Knowing that we sleep under the same sky has narrowed the miles and miles distance between my family and myself. Somehow, ‘home is where the heart is’ just doesn’t compare.
There is a true art to living and loving the longing.
Visiting Detroit. My home. The Motor City. Home of Motown. “Big Cat” sport teams: Tigers and Lions. The Comeback Kids: American automakers. Detroit is no ordinary place. Nor would this visit ‘home’ be ordinary. It’s been over 11 years and I still refer to Detroit as ‘home.’ There’s a worldwide Detroit diaspora; if you travel and meet someone from anyplace in southeast Michigan, they’re likely to tell you they are from Detroit.
It’s one thing to live optimistically, inspiring yourself along the way. It’s something else to see strong, positive affirmations in big, bold letters.
Opportunity Made In Detroit.
I had purposely traveled to Detroit to attend a storytelling event hosted by The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers.Their mission is to connect humanity, create community and provide an uplifting, thought-provoking, soul-cleansing entertainment experience that is unique through the art and craft of storytelling. This event’s theme was “Thankful.”
And thankful I was.
I absolutely believe in the healing power of words. Stories are made up of words, yet they are so much more – they connect our very beings. Words can galvanize communities or become shields that deflect change, invite fear, or cast us into the hinterlands separated from each other.
My trip home would be check-up of sorts. I would open my heart and say “aaaaaah.” My first visit home as a travel blogger. The weekend would be fast, full of family, old and new friends, good cheer and an extreme opportunity to experience home through the lens of my camera.
So, on the first full day of my visit, between family commitments, a meetup with a nephew for some cheer at Flood’s, Detroit’s place “where everybody knows your name,” and the storytelling event, it would be me and my camera. Solo.
But before I would start my exploration, I would go to Flo Boutique in the West Willis Village, near Wayne State University to buy a coveted Detroit Snob embroidered t-shirt. The store’s team made the atmosphere like being at home with family. After making my purchase perched on a seat, I asked if I could ‘just be,’ to just hang out for a while and enjoy the camaraderie. “Of course!” was Sheila and Felicia’s response. As well as meeting a number of women, I learned a lot about the growing attractions and community between Midtown and Downtown Detroit. When I wore out my welcome, off I went. My first stop was Great Lakes Cafe, a coffee-centric shop on Woodward & Alexandrine Avenue for a yummy sandwich.
After having some eats, I would be on my way to the riverfront. Once I got east of the landmark General Motors World Headquarters, I inched my way down the street that runs parallel to the river – Woodbridge. Milliken Park. New. The Dequindre Cut. New.
The Dequindre Cut is a non-motorized recreational greenway spanning over a mile from busy Gratiot Avenue to the riverfront. I was impressed by reuse of this abandoned railroad corridor.
While some take abandoned resources and recover their value, others show respect for the unpolished edges of the urban landscape by using them as backdrops for beauty and culture.
As I inched eastward, the hands of time were inching along with me – backward. Belle Isle Park was definitely one of my favorite places to visit as a child. When ‘the isle’ was the destination for our Sunday riding, life was good. We learned softball, cricket, and when we needed to stretch our legs, we would pile out of the car and race to the Scott fountain.
In all the years I visited Detroit’s Belle Isle Park, I never noticed the first road, the perimeter road of the island is called Sunset Strip. A well-deserved name!
In the winter, we ice skated on this pond until our toes felt like they would fall off and then we’d go inside the pavilion and have hot chocolate and Cheeze-It crackers for a snack.
There’s something about showing up to make the full impression of your life something worthy of reflecting on later. Just as the sun will not half rise or set, life’s reflection should be nothing less than that of your full self. This is the place that brought so much joy to my young life.
Something mystical happened as the sun began to set on my memories of home. The sky changed colors like the most elegant fashion model sashaying down the runway and with each change reappearing with something far more exquisite than the last change.
It was an eerie conspiracy: the sky and the water in the ponds and the river were completely still on the surface. The Detroit River is a shipping channel with grown-up currents. I don’t know the phenomenon, but the landscape morphed into a wondrous canvas where the beauty of life was cast.
When I stepped out of my car and walked maybe 20 feet to the pond’s bank, the smell of hops from the Windsor brewery infused the air. My heart rang out when the bell tower struck half past the hour.
Along with the reflection of the past, what I saw was the beauty and perfection of the heart: it is a storehouse of joy! What, for ages has been revealed as something that cannot be seen nor known by reasoning, poet, teacher and artist of words, Rumi captured it best.
“The lips, the water of life, the one whose thirst has been quenched are one.”
This was the most giving sunset I have ever experienced in Detroit. After beholding a portfolio of beauty, it was time to make my way back downtown to meet up with my nephew. Earlier as I traveled from Midtown to the Riverfront, I noticed Campus Martius was alive and teeming with activity. It is a magnet. The shops, the ice skating rink, the hand-warming bonfire are all people-pleasing attractions. I found a convenient parking space, went to a wine bar, perched with a nice glass of red, and watched the activity of the ice rink like it was a big screen television.On As I approached Woodward, I noticed that I became the subject of the curiosity of a man, moving along the street that would end on Woodward. He walked in a challenged way. As I stood at the focal point of the attraction taking photos, he finally caught up to me. He stepped right in front of my camera. “Would you like for me to photograph you?” When I asked Richard if I could take his picture, he agreed with no hesitation.
This was the first shot. “Why are you not smiling?” He was concerned about missing teeth and smiling. When I assured him that a smile is not defined by teeth and comes from inside out, this was the sweet photograph he gifted me with.
Of course I wanted to know his story. He moved to Detroit to be close to his daughter and there had been some bad blood and they had been sorely out of contact – for a long time.
It just slipped from my mouth and into the cool November air. At that instant, all stopped moving around me and this man who walked with a limp, carrying a cane and vet status. He shared his story and we talked. And talked. What I know is words absolutely have healing power. And, the storehouse of the heart is big enough to hold, preserve and share joy whenever needed.
After I left Campus Martius soul-cleansed, I was still early for the meetup with my nephew. So I drove along Lafayette Boulevard to take a quick look at the primary school my daughter attended while we lived in the Eastern Market. When I made a u-turn in front of Chrysler Elementary School, I caught a flash of blue.
“Capital A. U-G-I-E”
That’s how he spelled his name when I asked him if he consented to let me take his photograph. He did not hesitate. When I asked where he was headed, I knew his answer: “Downtown.”
My brief and enjoyable cheer with my nephew and one of his former colleagues was just what I needed after a long afternoon of reminiscing, making new friends, and exploring ‘home’ through another lens. Then it was on to a remarkable storytelling event.
Aint’ That A Trip? …when the camera lens introduces you to a new home sweet home