A sort of homecoming

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Essex ferry across Lake Champlain to Burlington, Vermont, May 2009. Photo by Eric Francis.

I began the life I am living in 1983, when I left a summer job that August at age 19. I got in my car in Silver Bay, NY on Lake George, ready for the long drive to Buffalo. Without knowing quite how, I had resolved to take over student politics and publishing. This was perhaps a bit ambitious given that it’s the largest public university in New York State, but I felt a calling. That was at the beginning of my junior year, a very good year when I lived in Goodyear Hall.

My girlfriend that summer was Mary Liz Austin, who was also an ‘emp’ at Silver Bay Association, an old Christian conference center. As I got in my car to drive off, she said, “I hope you find God soon.”

I never put this together until last week, but the landscape of the Lake George region and Vermont were places that I knew only before shifting my emphasis from experience to creative achievement. Over several summers, I had crisscrossed that little part of the world on my bicycle, with friends and solo, cultivating a relationship to the Earth, to my own sense of autonomy and to rural communities entirely unlike where I had grown up in New York City.

On Friday morning, May 1, I finished Planet Waves, packed my car and headed in that direction, up the New York Thruway to the Adirondack Northway, toward an encounter the next evening in Burlington, Vermont. When I returned to that land I felt the vague presence of the self I had been, seemingly in another lifetime. This presence is still with me – that person is starting to wake up.

As for who I was en route to meet that day: starting around September 2008, I had been corresponding with a reader named Fabienne, who lived in Montreal. I loved her energy and her writing, and without knowing anything more about her, I proposed that we meet somewhere between our two locales the first weekend in May. Burlington was close to her and someplace I was curious about.

When we spoke for the first time a few days before meeting, Fabienne related a dream she’d had recently which basically involved a remote viewing experience of my studio and neighborhood, down to certain precise details that I’ve never photographed. It is difficult to relate another person’s dream, and my understanding was that a kind of initiation or transformational process was involved. This, she said, indicated to her an opening to get together. Mainly it was the feeling of the dream, which she implied is the most trustworthy aspect.

In that conversation I also learned that she was 23, that she was heading for graduate work in art criticism, that she had a boyfriend, and that she felt it was meaningful enough to make the trip to seek his cooperation and support.

I think it’s fair to say that we both felt we held a piece of the puzzle for one another. I assumed from the fact that she was in a relationship that we would not be lovers. Yet her energy was wide open and she seemed to have read dozens of articles in Book of Blue, and from her feedback both on the writing and the experiences they conveyed, I was confident she understood something about my journey. She said out loud that she trusted my sexual boundaries – a deeply gratifying thing to hear from an intelligent, beautiful young woman whom I had never met.

That she had a lover placed her in the role of my chosen teachers – women who were sexually active with another man, and also fully aware of my erotic journey. The core idea here was about not necessarily being lovers in the physical sense, and not shutting down creative awareness, either. Intuitively I knew we would find the space we needed to find.

Covering the landscape on the way to Burlington opened up many pockets of memory that had long hidden quietly, veiled by numerous intense experiences in the succeeding decades. Realizing it was 2009 and I had last been there in 1983, I felt the passage of time, indeed more than half of my lifetime so far.

Then a new hologram of emotion and memory opened up when I visited a town called Bolton Landing, on Lake George and had lunch. I got back on the road and an hour later I was at the Essex Ferry, which leads across Lake Champlain to Burlington.

(Posted at Book of Blue)

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