I was in her city
She was not there
or so I thought.
Saturday, I participated in a photo walk. Held semi-annually in the spring and fall, Bija, a Buddhist teacher from Still Point Zen Temple in Detroit, leads us through the Woodbridge neighborhood of Detroit, south of Wayne State University campus, armed with cameras to capture images of our world. It is, for me, a meditation. Sitting on the cushion, mindful of breath and the current of thoughts flowing through my mind is one way I meditate. This photo walk, and when I isolate images of the instant through photography in general, I find myself in that same, silent space. Aware of my surroundings, my chatting mind goes silent and I see the world differently.
Saturday was a beautiful day in Detroit. Sun and a moderate temperature where a t-shirt and light jacket was perfect attire. And as I had in the previous Buddhist photo walks I’ve taken, a number of interesting images were captured. These are but a few:
It was around 3:30 when we returned to the abbey. We flipped through our photos and added a few more from within the Buddhist temple.
Upon leaving, I felt calm and centered. On such a beautiful day, I didn’t want the feeling to end. I considered parking the car downtown then move about the city to shoot more images. But something didn’t feel right about it. It would have felt forced, almost touristy. Instead, my attention shifted to the book launch of my novel in a couple of days. My first published novel. But not my first published book. And the subject of the first book guided me.
On August 14, 2004, the book launch for Down Through the Years: The Memoirs of Detroit City Council President Emeritus Erma Henderson took place at the Detroit Public Library’s main branch. The five years leading up to this monumental moment passed too quickly. My only regret being that I was too busy with job, law school, and recording, researching and writing Erma’s story to journal my own observations and insights along the way. One of the things I did recall was Erma’s love of Belle Isle. This became my destination.
I had been on Belle Isle only two times previously: once when Erma asked me to drive her around the island in the early part of this century and once for the launch of an anthology which included three of my shorter pieces at the Detroit Yacht Club during a blizzard in February of this year. This would be my first solo adventure, and it did not disappoint.
I stopped at several points along the island where I then stepped out and took in the view. Like Erma and others have told me before, Belle Isle is a gem, with spectacular views of the Detroit and Windsor skylines and the glistening water, sparkling like a river of diamonds. I’d take a photo or two, then take in the sounds and sights silently. It was just like I was back in time, when Erma was alive and I in her home. And across the river stood The Jeffersonian, where her apartment was on the south end of the 28th floor.
I wanted to go back up there, to her apartment, tell her about my novel, listen to her stories and the affirmations she’d want to plant in my head. To do so, however, would seriously confuse the current resident of that apartment. So I got as close as I could. Next to The Jeffersonian is the Erma L. Henderson Park & Marina, where I made the final stop on my day’s photo walk.
The walk through her park from my car out to the sign on Jefferson Avenue is when I told her about the novel. I knew if she were here she would have had one of her many friends read her all 475 pages. Then she’d share her thoughts with me about it. It would have been a fun conversation.
A theme in The Y in Life is how a person’s life can change when someone who had an influence on him is no longer there. Standing in the park, looking up to that 28th floor apartment, I understood how Erma’s trust in me to write her memoirs gave me the confidence in myself to write this novel. I helped her write her story; she helped me write mine.