My run this morning was exhilarating and extraordinary. I ran for 2 hours. A number of times I stopped and gawked.
The street above is where I’m staying, a house built in 1850. Being here is an experience at once primal, emotional, sentimental, and spiritual.
Pervasive spirit of revolutionary history follows my path through Independence Park and the elegant building where our Constitution was passionately debated, fought and ultimately born, past the charming brick house where, on the 2nd floor, Thomas Jefferson dipped his quill pen and penned the words, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, the tavern where the founding fathers hung out, drank beer and continued their unparalleled techniques of persuasion. (By the way, the City Tavern is still in operation and serving some of the same foods and wines from those philosophic days), past the Philosophical Society Ben Franklin got going where I would give anything to have been for just one night of conversation, the cobblestone streets where they walked, the boot scrapers by their front doors where the thick Philadelphia mud came off before going inside.
Even more recent history. I lived in or around the city for the first half of my life. My roots here go deep. Every corner’s a vivid memory, a passion, an intense experience.
My first apartment, my first summer job, a corner where I was kissed, the streets my college roommate and I walked during our endless intimate “walk and talk” rambles, my first fancy restaurant with enormously polite waiters, the cavernous library with polished marble stairs where I spent hours choosing books to take home, a coffee shop open all night where a friend and I often stayed till 4:00 in the morning deconstructing everything important in our lives…
This city is deep in my bones.
And then there’s my family. Someone asked me where I was going for the holidays and I said, “I’m going home.” They looked surprised and said, “I thought you lived in California.” I thought about why those exact words escaped my lips and recognized the fabulous primitive sensation that erupts when I’m coming here to be with my family. I’m going home. Home. Even the plane ride feels different when it’s headed for home.
Being here I’m overcome by my indescribably potent love for my family, a love like no other. My small, tight-knit family, distinguished by depth of character, raucous conversations, impassioned arguments, uncompromising refusals to compromise, fierce love and and even fiercer loyalty, has lost its immortal elders and is now my sister, Justine, and her 17-year old son, Gabriel, and I. We hold on tight, the unique character and passion of our Gudenas nature undiminished. As Gabriel says, it’s a bond of love that could never be broken, no matter what, a bond that resides, as Justine says, in the marrow of our bones.
I’m sitting here writing, watching handsome Gabriel chop onions and Justine gets ready for our traditional Lithuanian Christmas Eve dinner called Kūčios. An ordinary family moment, yet swimming in a soul-satisfying primal sense of truly belonging, profoundly rich, bursting with love and a spiritual beauty that brings tears to my eyes.
May your holidays feed your deepest soul.