Soaring through the night sky, adrift in her dreams, the seeker remembered. Childhood memories filled with laughter and joy; fond moments of quiet tenderness and being together. This is what supported her during her quest. Those loving, piercingly sweet memories sustained her when she felt alone and lost in her thoughts. Her desire to build new memories fueled her drive towards the future.

TarotHunter’s Salt Rounds:

  • Starting a new relationship while clinging to nostalgic memories of past ones can make things complicated.
  • Perhaps the seeds of a new relationship rest with childhood companions. Now might be a good time to reconnect with lost friends.
  • Are you trying to find your heart; to discover interests that could bring you joy? Perhaps a stroll down memory lane will aide you in that endeavor.

Joanna Powell Colbert recently wrote about becoming native to your place.  She pointed out that for many of us, we are still connected to our ancestral lands and need to be born again into this continent.  Joanna describes some of the work she has done to honor her Celtic ancestors and connect with this land.  That made me think about how and if I’m connected to this land.

I am the fifth generation of my family (on my mother’s side) to live in my neighborhood.  I’m the fourth generation born in NYC.  My great- great-grandfather fought in the Civil War as part of the Fighting 69th.  I have always felt an incredible connection to my neighborhood.  I stay there because of this connection.  It is my ancestral land.  My family’s origins may be in Ireland but I have no real connection to that land.  If we have distant relatives there, we’ve never been in touch.  I may love Irish mythology and music but I’m American.  To be more specific I am a New Yorker of Irish descent born and bred on the Westside of Manhattan.  Something about the concrete and grit of my NYC is embedded in my soul.  That’s what distresses me so much about how things have changed and how disconnected I now feel.

In many ways I took my neighborhood for granted.  I loved it and always felt things would stay the same (or at least roughly the same).  I loved wandering along the Hudson River and hang out on the worn, decrepit docks.  I spent hours in the local park roaming around in the back where I often stumbled across the detritus of drug use and other illegal activities but I was oblivious to this ugliness because the beauty of the park enthralled me.  It was a small oasis of green grass, flowers and trees amidst the tenements, industrial buildings and decaying waterfront.  My brother’s blood was shed on the Westside Highway.  My family was displace by a fire on 52nd Street and 10th Avenue that left us homeless and possession-less.  I grew up moving to different apartments all within a 3 block radius (in fact my current apartment is still within this area).  So how can I walk away?  How can I break those ties and just move on?  I can’t.

I’ve tried moving and although I do love my house in Orange County, it’s not home.  When I’ve visited other areas in New York State I can appreciate their beauty, enjoy the feel of the area, but I’ve never felt at home.  I’ve never felt the connection I’ve always felt to my own neighborhood.  I can still remember how I felt when riding down the helix towards the Lincoln Tunnel and seeing my neighborhood across the river.  That’s when I knew I was home.  I feel as though there are invisible bonds, cords, chains that connect me to this place.  It is woven into my spirit and leaving would be painful.  Unfortunately staying is becoming equally painful.

Much of what I remember from my childhood has been bulldozed out of existence and replace by trendy restaurants, expensive high rises and hipster bars.  The streets that were once filled with friends and acquaintances are now fill with throngs of young singles looking to party; to see and be seen.  It’s become a way station; a stop for twenty-somethings looking to hang out and have fun.  There are few families here and no real sense of community anymore.  It feels like a tourist destination and that breaks my heart.

Stores and residents that have been part of the fabric of the neighborhood for decades have been priced out and forced to move or go out of a business.  We were once a community that was self-sufficient.  Residents could make a decent living without needing to leave its boundaries.  We could shop for groceries, clothes and household goods all within a few blocks.  That’s all gone.  You can certainly find a good meal or place to drink but many of the small butchers, green grocers and variety stores are gone.  What is left tends to be pricey.  Most of the industries that were the lifeblood of the neighborhood have moved away too.

So what can you do when you are so connected to a place but it has changed so much that it doesn’t feel like home anymore?  I don’t know.  It’s part of the reason I tend to go on rants about transplants and the gentrification of NYC.  Both those things have made me obsolete in my home.  I’ve been outnumbered to the point that transplants feel they have the right to tell me what a “real New Yorker” is.

Tarot of Prague Page of Cups
It’s interesting – today I asked the Tarot “what do I need to think about right now?” and I drew the Page of Cups.  I have a feeling this card directly relates to this issue.  I need to take look at my emotional connection to my neighborhood and decide whether I want to hold onto those ties or if I need to find a way to allow myself to be emotionally open to connecting to a new place.  Or maybe they are mutually exclusive.  I may never feel the same emotional bond to a new place that I do to my birthplace but I can still establish roots and open my heart to loving a new place.  It’s almost like having a pet that dies.  I will always love the deceased pet but that doesn’t mean I can’t open my heart to a new one too.  It’s a lot to think about and I don’t have to make any final decisions but maybe I can start to be more open to the place where I live now and make some room in my heart for it.

 

For some reason this Biblical passage dashed through my mind when I saw this card, “When I was a child I spoke as a child I understood as a child I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things.”  I think that is a key aspect of this card’s message to me today.

Yesterday I strolled the streets of my neighborhood and realized I have become a ghost.  I am the ghost of Hell’s Kitchens past.  I walked for blocks and saw no one I knew (and the people I did see are not ones I want to know).  Half of the people I strolled passed were oblivious to their surroundings with their eyes glued to the screens of their smartphones as they texted or browsed the Internet or did whatever people do now rather than pay attention to what is going on around them.  These oblivious wonders tended to be dressed in trendy fashions and were apparently on their way to or departing from some local hip establishment.  It sickened me.

They have no knowledge, understanding or interest in the history of the place they choose to call home.  My family has lived in that area for generations.  They lived and died and laughed and cried there.  Their sweat helped keep the docks going and their lives were sacrificed protecting this nation.  I am so firmly rooted in the cement and dirt of that neighborhood that I don’t know if I could survive transplantation.  And much like the weeds and wild trees that sprout up in the cracks of sidewalks or among abandoned lots, I will endure the trampling and littering of this current crop of transplants.

Having said that, I also realize that no matter how long I manage to stay in my ancestral neighborhood it will never be what I remember as a child.  The true community that used to exist there is gone.  Most of the elders have died and their descendents have moved away.  Our tales are lost or mutated for someone else’s fictional tales about gangsters and criminal behavior.  I may be nostalgic for those old days but I do not romanticize them.  My neighborhood was rough, dirty, occasionally dangerous and bleak but I loved it.  I still yearn for it with every fiber of my being but those days are gone forever.

That doesn’t mean their influences are gone from my life.  That neighborhood, that time and those people helped form me and make me who I am today.  As long as I carry those memories, they live.  As long as I honor those people and that place, their essence lingers in the ether.  I just hope they are proud of who I am and what I’ve achieved in my live.  Our ghosts will still haunt the streets even if those currently residing there are oblivious to them.  But for me, right now, what I need to do to is honor their memories, keep their spirits alive but not get lost in the bitterness and anger that can occasionally overtake me when I roam these sidewalks.  I need to focus on the good and not get lost in the bad.

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