Personal News: November 2007 Archives

St. Augustine, the City


Spent some time yesterday visiting a Carmelite Community in St. Augustine. That was a wonderful experience. They meet in a house near the Mission of Nombre de Dios the site of which was where the first Mass was offered in the United States in 1565. In addition, the shrine of Our Lady of La Leche is there as well, and a number of other interesting buildings and memorials.

But overall, St. Augustine is a sad little city. It has a beautiful, small historical district, that is so overrun by commercial interests that it is hard to identify anything at all historical about the place. You walk by houses that are hundreds of years old and discover that they've been converted to sales areas for new age relics or bikinis or lingerie.

The Castillo de San Marcos, as a National Park site, is well maintained, well kept (as much as a building almost four hundred years old composed of local coquina can be. It marks a high point of any visit to the city. It overlooks Mantanzas bay and the Bridge of Lions which is under reconstruction now. But as for the rest, it's hard to believe that you're walking through an area of any great vintage--the concerns and the obvious plights--homeless, drug-addled, just plain vicious, are so evident and so numerous, that one is left with the sad recognition that this most historic of cities is in desperate need of God's mercy and help. It was more than a little sad.

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What Is Home?

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I have a curious experience every time I go to Virginia. If I'm driving, I count the states Northward on my journey as steps back into time (even though, technically speaking, I live in the state with the oldest continuously populated city in the Continental United States.) I note other things as well--the way Florida flora only gradually is replaced by more northern species so the net effect is that Georgia and South Carolina are more like Florida, and North Carolina and Virginia like more temperate states. I also note how drab (in comparison only) North Carolina is. It probably isn't drab at all, and that is part of my point. When I cross the border between NC and VA, no matter where it is that I cross it, the heavens open up and a choir of angels sings and light becomes light.

In short, for reasons I can't begin to fathom, Virginia is home. I wasn't born there, I did spend ten formative years there, but so did I in New York, Columbus, Ohio, and other places. Virginia has no claim geographically, chronologically, or otherwise to being home. And yet, it is.

I love Florida. If I can't live in Virginia, Florida is a fine second place, there is no other place I've lived outside of Virginia that I would return to. But Virginia is home. As much as I dislike some aspects of it--winter cold and D.C. traffic, and a certain surliness amongst people who are supposed to help you and a dampening (in the Northern Part of the state) of the tradition of Southern Hospitality and courtesy--still and all, Virginia is home. When I have to leave, it is deeply wrenching--worse, in some ways, than leaving family and friends. l

This time we drove throught a part of Virginia that wasn't even intimately familiar. My home was Northern Virginia and I was acquainted with most of Virginia down through tidewater. This time I drove up through Roanoke and the valley and ridge region. The autumn colors were magnificent. We stopped at natural bridge and the sense of home even there was profound. Even the rocks, folded, tilted, occasionally deformed by the processes that raised the Appalachians, even the rocks spoke of home and reminded me that I belonged in some deep, indeed unfathonable, way.

Have any of the rest of you had similar sorts of experiences with places? Have you happened upon any explanation of the phenomenon (outside of the concept of reincarnation, which I'm not particularly interested in considering at the present time)? I'd love to hear if this is a shared experience or merely the peculiarity of one individual.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Personal News category from November 2007.

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