Monday, August 9, 2010

Home towns

The cycle of life is pretty clear. A seed sprouts, grows, bears fruit, dies. A person is born, grows up, has children, and eventually dies. This is not meant to be depressing; it is just the natural order. I was thinking about the parallels between the cycle of life and the lives of our cities and towns. Today, I was driving back from Chicago and passed through Gary, Indiana. Those of you who have driven through Gary know that the view from the highway is pretty bleak, dominated by smokestacks from the steel mills that now operate at reduced capacity. The city was born in the first decade of the 20th century, grew, thrived, and then spiraled into decline as the fortunes of the steel industry waned. Today, some progress is being made to revitalize the city, but it is slow and difficult.

It seems that cities, like living organisms, experience cycles of life. Sometimes when I drive through rundown parts of my home town, I try to imagine those neighborhoods shiny and new. I can imagine the optimistic excitement and happiness when those neighborhoods were born. People must have swept their porches and tended their yards. I imagine people greeting each other on the street as they walked their neighborhoods, and I can almost feel their satisfaction and pride. Today, it is unusual to see anyone outside at any time of day. More likely, I see the eerie blue glow from a television screen within.

Some of those neighborhoods are now in serious decay. How does this happen? Why? I don’t have any answers, but I think it is sad. Here is a short poem that I wrote a while ago about this situation in some parts of my home town; it is titled, logically enough, "Home Town."

Driving through the city, I see

       Burned out
               boarded up

       Burned out
               boarded up
Occupied by
       Burned out
              bored to death
In a
       Burned out
              boarded up

But once

These homes
      Gleamed with optimism
      And neatly trimmed lawns.

Happy new owners invested in
      New hopes and
      New beginnings in a
      A new home
      Like a new baby
      With a bright future.

Now a blight future

In the
      Burned out
             boarded up  
                            of my home town.
Today I am grateful to be back home again. I have been on the road for about 6 days -- I was home from LA for only about 16 hours before I had to leave for Chicago. Happy to be home, tired to the bone.

No comments:

Post a Comment