I visited my hometown, Toledo, this weekend for a 48 hour whirlwind celebration of my dear Nannie's 90th birthday. Visits home have always seeped in nostalgia for me. I tend to remember the 'old days', when in retrospect, I seemed carefree; problems were scant and life plans were allowed to just be pipe-dreams. I left Toledo (for the second time) after ending a long relationship and being laid off six years ago. The city was in a depression: doors were closing, businesses were shrinking, and citizens' attitudes reflected the decline. Since I've left, I've often referred to Toledo as 'Detroit's runoff' with a sardonic 'I'm so glad I got out of there' attitude. It was cast as a place of 'endings' in my book.
I've been buried in a gloomy hole bleeding death and loss for the past seven months. Seeing light is desperately hard. But the past few days, I was confronted with life and growth from the most unexpected place. Toledo taught me a lesson.
I saw a city that is healing her wounds. Doors of closed businesses downtown are opening up as juice bars and trendy condos. Conscious options are popping up next to the Del Tacos and McDonald's. I visited three yoga studios and was delighted by the powerful teachers, thoughtful sequences, and jam-packed classes. Waistlines are shrinking, consciousness is expanding, and smokers are quitting.
Beyond the city herself blossoming after a long, cold winter – I saw life in her people. While death may mysteriously and unabashedly take too soon... sometimes he is patient. He holds off – allowing many to think sharply, move healthily, and breathe longer. My grandmother was surrounded by more members of our family then ever. So much growth has taken place: a new era of young life has sprung from my generation (the ones I still think of as 'the kids'). Babies are growing, crawling, and discovering. Children are playfully coming into their own. Young boys are becoming men who look like their fathers. I was reminded of long-time friendships that continue to sparkle and swell. I was touched by new connections and possibility. I was grateful for bittersweet conversation, laughter, tears of remembrance, and support.
Toledo's forecast is often grey and cloudy. But this past weekend, her sun shined warm and her sky was blue. She dazzled as a reminder of the 'little engine that could'. When one is thrashed into the pit of suffering, she is often blinded from hope. The cycles of life/death, beginning/endings, and growth/decline are infinite and as old as time. But without darkness there is no way to see light. The light crept in from under the crack of the door of the most unforeseen place. Thank you, Toledo.