Which One?”-pt. 15 (Image: “Then and Now”)

Seated next to me was a lean, good-looking man in his early-sixties wearing a “Gold’s Gym” tee-shirt. It was obvious he was a weight-trainer so we immediately had something in common. He introduced himself as “Peter,” and we discussed workout routines, diet and training tricks for perhaps half an hour before we began talking about our lives.

Before joining the diplomatic service in his late thirties, Peter had been a lecturer in American and English literature at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. Since his retirement from government service 5 years earlier, Peter had been working on a novel about his early years growing up in central New York—Constantia, Sylvan beach and South Bay—all towns on the shores of Lake Oneida. Only a few years older than me, we both came out of the same era and the same upstate New York cultural heritage. It was a bit eerie how much alike we were—growing up about a half hour apart—both of us had left home at the same age—18—and both of us had a problem with the area we grew up in. For me it was simple insecurity, anger and resentment. Peter had somewhat more enlightened, better-adjusted parents. His problem was a gnawing sense of incompleteness and yearning sense of unarticulated purpose. He saw the same squalid provinciality of the region but didn’t harbor any particular resentment toward it. He just wanted to leave, learn, grow and become someone with perspective—someone possessed with more than a day-laborer’s mentality.

And he did leave, learn and grow. But now he was back to absorb the rich life lessons and human resonances of this region and, in the context of his larger world understanding, accomplish much the same sort of full-circle reconciliations and resolutions I was seeking in the love and person of Joanie. Peter left seeking perspective and appreciation—returning to complete the effort. I left seeking love and redemption—returning for the same reason.

Peter’s novel was structured after Homer’s Odyssey with considerable influence from Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces.” Structured as a journey of course—it was partly autobiographical, largely metaphorical fiction—beginning with the narrator’s origins in the Central New York-Lake Oneida region to his years in Connecticut, his service in several European countries and back—like me—to his place of beginning.

The tests, trials, failures and victories of Peter’s narrator’s life-journey—of course color who he ultimately becomes—but his existential essence, his uniquely Upstate Weltanschauung ultimately determines who he finally is. The way Peter explained it is, by the time he and I left home at age 18—our unarticulated views of the world, life, man’s place in the cosmos and so on—were long ago formed but were still malleable. Our Upstate childhood was the theme—the summary influence of our experiences after we left was the variation. He and I share a common theme but have separate and distinct variations on that theme. We agreed you cannot truly come home again because home changes and we change. We look at whatever happened in the growing up years with adult eyes—an understanding entirely different that we had as young people. But to know who you are—to achieve any sort of reconciliation–you must nevertheless go home again.

I told him the story of Joanie and me and he was entranced at the coming full circle—returning to origins and first love after, like him, extensive traveling and searching. The trip north was delightful and I lost track of time—suddenly the “fasten seat belts” sign was on and the attention signal was chiming. I glanced out of the window and could see below tiny, soft lights gleaming bravely through darkness and swirling snow. As the plane descended to Syracuse-Hancock Airport, I could see headlights of tiny cars moving along snow-covered highways rising up beneath the plane and growing larger.

I turned to see Peter saying something to a flight attendant as the pitch of the engines changed an octave. There were several soft thumps as the landing gear unfolded into the churning, snowy darkness. A white-blanketed tree line on the other side of a large open field flew by the window and the muffled thunder of wheels hitting the runway came up through the cabin floor. Shortly we were taxiing up to one of the terminal buildings. I peered out of my window to see high mast lighting silently glowing through a falling wall of impossibly heavy snow. I remember asking myself—“Was it really like this growing up?” Then I immediately answered my own question—“Yeah—I guess it was.”

The PA system came on and the female flight attendant’s voice cheerily told us to remain in our seats until the plane came to a stop.

“Welcome to snowy Syracuse, New York,” the attendant said in a vaguely amused tone, “the current temperature is 8 degrees and the forecast is for more snow—lots and lots of snow. Bundle up folks.”

End part 15

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2 Responses to “Which One?”-pt. 15 (Image: “Then and Now”)”

  1. Larry Blackwood Says:

    I like this one, nice composition and it has sort of a memento mori message to it.

  2. orion Says:

    It didn’t do very well-n fotoblur–only 3 promotions. I’ll email you.

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