Three months seem just like last week, and yesterday appears to be like an hour ago. But that is all in Chronos time, where one event leads to the other in a linear succession and into a projected future that must unavoidably surrender into the present. Kairos time, on the other hand, speaks of an opening, a rupture, when and where the cosmos sets the stage for an unusual occurrence to manifest itself. Looking down from above on the delayed Delta flight that takes me from Detroit to New York City, I wonder about creative acts as existing outside the constraints of hours, minutes, months and messed up airport schedules, and instead putting us in touch with the timeless essence within ourselves. As my departure from Albion approaches, I labor nonstop to complete a series of tasks: emptying garbage, recycling bottles and cans, and returning personal items and library books. My intention is to say goodbye and thank the bed that has allowed me to rest, the kitchen where I have been able to prepare healthy meals, the dining room where I have been writing this column, and on and on. Luckily, some of the more mechanical errands are disrupted by last minute chance encounters with those I have been corresponding with in town. The balance between the two feels wholesome as the clock ticks and my heart expands and contracts in the process of distilling emotions. I let sadness exist without attempting to push it aside. A string of sensations comes and goes. I act as the observer, a friendly witness. All is good.
Loretta Crespo, Erin Donahue and her three children stop by Cass St. to pick me up on Friday. It is the feast of Saint Nicholas and we all head to Dormition Orthodox Monastery in Rives Junction. Lunch follows the service and then, before leaving, my guests visit the shop. I walk outside catching the few rays of sun that manage to pierce the clouds. Michigan weather. Sunny. Cloudy. Cold. The sun reappears. Congregants get in their cars to return home and this is when young Will Donahue appears holding a small see-through package. It is a necklace with a red plastic cross that he offers to me as a gift and which matches my red boots. Tears surface in my eyes. I become aware of a Kairos rupture, a holy second, broken by a thank you to this very thoughtful person. Saturday is mostly marked by packing and keeping in mind the 50 pound maximum that Delta imposes on luggage. Forget about my carry on and backpack, they are filling to the brim with chocolate covered pretzels from Deb Meyers, a plaid jacket made by Susan Heisler and a healing oil essence mixed for me by Melissa Meszaros. I hang the red plastic cross on my neck so Delta cannot argue that this constitutes another carry on, which is not allowed. Later in the afternoon there is a gathering at Leslie and Wes Dick’s home on Michigan Avenue. The occasion is the closing of their seminar Albion and the American Dream. Homemade cookies and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream are served because of Robert Holland Jr.’s involvement with this company and his connection to Albion. Wes reads Robert’s poem “Time, Values and Ice Cream,” the one that caught the attention of Ben and Jerry’s and led Robert to become their CEO. All of this happened through a contest. The fact is that during segregation, African Americans could buy ice cream at Albion’s Sullivan’s and have it outside, but not sit in the ice cream parlor. The conversation with Wes and Leslie gets more and more interesting by the minute. Towards the end of the afternoon, I have to tear myself from the Dick’s home to meet my next appointment. One more sunset in Albion; another Kairos disruption to clock time.
Octavia Crawford Turner and I convene at Stirling, the place I call Albion’s main square. Coffee, tea, and reflections on life and death are just a short ride from Goodrich Chapel to hear Christmas carols. I see the photos that Octavia takes of neighbors and me as an opportunity to stop and become closer with them in the now, and less so as a memento mori of my passage through town. I am grateful for this excuse to inhabit a communal heartbeat with good people. Saturday morphs into Sunday so seamlessly. Juanita Solís Kidder picks me up in the morning to attend mass at Holy Ascension. Michael Willet surprises me at the church. He has come to say goodbye by sitting with me during the service. The three of us, Juanita, Michael and I, watch children in the community take an active role. Three boys, including Caleb, ring the bells. I get nourished through the beauty that enters my sight and inhale a copious amount of incense. Lunch at church, after mass, invigorates me with love, avocadoes, tortillas, bread and soup. I am happy to be surrounded by new friends: John, Amalia, Stephanie, Peter, Nathan, Ryan, Matushka, May, Lou, Father Evangelos and Father Joshua. Toddler Daniel eats a banana with such gusto that I can taste it by proxy. Monday comes so quickly. I return most of the items I have borrowed from the town to the location they came from. I run to place the five bricks I gathered from the site of a derelict factory to where I encountered them and set on the grass, in my backyard on Cass, the bird’s nest I found on a sidewalk on I-94. My aim is to embrace art as a process that generates less and less artifacts and instead helps me experience life deeper. Michael Dixon kindly drives me to the Detroit airport late Monday morning. A hug at the end of our trip.
The Bronx is rainy the evening I arrive home from Detroit by plane, bus and subway. I want to turn right around and head back to Albion. Tuesday and Wednesday go to unpacking. Thursday morning I connect with artist Marsi Parker Darwin over the telephone to talk about Albion. We are unable to meet in person in town, but chat across states. I learn that Marsi went to Albion College and was a librarian there. She came to Albion from Texas, as a teenager, and felt welcomed by the town and its peoples. She now lives in Waterloo yet remains in touch with the community through the E.L.T. club, which began in 1890 as a women’s literary and cultural group. Thursday afternoon I step out into my wacky and beloved Bronx! As usual, I search for wisdom in the streets of the Boogie Down and I do not have to wait long. “Do not ride faster than an angel can fly,” says a large memorial mural to Nelson. I slow my pace. The Bronx keeps changing so fast, though. If the fires of the ’70s and ’80s and the city’s blatant neglect for our borough erased whole neighborhoods block by block, the recent surge in construction is certainly inserting new narratives and effacing older ones. Double Discount department store, gone. The second-hand fridge and stove place, gone. Buildings seem to pop up from the Hub to Longwood overnight, in Kairos timelessness, but not really. “Just do it,” reads a sign on the left leg of a woman’s legging. Pink and blue wigs are on display in FOREVER’s window. They are topped by outlandish tiaras a foot high. Only in the Bronx. John Ahearn’s and Rigoberto Torres’s sculptures of neighbors have been freshly painted and hung up high on the side of a building on Banana Kelly Street, where they were fading for quite a long while. Saints of the hood. Car mechanics as angels. Lunch specials for 9 bucks. Underwear on a table by the corner of Southern Boulevard and Hunts Point Avenue $1 a piece. High heels with no heels, and men’s shoes of every conceivable color for $10 a pair. Poets are usually commonplace in the Bronx, but this time I can’t find one face to face. Their stanzas are however written everywhere I go: “Deli 24 hours.” “In Memory of Joey.” Street preachers attempt to scare passersby like me on Southern Boulevard about the upcoming doomsday. Not many listen because, even with all of its many shortcomings, greedy gentrification, economic disparity, and ecoracism, my neighbors are trying hard to make this heaven on Earth. In this mélange of sounds coming from peddlers, loudspeakers, and cars honking, I replay Wes Dick’s story in my head as to how after the first 60 plus African American men arrived from the South to work in Albion, the place would never be the same. This is due to the richness that their presence continues to bring forth. I, on the other hand will never be the same after being in Albion for three months, because of the great extent to which this amazing town has changed me forever. And it all happened in a Kairos instant.
I thank all of the cherubs that, while living far from town, hovered over me while I walked through Albion: David Hinkle, Rafael Emilio Céspedes, Miguel Raful, Maggie Ens, Rory Golden, Linda Mary Montano, Margarita María Raful Ovalles, Julie Davey, María Alós, Josefa Benedicta Ovalles Raful, Nicolás Estévez Espejo, and Jane Clarke. To hear the podcast of Albion Voices visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIDUjGeOT8E&feature=youtu.be