"Let to-morrow take care of to-morrow, Leave things of the future to fate; What's the use to anticipate sorrow? Life's troubles come never too late."
--Lawrence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy
Saturday, I was a presenter at a health care conference in Pittsburgh. That's a cross-state trip for me, so it makes for a grueling day. This time, though, I saw it as a opportunity to do something I've thinking about. I haven't been back to my home town in 12 years. Perhaps that's not terribly long, but since I'm 36, it represents a third of my life.
Johnstown, Pennsylvania lies in the Allegheny Mountains east of Pittsburgh. It a coal and steel town, whose macabre claim to fame is the famous 1889 Johnstown Flood (more on that in a future post).
After leaving the conference at 2:00 P.M., I headed east back into the mountains I had crossed that morning. My first stop was the town of St. Michael, which was the location of the hunting and fishing club where the likes of the Carnegies and Mellons vacationed. It was their private lake which emptied in 1889 and wiped out the city of Johnstown.
This town is also featured in my work in progress, The Backwards Path, and I wanted to collect pictures and video of the town to keep that part of the story well grounded.
Continuing south, I visited my old neighborhood. So strange. Part of me flickered to those lost years (like when I thought for a moment I was driving my dad's car), but most of me felt foreign on those streets. It bothered me how few details I remembered of places I drove hundreds of times. I suppose the immediacy of place crumbles no matter how hard our brains try to clutch it.
After visiting downtown, I wound up Millcreek Road to the hilltops overlooking the valley. Grandview Cemetery is located on one of those vistas, and I'll be sharing pictures from there too. But my destination was Brownstown, where my grandparents lived and my mother grew up. Here is a typical view of one of these valley towns.
My grandmother's old house was in a disturbing state of disrepair. As you can see, the shingles are rotting off. Trash is piled around, and the garage my grandfather built looks abandoned. The paved driveway is now more cracks and grass than asphalt. Very sad. You know, I still dream of this house (as I wrote in one of my very first posts.)
So what did I find on my trip to the past? Pieces of myself were scattered in the shadows, and the stranger behind the wheel needed to find them. The long, dark hours on the highway stretch on, and I often pull together the many reflections of myself when I drive in silence. But despite all that I remember, bits of strength were left behind in my rush to leave this place twelve years ago. I'm glad to have some of those pieces back again.