And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
-from “Directive” by Robert Frost
Kodak moved my family to Rochester when I was in second grade so that my father could work on their disc film project. Kodak was the biggest employer in our city then, for a long time. The company has shaped so much of the character of Rochester. It’s a city that loves photography and film, and it’s even in the small things, like the way so many people grocery shop on Thursday nights because that was Kodak’s pay day–even now, when so few people work there anymore.
I love my city. I love the restaurants and theatres and art. I love the Genesee River running through it and Lake Ontario, our compass point to the north. I take Lucas to George Eastman’s house, now a museum, at least once a year for a lot of reasons, but partly because I want him to know that our town has had an impact on the world. When I drive home after being away, I love seeing the Kodak building there in our skyline. It has been painful to watch the company’s slow decline–people laid off, businesses sold off, buildings demolished. Months ago, I listened to Adam Frank’s take on the whole thing, and it stuck with me. He says, “But I have hope. From the vantage of my hometown we’re all in the midst of a profound transition.”
Right. Of course. We’re in transition in so many ways–all of us, all the time, whether we recognize it or not.
At the same time I listened to that report, some friends were discussing “Directive” by Robert Frost. (You can find the whole poem and an interesting meditation on its meaning here.) It’s a poem that warns the reader up front that the past may seem simpler, but it’s “made simple by the loss/Of detail.” Then Frost’s narrator revels in the details that remain of an abandoned and fallen village, imagining what might have been, knowing that he cannot know. Not really. He knows that what he’s doing is distracting himself from now. He “only has at heart your getting lost.”
Amid the transitions I’ve been making, I feel lost sometimes. I feel lost a lot of the time, actually, but not lost in that horrible way that makes you think you’re never going to get anywhere. It’s more like the way that sometimes I get in my car and drive with no destination in mind, just away, with the idea that I’ll find what I’m looking for.
A lot of times, it’s the lake.