Earlier today I wrote of what happens when we travel a thousand miles. A failure to save that work wiped clean all but 400 words of my musing and now later in the day, I turn my attention to a more immediate geography.
Written onto the beige walls of restaurant in Hyde Park are the names of lovers and the thoughts of philosophers. Eighteen road miles away a railway truss that crosses the Chicago River shows off street art and also proclaims love. In 18 miles the ramblings of graduate students becomes the talent of teenagers with spray cans and if you drive between the two points you pass the homes of tens of thousands with hundreds of thousands of stories. Those 18 miles mark better than two decades of residency for me. In a scant 18 miles are more than twenty years of the most joyous and saddest moments I know. Earlier today I thought of the impact of driving a thousand miles. I reflected on it in a generic way thinking all the while of family and companionship and now in thinking of 18 miles I know the most impactful stories do not need such a distance.
I don’t know what brings us to a place. I came to Chicago to study and avoid the expense of New York. That is the story on paper. I had every intention of finding my way to a far different place in life, but Fortuna’s wheel would not have that and “the wheel goes where the wheel will go.” An interest in the academy became a life of working with those who have cognitive disabilities; a home with the stability of a family became the challenge and beauty of a fractured, but charmed life. The wheel went where it went and it brought me to wondrous and terrifying places, most no farther than 18 miles apart.
I know I will soon travel again. I miss my family and of late a radius of fewer than twenty miles is too preoccupied with the mundane. The travel will not have to be far. The route I will travel puts me 302 miles from my parents’ home. Once I clear the metro area, I will drive past fewer homes than the 18 miles of streets that go between the Chicago neighborhoods of Hyde Park and Sauganash. Those homes, though fewer in number, also contain a myriad of stories, though as I travel those 302 miles and mind the road I will often forget that. It is only when I reach that place I still call home and walk in the woods behind my folks’ house I will remember this when I see I see a tree and carved into its wood will be exuberance of youthful pride and (yet again) initials that give an identity to love.