One High Place

You find out what your life’s missing, when you travel. Up ahead there’s a road, that leads to a place that can really open you up. You don’t have to do any self-examination. It’s simple; what’s revealed is what you don’t possess.

If you enjoy reading, then you know when you read, you go places. Sometimes this grows beyond escapism; a part of you is actually planning ahead, envisioning a more comforting place to be. Not just for your imagination to settle in, but for your body, too. One day.

That I believe to be true.

When we daydream, we’re transported in a similar way. Books, daydreams, live theater, movies– these activities lead to one destination: We’re on to a better place. We’re moving in a certain way, by non-physical means, until we find another means. Or until we give up. We can say, we’re traveling to a place worthy of our time.

Consider this. When treetops look like transformed mountains from superior dreams, you could ask, if I made my way towards one of those trees, what else could be transformed?

And, what would be changed in me?

When your attitude improves from breathing new air and from being there, how can you deny the cascade within you? When strangers offer a welcome like it’s all new to them too, then let me be the first to break it to you: You’re not just passing through. Your travels have brought you to a new home.

You find out what you have to offer when you travel. If your inspiration flows and doesn’t have to be pulled out of you, when a place makes itself easy to alter but you choose not to change a bit of it, then stop and think: Why not settle here?

Your best contribution to the world starts from your home. How fine would it be, if that address was One High Place.

There’s a locality of aspiration, with many paths to get there. The tallest, strongest trees are always set on raised ground. Does the base sit higher than where you are today? Isn’t that a good place to get started? Meaning, could you move to someplace a little better than where you live today?

One High Place, and its opportunities for you.

Not The Highest Place. Not The Best Place. 1HP4U.

When I was hurting and stuck, I didn’t have to get to the highest tree. There was no way I’d have the means to make it there, anyway. And I couldn’t get to the beautiful mountaintop that rose behind it–that too was for someone else, richer, smarter, younger, more ambitious, you name it. I just needed to find a higher place than where I was.

Let me tell you the story of a beginning. In 1986, I lived in a North Adams MA apartment building that overlooked South Street, which at that time was one of the poorer sections of the city. This was a rural college town and naturally, students made life harder for the locals. South Street was about six blocks away from the college and was the first line of homes that didn’t include off-campus housing.

In other words, South was not the most desirable street for townspeople to live on.

One day, I looked out my third-floor bedroom window. Directly across the street I saw a fortyish lady sweeping her driveway. She was dressed in modest clothing, suitable for yard work. Her clothes were worn. As I watched, her body was bent and she looked tired.

It was a windy day and trash was blowing in the street. A food wrapper found its way to her dead-grass lawn and stayed there. A loose dog trotted down the sidewalk, with a direct pace that no person would dare intercept.

My eyes came back to the driveway and to the lady– she was looking up at me. She’d seen my face in the window and just stared back.

I wanted to duck out of sight. I was caught, and embarrassed. In fact, I felt that by looking at the street I’d been doing something wrong, in violation of the residents’ privacy. I lowered my head to drop out of sight but changed my mind and froze, my face just a few inches lower in the glass. This was not an act of courage, or standing my ground. I felt ashamed. I surrendered.

She was leaning on the broom and looked more haggard than I’d thought. She was wearing a dingy kerchief that let loose some hair on her forehead. Even the broom looked pathetic, taped in the middle from a break, and missing many bristles.

Take a good look, kid. That’s the feeling I got from her.

I was 21 years-old and living a dream life. I had a drum kit in that room. A six-piece set! On occasion, I had guitarist friends bring their amplifiers up the three flights of stairs to jam when we wanted. Never thought about the noise.

Take a look lady, that was me.

I had a seventeen-year-old girlfriend who gave me everything I wanted and a model airplane hobby that filled my dreams and non-school hours. In fact I built and painted fifty models that year, in that room.

I got great grades and had great friends.

My face filled the window. Our eyes met. She made a motion to stuff her hair back and halted halfway. I’ll never forget what her eyes said to me.

Take a good look, kid. From your high place. That’s not your home. That’s not anybody’s. Not that building. Your landlord makes promises and breaks agreements. Not just with you, but with us. The people who live here.

Because this is our home. We are just barely making it.

Let me guess. You’re an immature man who counts on someone else to do the heavy lifting. Does Mommy pay your bills? You are going to find out very soon, you’ll take what broom you have. Come a few years you’ll wake up owning nothing, with piles of debt and your peers a long way gone past you. You are making decisions that will lock you into a life that will be impossible to get out of.

Or maybe you’ll learn something. Hey, kid up there. Maybe you’ll put a fraction of that education to use. Do you think you can do better?

One High Place by Ara Hagopian.

About Ara Hagopian's The LITERATE Show

For over thirty years, I have enjoyed drawing beautiful shapes and writing complementary stories. The imagery tends to focus on our place in the world—whomever or whatever we may be. I am influenced by Twentieth Century history—I read vintage magazines, books and letters. Inspiration comes from visualizing human achievement and personal interaction—derived from people, places and things which may be obscure, but never insignificant. My pen-and-ink THE MAGNIFICENT RECOVERY was selected by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for their 2008 summer art auction.
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