Reclaiming What We Lost

Posted on 06 September 2012

I took this photo last weekend at the lakefront park that’s only a few minutes from my house on foot. Since I returned from Bread Loaf I have walked to this park almost every day to to see how very different the water and skyline look under sun or cloud or fog.

Before Peter and I moved in June, we lived near a much larger and more expansive park — a park I have since missed because it was right outside my door and it was where I spent hours every week. But now I’m getting to know this city park, and it’s growing on me day by day. It might be a little more crowded and a little less wild, but it has the lake, the skyline, the beach, the boats, the kites, the windsurfers and so much more. On my way there, sometimes I walk along the cliffside road the features huge, lake-facing houses with elaborate architecture, landscaping and sculpture gardens (yes, sculpture gardens). If you glance at the right window of almost any one of these houses, you will likely find a telescope pointed at the Cleveland skyline.

This park makes me feel connected to Cleveland through and through. Today, especially — because it’s the official publication date for Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology — I’m feeling the Cleveland love.

In either the print book or the expanded e-book version of this anthology, you’ll find several dozen pieces of writing that show just what Cleveland is made of. My contribution, “Crossing the Border,” is a personal essay detailing the first time I visited Cleveland. I was 21 years old and felt pretty lost. My mother had recently died, I was in the beginnings of a new relationship, and I had no permanent home. I drove to to Cleveland alone on a gray December day and found myself in a gritty, humble, but strong city — a place, I thought, where people survived.

Sadly, I’ll miss the anthology’s launch party on Tuesday because I’ll be out of town. But I will be reading my essay at the Market Garden Brewery reading series on Nov. 13. (And hey, it’s at a bar, so if people don’t like what I read, they can just drink up.)

For now, I’ll leave you with a very short excerpt from my essay:

I’d never undergone a real move before, so I didn’t know how to let go. I didn’t understand the burden that came from possessions, how they create their own form of stress. I saved things that, years later, I’d unearth and hold up with wonder and frustration. Why in the world, I’d think, would I save this? I know now that I wanted to hold on to everything, as if a stack of boxes could translate to reclaiming what I’d really lost.

As far as I know, my mother never set foot in Cleveland. But I can imagine her squinting out at the lake on a summer day, her hand raised to her forehead to shield the sun. I picture each of us driving back and forth across Pennsylvania to visit each other, and how she’d no doubt travel the road that was longer but more beautiful.

You can order this anthology here.

9 responses to Reclaiming What We Lost

  • Sarah W says:

    That’s a beautiful photo, Laura, and a beautiful excerpt. Life is too short to take the plainer roads.

    (now, where’s that bacon poem you promised? :) )

  • Downith says:

    I’m with Sarah, that is a beautiful excerpt Laura.

  • Averil Dean says:

    So lovely, and a completely understandable reaction to such a profound loss.

  • Lyra says:

    Beautiful excerpt. Your writing is so compelling. I have yet to read anything you’ve written and not wanted more. It’s like with your short stories. They are perfectly complete onto themselves and yet, I can’t wait for an entire long novel to sink my teeth into.
    Thank you for that.

  • Dawn. says:

    Lovely excerpt Laura, and congrats on finding a beautiful park nearby. That is always a priority for me.

  • This looks wonderful, Laura. As someone who is preparing to sell the house I built twenty years ago, I especially loved your excerpt. It really hits home. Lovely.

  • Felicity says:

    Lovely writing. So sorry you lost your mom so young but so glad you had one who took the scenic route. Her spirit lives on!

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