This morning, I went on a little walk around my neighbourhood, examining it in the new season's icy-bright sun. I remember what it used to look like, ten years ago, so much more 'local'. I also thought about how much I have changed.
And it seemed to me for a moment that my life has consisted of a series of swimming exercises. Periods of life that had for their purpose the increase of my stamina, so that I would have the strength later to get to where I needed.
It was a morning of memories, on that walk. I thought a lot about Kenneth, my writing professor at college, who I dearly miss. I remember before I met him, being in Paris with some people I'd met at the Shakespeare and Company's Sunday teas, particularly the boy with a pierced nose, who mocked my poetry. And then meeting Kenneth the next year, who believed that anyone with an ear could become a poet, if they worked at it. I remembered all our dinners at Ollie's, a Chinese restaurant across the street from campus. It's funny how many intersections exist in our lives between our past and present: for me, the Chinese thread is of golden significance. And Kenneth, who was so much like my cosmopolitan father. Memories live in cultures and in foods, those special dishes, that don't exist anywhere else.
But what of those complicated cultures, that are spread out like octopi. Like, if I say, stuffed, pickled cabbage leaves, which culture do you think the dish belongs to? Or, stuffed peppers? Many cultures claim as their own the dishes that are contained within them all. Divisions emerge in this life of ours, hence the emergence of crossroads. I read today that Europe flourished after the middle ages precisely because it was divided. Of course, that is the "Europe" that was not occupied by the Turks.
It is curious where we decide to draw the lines. What I try to teach my students is that we should never take those lines for granted; they are not set in stone. And our lives are a line - the line we are drawing for ourselves across the unlined oceans. My line has something to do with the crossroads between East and West, something to do with finding one's own voice à l'Amérique, but also trying to figure out what it means to be local, and part of a much greater whole.
But what I also say to my students is this: look for what is precious to you, become aware of it, and respect it in your work. One of the things Kenneth did that was so amazing was to bring poems by Blake and Herrick into elementary school classrooms, and make them accessible, by asking children to address the nature, animals and colours around them. Those poems, then, were not relegated to the dusty canon, but became real and accessible.
What do we want of our traditions to become real and accessible? It is time to bring our best out of our closets. What will you bring forth, to this journey of life, as we swim across oceans, on imaginary lines?

 Elements: minitoko; aramisdream.