From Mapping Home: Learning a new city, remembering the old. By Aleksandar Hemon
I returned to places I had known my whole life in order to capture details that had been blurred by excessive familiarity. I collected sensations and faces, smells and sights, fully internalizing Sarajevo’s architecture and its physiognomies. I gradually became aware that my interiority was inseperable from my exteriority, that the geography of my city was the geography of my soul. Physically and metaphysically, I was placed.
I’ve befriended many cities in my life, both large and small. Here’s to the more significant ones and how they’ve shaped me, for better or for worse.
Durango, Colorado; 1974. I learned that life goes on, even when people you love don’t. Snow and mountains are beautiful.
Denver, Colorado; 1979. I learned that roller coasters are therapeutic and that being there in spirit will just have to do.
Albuquerque, New Mexico; 1988. I learned that there’s nothing like cherry malts in a desert summer. A mother’s love cuts while it caresses and sisters are to cherish.
Seattle, Washington; 1995. Big, urban cities aren’t that scary. Rather, they’re like beautiful boys you fall in love and have affairs with. Cities are like people.
Aix-en-Provence, France; 1996. I learned that people are the same where ever you go. And that lavender fields smell good.
New York, New York; 1998. I learned that the world fascinates me. I can’t get enough of it.
Rome, Italy; 2005. I learned to never back down. And to drink grappa before noon at least once in your life.
Washington, DC; 2008. The city is an interface. I learned that Margaret Mead was right when she said: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Baltimore, MD; 2010. I learned that broken cities beget broken people beget broken cities. And that the East Coast hardwood forests are my favorite. Warm velvet night, seduce me.
Dublin, Ireland; 2012. I fell in love with the word “diaspora”. And discovered that one can come home to a place where one has never been.