Hot or cold, black or white

July 13, 2011
Curly hair on a humid day by Jackie Ludtke

Summer in Rochester is heavy and thick,
the hot air smothering any spark of energy.
There’s hope in every hint of a cooling breeze,
but it’s dashed seconds later
when the air is again close and still.

You could bake muffins in the miasma.

“Isn’t the weather beautiful?” enthuse longtime Rochesterians,
reveling in summer’s contrast from winter snow and bitter, icy cold.

As a native myself but now a longtime northern Californian,
I want to say it isn’t. That I get somnolent in such stifling heat,
my head full of cotton wool; my brain sluggish and dull.

On Saturday, the summer chill of San Francisco cleared my head
and my brain cells did a smooth and cool rumba,
happy to be reactivated, vital and alive again.
Morning clouds hung low over the mountains,
waiting to be burned off by the sun,
leaving behind a cool, fresh July day.

It’s easier to think here.


Looking around my hometown last week,
a city that sits squarely in the Rust Belt,
I saw its struggle to regain relevance
in a world that’s left it behind.

The longtime linchpin of its economy, Eastman Kodak,
was still making film as the digital revolution zoomed by
on the information superhighway.
It’s now a shadow of its former self,
no longer even in the top two local employers.

Another homegrown company, Xerox, invented
then ignored the first personal computer.
Xerox has largely disappeared from its birthplace.

How did these once-successful companies fumble so badly?


Minds are smaller in my hometown, as well.
Fear drives way too much.
People and ideas different from the norm –the larger world, in general–
are often considered threatening.


Maybe where you are makes a difference in how you think.
Maybe, a place that’s either sweltering or freezing
puts brain cells in a state of suspended animation.
Maybe it’s just harder to think in a place like that.

I’ve been gone from Rochester almost 40 years now,
and I wonder what my life would have been like if I had never left.

It’s tempting to long for the simplicity
of a life lived
in either hot or cold
seeing only black or white.

But when I think it through,
I know it could have never held me.

I was propelled out and for good reason.

{The Universe has always given me what I’ve needed. It’s never let me down.
Even when I didn’t trust it.}

In taking me so far from my home
of origin, the Universe asked me to pull up my roots.
They may have been frayed and dirty,
but they were what I knew.

I’ve tried hard to hold on to a few stragglers,
but they were too thin to grasp and
I finally had to let go.

I won’t say it’s been easy.

But in return, the Universe has given
me so many other gifts that my heart is full from them.

I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

2 comments on “Hot or cold, black or white
  1. Alan says:

    How come every time I hear “Rochester” I think of Jack Benny? (I’m not that old though)

  2. Oh Alan, surely you must be that old if you know Rochester. ROTFL

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