From my journal, thirty-one years ago almost to the day, after a long, grueling, awful winter:
“Finally, it SMELLS like spring. I can smell the green things pushing up from the earth. It’s still cold and windy, but the wind had that smell and a hint of the warmth that’s coming, delicious and fresh. I went for a walk on the ‘front porch’, across the Lorain – Carnegie bridge.” (This is a very high, long bridge extending over ‘the Flats’, the Cuyahoga River valley that cuts through Cleveland, Ohio, my hometown.) “I got halfway across and it smelled and felt so good that I just stood there, looking out over the flats, surveying my new domain and breathing in the wind, breathing in the spring, breathing in the future the wind is bringing to me. I had my coat open and I stuck my fingers through the crochet of my long, long scarf and I held my arms out and let it stream out behind me in the wind and I felt soooo good, so full of possibility.
Suddenly three cop cars came screeching to a stop, two from the west side and one from the east and six cops got out and I turned to look at them and one of them said, ‘Having trouble with your boyfriend?’
It was SO utterly different from what I was feeling and thinking that it took me fully five minutes of increasingly ludicrous-to-me questions to realize they thought I was going to jump! When I understood I started to laugh uncontrollably and I think that worried them even more and I said, ‘No, no, NO, I’m not depressed, I’m anything but depressed!’ and one of them said, ‘Then what are you doing?’ and I said, ‘I’m looking and breathing and thinking!’ and he said, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ and I said, ‘Look, I’m an artist and-‘ and he said, ‘Oh. Well, move on, then.’ And they got in their cars and went away as soon as I started walking, though one of them drove slowly for awhile, while they watched in the rearview mirror.”
Thirty-one years ago, I had just extricated myself from a bad situation by quitting school, giving back my hard-won scholarship to an art school whose administration I could not come to any agreement with (the school itself folded not too long afterwards). I had just moved into my first big studio with no idea how I would pay for my share of it, and though I didn’t know it, I had entered into one of the most expansive (if occasionally explosive) periods in my life. The ‘bridge incident’ was the demarcation point.
Walking back across that bridge afterwards, I only knew that I would never forget the story. I think of it now because during this past week I came to a realization about how thoroughly I am currently being misinterpreted, in an equally ludicrous-to-me manner, so much so as to include some exceedingly misdirected (and this time, offensive) policing.
Above all, though, all this week, during the quiet walks that are part of my commute, I’ve noticed that the air finally has that same spring smell, and I feel the same now as I did then: it’s carrying my future towards me. I’m excited.