Joy to Sorrow and Back Again
Tonight while driving home, I passed through an area called the Orange Circle. It's a roundabout near where I live, marking Old Towne Orange. I remembered it's the second night of Hanukkah and I wanted to see the giant menorah they had lit, and make some pictures. If you know me, it's one of my favorite places to hang out. In the center is a fountain, surrounded by trees, benches, old buildings, and it's a great place just to sit and people watch. I've spent many warm days and nights out there.
As I was parking and crossing the street, I was realizing it had actually been a long time since I had just been out here to relax. What was sort of a daily place for me, I don't come that often. I've been busy with other things, but honestly, there's another reason I don't go as often. What was a favorite place for me has also become sort of a bummer to be at. I was wondering if other people had places or something that they once enjoyed, but currently avoid?
It Hurts, I Don't Want to Go
What happened with me and the Orange Circle? This may sound stupid, but it became a place of loneliness for me and there are happy people there. Years ago, I stopped there one time to try and photograph a full moon shining just above a flag pole in the center. What was intended to be a 10 minute stop turned into a couple hours. As I was photographing, I could here people talking loudly near the fountain and so I went to check it out. It was a group of homeless people making fun of eachother. One of them made eye contact with me and offered to do a magic trick with cards, and I watched. They smelled of alcohol, cussed at each other, but they talked to me. I learned that they were veterans, some of which were in Vietnam. They each told some stories and I felt in with them.
On other occasions, always going with the intention to be alone and relax, I would meet street musicians, weird hippy folk, and I'd get to meet interesting people. Soon we learned names and the Orange Circle became a place to meet without plans, and be known. Occasionally there would be a meal at Watsons Drugstore/Soda Fountain, dating back to 1899.
Then, time passed. Some of the homeless people I knew, Magic-Man Robert, Rodney, John the Greek, they died. Many of the homeless people had been run out. Even some of the old businesses had been converted to swanky new restaurants. As cool as they are, it changed the place to become more popular, aka. gentrified. Even Watson's Drugstore and Soda is gone. I would continue to go, but more often than not, I would sit alone while couples, young and old, would sit or pass by. They looked happy, which seemed lovely before, but now it reminds me that I am alone. My friends are either gone or dead, so I decided I didn't want to be reminded that old times are gone. I avoid the Orange Circle.
All of this rushed to mind as I crossed the street. I was thinking how I avoid the place, simply because it hurts to go anymore. And I wondered if other people go through this. Maybe at Christmas, it used to be a time of joy, but now it's a sour reminder of people who are no longer here, or just time had passed and the present doesn't compare to them olden days.
Remembering I was here to photograph the menorah, I was reminded of the Hanukkah story. Usually it's told from a perspective about the miracle with oil lasting eight days. But, really it's more about the Temple of God, how previously it had been under possession of the Greeks, but had been finally given back to the Jews. In some ways, dark days had passed, and the Jews were back in their home. I wondered how they felt, walking past the Temple, not allowed to enter because of the greeks. I wondered if they felt heart break and a lack of hope. What once was a center of joy, was now a symbol of defeat and shame.
But at Hanukkah, it's the Feast of Dedication, getting to rededicate the Temple to the Lord. The defeat from before was gone, and there was a new day at hand. A day of joy! It's called a Festival of Lights too. Some may disagree, but in some ways Hanukkah leads into Christmas. A new day dawns with Jesus.
As I stood there for a while, it hit me that I need to be here. It doesn't have to be a place of pain. It feels that way, but being there opens the opportunity for more life. Sure the old days were great, but I can't bring them back. I can look forward and be there. Just because others are happy doesn't mean I don't get to be happy. There's a fountain in the center and I've always viewed it as a place of refreshing. God has met me there many times, simply in just being with me. I could rededicate space for God...