his years when he told me that he couldn't "imagine not going out in nay-cha." I agreed with him, and was comforted by it then, wandering through my grandfather's fields at dusk, alone.
Down the lane, November 2009.
Grandpa's fields, November 2009.