Recently I went to a local bakery shop to get a slice of their quiche and some coffee and to read. After receiving my food, I looked about and found all the tables were occupied. One table had some space at one end, so I asked the man sitting at the other end with his friend whether they would mind if I sat there.
“Go ahead,” the man said; then he added, “We do have people joining us.”
So after having initially taken a seat, I got back up and said that was okay; I would not want to be intruding.
“This is Lewiston,” the man said. “You are always welcome to join us.”
I thanked him and sat back down with my quiche and coffee and book. The man at the head of the table introduced himself (I did not catch his name), and then he introduced me to his friend, Frank. I turned to look more closely at his companion.
“Stapleton?” (pseudonym here) I asked him.
“I am (LW).”
We recognized one another. This is the second time since relocating back to my dear hometown that serendipity has brought me into contact with my most influential and favorite high school English teacher, (FS). He not only introduced me to Harlem Renaissance literature and Black Voices as well as Shakespeare in tenth grade, but he was also the Director for our high school drama club productions for which I served as Assistant Director and then as Stage Manager in my junior and senior years, respectively.
The play Summertree, about a young man whose life is passing before his reflections while dying as a soldier under a tree in Viet Nam, which we staged in 1971, was so gripping that for the entire second and third acts of the final performance, with actors who had become dear friends in the process of staging this poignant drama, I cried uncontrollably backstage. Memorable, indeed.
So, I had the good fortune of sitting at a conversation table for an hour or so with FS, his friend, and three of their friends who joined the table, a regular meeting date for them. Good conversation with caring, concerned citizens of this, Our Town. Funny, not a week before I had been consciously wondering if our paths would ever again cross.
This encounter has led me to reflect about how returning to my high school hometown has been a blessing. It also leads me to consider how I have so often moved, three times fully relocating in just four years since retiring in Colorado.
I want not to bolt this time. I have no regrets about the cumulative moves I have made, as each move has opened specific opportunities for growth and adventure. Fortunately, my dear dog and cat Soul companions Sophie and Emily have been my constant companions and touchstones through all these recent moves and for many years prior in Colorado.
I am renting now and will have another decision point in 19 months when the current lease is up. But this move has certainly been a special one, a journey Home. My best high school buddy, Barb (with her husband Neal), still living nearby. One of my sisters, less than an hour and a half down the road.
Time will tell. If Spirit leads me onward as the adventure hound I have become, I will follow. But whatever happens, I am grateful. I feel I owe a lot to my hometown. I owe the fortitude to potentially put down some roots this time that might actually endure for a while.
The prodigal story of departure—transition—return (á la Joseph Campbell in The Hero with 1000 Faces) is a universal, ‘heroic’ spiritual adventure cycle. Our outer adventure cycles are but a metaphor, a microcosm of the greater Journey of Soul: out from the originating pulse of Creation; through the ordeals of embodiment, to experience life and gain understanding and wisdom; and—eventually, when the individual is ready—the Return, gradually, Home to the Heart of Divine Love. So I believe and imagine.
And so, one of my all-time favorite poems (thanks again to Michael R for his introducing me to it) comes to mind, again: Ithaca, by Cavafy:
When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.
Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.
–Constantine P. Cavafy