The summer has finally come to an end. The train heads along through I town I once visited, in what seems like another lifetime. It must have only been a year or two but things have changed and moved so quickly. The first reds have started making their way down the deciduous trees, adding their colour to the last of the wildflowers. I think it’s common in these days of easy travel to yearn for exotic destinations and extensive travel but this landscape is still strange to me. Green fields are broken up by shrubs and tree windbreaks. Brick houses can occasionally be seen in the little towns we pass by. There are streams and hills, occasionally we skirt a lake, and I feel like the littlest hobo in the sun-faded scenery. Recently a friend posted pictures from their trip to Iowa and I was unexpectedly struck with homesickness for the prairies. There was a time when I hated driving by the canola fields and cattle, flat canvases punctuated by hay bales and mountains on the horizon. Enough time, little as it is, has passed that I can now begin to feel wistful, for rather than annoyed by, my home province.
I have finally passed a full summer in Montreal. It went by fast, wild, and busy. I can’t believe it’s over and I’m heartbroken to see it go. I have an unfortunate love for ephemeral things, flowers being the most obvious among them but also spring, autumn colours, intimate connections, and youth. I decided to finish this fast-paced season with a final challenge, my first tour. Of course, it wasn’t enough that I just take a bus to Toronto or Ottawa, and I still don’t miss Alberta or British Columbia enough yet to head that far west. My meeting and befriending the unstoppable Addy Finch seemed like a good reason to head to the US and join her for a trip to Chicago. Now it’s over and on this train home I write and mourn, adding the adventures and the discovery of a new and deep friendship, to the list of events that have taken place this brief summer. This week I will return to class, anchored again by some greater commitment other than my own whims. It’s hard not to feel claustrophobic shouldering these old expectations again.
I’ll confess to not seeing much of Chicago. It was a successful visit in terms of meeting new and wonderful people but this did not leave much time for sight seeing. If anything, my next visit to Chicago will be soon, if only that I may see all of the museums and sites that I missed. Chicago Institute of Art, I will visit you and I will visit you multiple times, that is a promise. Dreihaus Museum, you’re not forgotten either.
Not only do I have some site seeing in Chicago left to do, I did not nearly plan enough time for Detroit, a city for which I have always had a deep sense of curiousity. My brief time there only served to stoke this curiousity. Metro Detroit is an immediately arresting place, there is a lot there to grab the imagination and this is partially due to the diverse historical architecture. Coming from a young city, I’m always taken in by anything that looks like it was built before the 60’s. Detroit has amazing Art Deco skyscrapers, neo-classical edifices, Gothic Revival churches, post-modern contemporary buildings, all squished together in little clusters of anachronism. We drove by the Joe Louis fist as Addy recounted the history of Detroit and its fall, part historian, part tour guide, part expert insider. She took me to King’s Books where I was immediately swept up by the old and sometimes forgotten tomes of knowledge, made obsolete by time itself. We then headed to the Heidelburg Project, an artistic statement on blighted neighbourhoods. Strangely, the instalments elicited both feelings of melancholy and quiet optimism.
I wonder how many ghosts live in the abandon buildings that can be found throughout downtown. The empty structures sit, leering at you with broken windows and burnt out roofs, cognizant of the fact that they once used to be handsome, cutting edge, assured of long, profitable and inhabited futures. They are abandoned dreams and forgotten hope, left behind by time and memory. Who built them and what plans had they laid alongside those foundations? I found in Detroit a fascination that matched my expectations of the place. The old buildings of Detroit embody my fear and anxiety for the passage of time and my ill-fated love for impermanent things: everything dies. And even as these things die and decay, new things come along, another movement in the ebb and flow of life. Detroit has worked to heal itself and new dreams and communities have been forged out of the old. Nothing will bring the dreams of the original people and buildings back but new ones will be founded and perhaps founder in their turn. All I know is that I miss Addy, and I’ll have to go back soon.