.journal 2023.11.11


.org.23: The Night is My Companion

Now listening to: David Helping and Jon Jenkins, The Crossing
Now reading: [REDACTED]
Now playing: Final Fantasy XIII (PC)

In the five-plus years I’ve lived in Wisconsin, one of the biggest changes that I’ve had to make is shedding the nocturnal tendencies of my earlier years. I always thought of myself as a night owl when I lived in Toledo, but once I arrived in Wisconsin in 2018 and had to teach classes that started at eight in the morning, I had no real problem with that. (The intervening months in Colorado were so tumultuous that I really didn’t notice my schedule there, apart from how messed up it was to watch some live television shows when it was still daylight there.) While no one would ever dare call me a morning person, the fact is that at this time of year, I’m usually waking up before sunrise, just to make sure I can shower and journal and do all the other things I need to do before I walk to campus and teach.

My “night owl” lifestyle in Toledo was, in retrospect, largely a function of necessity. When your bedroom window literally opens up on I-475, finding the quiet for reading and writing isn’t always the easiest thing. I can’t begin to count the nights I stayed up until two in the morning in my final years living in Toledo, typing away at my keyboard to the sound of crickets and just the occasional passing vehicle in the highway just past our backyard. (One thing I do miss, though, is the shooshing sound of cars driving down the highway on a rainy spring or fall night. Given the number of YouTube videos dedicated to this sound, I can tell I’m far from the only person who is enamored with this sound, but it still strikes me as kind of odd.) It’s only really in these months around the winter solstice when I can really replicate that feeling here in Wisconsin, although if I want the sounds of light highway traffic to make it feel more authentic, I’m kind of stuck listening to those sounds from speakers.

I came to terms a long time ago with the fact that it’s probably for the best if I don’t go back to that property again. Even if I do end up visiting Toledo at some point in the future, I’ll probably go out of the way to avoid that place by at least half a mile in every direction. Between lingering issues from my earlier years, and a host of other concerns from the trivial to the profound, I think it’s best for that property, and the two houses I lived in there (before and after the 2001 fire), to be places I visit mentally, not physically, even as nostalgia punches me in the gut every time a social media service reminds me of a photo I took there back in the day.

The problem is that even if I don’t want to go back there, I would still like the choice to go back there. I’ve changed a lot since I left Toledo, and I know I’m going to change some more, and maybe there will come a time when I feel like I want to step foot on that land again, to smell the dirt I used to play on, listen to the leaves of the trees rustle. I definitely wouldn’t want to do that now, but I could see myself wanting to go back there at some point, although getting back to Toledo in the first place still seems elusive to me.

I wasn’t about to go back to Toledo this past year. As I wrote last year’s anniversary .journal post, I was still in over my head with the events of the previous couple of months. Between my move to Platteville getting repeatedly sabotaged, having to teach on a new campus literally the day after I finally made the move, learning of Hedder’s passing, and then becoming deathly ill, all in a nineteen-day span in September, left me in a big hole when it came to my campus responsibilities that I needed the rest of the semester to dig out of. This past spring semester, I badly sprained my left knee less than a week into the term, and that created similar problems for me. I was too busy catching up on research this summer to think of taking any trips (let alone extended ones), and now I’m in the middle of teaching an overload this semester. My possible return to Toledo may still happen here, but it won’t be in the foreseeable future.

By the time I’m ready to make that trip, though, my old neighbourhood might not be there for me the way it was. While looking up stuff about Toledo this past summer, I learned that the property I called home for the vast majority of my life, the property I literally came home to after I was born, might not be private property for much longer. As Toledo has been trying to take care of its traffic problems over the past several years, they’ve been widening stretches of highways, and now many people in power have their sights set on adding lanes to the stretch of I-475 that was just outside my bedroom window. If that happens, then apparently it’s likely that all the properties on my side of the highway there will be seized by eminent domain, forever changing the complexion of that neighbourhood, and leaving me without a place to return to there.

I’m now in the last quarter of my forties, and I harbour no illusions about living to be old enough for whomever succeeds Al Roker to make some kind of announcement about it. I don’t want to make some kind of tortured allusion to beginning “the twilight of my life” or anything like that, but beyond the steady creep of the number of days behind me, what makes me feel older, maybe more than anything else, is losing the places that meant so much to me. I’ll never set foot in Thackeray’s Books or a Toys ‘R’ Us again, and a lot of other places from my earlier years that meant a lot to me have long since disappeared or just become unrecognizable. The thought that maybe I won’t even be able to step foot on the land of my first home ever again makes me wonder what more can change in however many years I have left on this planet.

Like I said, though, it feels like it’s for the best if that place now exists for me solely in my memories. Maybe I’ll feel differently about it eventually, but right now I’m too busy trying to live my life here in Wisconsin to really think too much about this whole thing. I can’t deny that it hurts when I think about it, though, and it makes me wonder what else is going to change by the time I come back here to write another one of these anniversary .journal entries on a chilly November night.

Everyone take care and be well. I will see you all soon.

— Sean