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Worlds Within

There comes a point and time when you’ve walked, lived, worked and breathed in a place so long that it becomes a part of you, right down to the bone, marrow and blood flowing in your veins.

As I write this I’ve lived in or at least close to a little town called Lowell, MI for 36 years. I’ll be the first to admit that I never envisioned living my life in the same place where I grew up. I had plans to jet set and travel and be anywhere but here. And I was able to do that for a time in my early twenties, touring the mainland states as a guitarist and even getting to travel to Brazil and Australia, all in the whirlwind span of two and a half years.

It wasn’t long though before I felt a certain compulsion, something missing that pulled me right back into the place where I’d built my life. I needed a tribe. A community of people that I could rely on. A locale that is truly special and unusual, and while not always idyllic or perfect, a place to call home.

Fast forward to today, and my wife and I are raising our family here in this town. My kids are growing up walking the river, seeing the showboat change its lights each season, and driving down the same main street each day that floods my memory with still frame snapshots through the seasons, years, and decades.

On a crisp morning just last week, I went on an impromptu 5am run downtown Lowell after a chaotic night of sleep as happens with three young children, and my wife called dibs on the treadmill. I drove down and parked at the Methodist Church, hopped out and started off with no particular route in mind and started west down main street. Turning north down Alden Nash I realized I’d forgotten my gloves and powered through wishing my hands would go comfortably numb in Pink Floyd fashion, but the cold seemed intent on prying my thumbnails clean off.

I turned right, heading down the dim lit sidewalks of riverside drive back toward main street. It was then that an iconic scenescape came into view. The red retro ‘Lowell Light and Power’ sign glowed brilliant in the early morning dark, the street forking off right toward the Post Office and left heading straight toward main and leading to the towering ‘King Milling' grain facilities, the beacon sign of the KING moniker shining in the early dark.

To distract myself further from the undue distress of my freezing hands compounded by my natural poor circulation, I focused on the ‘what ifs’, as the story fiend and writer in me I often does.

What if beneath ‘Lowell Light and Power’ there was a network of subterranean forgotten tunnels, holding hidden truths of some secret society long forgotten?

What if, within the newest construction of King Milling, a government agency was stationed there watching and combating paranatural anomalies that spring up along a certain mysterious leyline that Lowell happens to be built upon?

Yes indeed. There are worlds within Lowell. There are worlds within the place that you love. Maybe not so different from the Hawkins IN of Stranger Things, hopefully less the demogorgons running amuck. Idyllic December snowfalls with Christmas lights casting warm luminescence from frosted storefront windows this town might conjure the essence of Stars Hallow of Gilmore Girls fame.

Recently, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon that points to just how deeply my town is embedded in my mind. Synesthesia manifests in a multitude of ways as sensory processes crossover. Some people ‘taste’ words, (which could be quite unfortunate for an avid reader, depending on what content your consuming) or ‘feel’ sounds in tangible ways.

My own synesthesia has historically manifested most with music--notes and chords in living color as I play or even listen. While it’s never been a true one to one color coding system that allows for a sort of perfect pitch facsimile, it comes close some days. What it does is give me a clearer picture of the temperature and emotion of a song, chord sequence, or melody.

Then about three years ago, something peculiar started happening. I had taken to reading fiction more frequently and in a volume that I never had before, which paired with me beginning to write again. What took me off guard most about this was the way certain images of streets, landmarks, and places from my childhood in Lowell would populate in my mind as I read certain scenes in these books. There was no direct logical correlation that I could see whatsoever.

Sections of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn recalled the steep uphill drive of north division street, heading to my grandmother’s old place up on Shepherd Dr. Another book about warring Vikings and long dead gods brought to mind images of the old Lowell fairgrounds. (I’ve never attended annual the renaissance fair that takes place there, but as I think about it now perhaps there was an unconscious thread being tugged on there)

Over and over, tangential snapshots of my childhood would fly into view out from the clear blue of my imagination. I started to wonder why this was. Why would my mind conjure such seemingly random images as I entered fantastical worlds of my seemingly plain and quaint little hometown?

Then it hit me.

Scenes and moments from stories of all kinds bring to mind pieces of Lowell because it’s where I’ve lived my story, and where I continue to write it—both the story of my life and the stories I want to tell through prose.

Somewhere in the far recesses of my subconsciousness and the backroom storage of my cognitive records lie scenes and moments from throughout my thirty-five years of living, each of them with an inextricable resonance to the emotions and sensations that there are often times no words to capture. They are roused back to the fore of my mind when I read or watch or see an iconic moment play out through the lens of a story that aligns with both inconsequential and world shaking shifts I’ve gone through.

Nearly every high and low feeling I’ve experienced in my life has transpired within the few square miles that comprise Lowell, MI. For some that might be a depressing reality that comes with pangs of regret. For myself, I can only ever seem to muster up gratitude that amidst the upheaval that life so often brings, there’s been a constancy in the place where I lay my head and a town I can call my own. One which has seemingly bred for me an emotional visual encyclopedia that I’m able to draw upon for inspiration as well as investigation into the pathos of my life, that I can then distill and infuse into writing, which happens to double as further personal catharsis.

The truth is there are entire worlds that live here within Lowell, and wherever you might call home. Collective experiences and a confluence of memories running like the Flat River, leading to a well of dreams and imaginings of those who have lived and live here now. Each one of them with those invisible resonant ties that bind to remembrance and the metaphysical chemical processes of the body, mind and even the soul.

I know now more than ever that this town is as much a part of me as anything ever has been. There’s a wealth of well lived stories embedded here on these streets, and endless of halls of memory. Next time you think the place where you live is a town of little consequence or a city that has swallowed you and everyone up into benign and unknown populace, look for the hidden things you thought you had forgotten, and the living stories.

In fact there are worlds within, built by you and me.

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