I have made my way across water to this garden where a tall mast memorializes The Pride of Baltimore, an ambassador ship lost at sea in 1986. The city stands ghostlike across the harbor, Federal Hill behind me, the day a pointillism of gray light brightened by the outrageous red of burning-bushes, the poplars and birches and maples thinned now. Everything has quieted. Birds scratch and chatter just around my bench. A car bumps along the road. It’s all noise but not noise, the way a city inures or urges one into an insulating capsule even while present and a part of it with breath and commerce, gravel-shift underfoot on shared paths and sidewalks and roads, the murmurings of couples, a foghorn, a swinging door.
Here’s what I want to record, though: how I find my hand reaching out to shake another’s with whom I’ve had a passing conversation, like the waterman who taxied me over, my Baltimore Charon giving me back to my other life, even as we die in a way to this one; how I want to touch the shoulder of a friend I’ve met here, only an acquaintance, to be honest–to keep her, to pull her along to the realization of that potential friendship; the near-tears brought by a simple gift—or a big one like the art my photography tutor gave us—that are an expression of connection. I like to think it means something when lives converge, even briefly. I know some enhancement, some broadening of vision occurs. And the new and deepened and enduring friendships: these will follow wherever we go. These friends have given me in many ways the spirit of this town—geography and culture and food and character and shared presence.
The city wears a veil of fog today. Majestic and stocky and tough and kind. Not so secretive. Busy. Available. City of contradictions. My thanks, I say aloud to it like a prayer, for taking care of me, for inviting me in many ways to be a part of it, a happy borrower as I’ve wandered these old shores.