Driving Past Baltimore

Night Time Skyline Baltimore Inner Harbor Photograph by Carol Ward
Photo By Carol Ward (@https://fineartamerica.com)

My life has always seemed to orbit around Baltimore, and once again I found myself cruising past the old city, and watching its colors fly by.

What caught my attention was the cruise ship docked in the harbor, its lazy flags waving slowly as if in a wide hello. It seemed to look for its tearful welcome back after being missing for the last two years. The bright reds of the steam pipes seemed freshly painted, and the small boats hanging on its sides were actively being cleaned as passengers, overloaded with luggage, clambered off of its decks and onto the pier below. 

It gave me a warm fuzz in my chest to see an old friend back in port, a boat that I had seen docked in the Baltimore harbor since I was small. When I was little, by dad used to point out of the car on our weekend excursions at the flocks of cruise ships resting at dock and we all would smile thinking of the possible adventures the futures it might hold on its wooden floorboards and atop its steaming engine. When it disappeared from the harbor during COVID, I don’t think I noticed it the first time, too caught on tightening the elastic loops on my mask to keep the germs out. But I noticed it now, driving home, as its bustle brought back a sense of security I had not felt in years.

I know the world isn’t healed, and I am not sure it ever will be, but I can’t help but feel comfort in seeing the blossoms of life that disappeared during the pandemic years we struggled through. Yes, the trash litters the dirt, but the flowers are beginning to bloom again, and I can’t help but smile at the butterflies and bees they welcome home. 

It is hard not to think it is all bad, that the world has only escalated since our time trapped indoors. Yes, a lot of bad has come out of this world in the last two years, and I know I for one have had piles of grief pressing down my shoulders for months now, but I can’t seem to help the smile I feel looking at my old city come back to life around me, to watch it shake the dust from its coat and sing once more. 

Driving home, the city to my right, strings of lights hazed the satin navy nighttime. They seemed suspended, haloing skyscrapers with yellow and blue and gold. They colored the wet street beds like autumn leaves on a meandering river. A holiday, a bright welcome home; every street corner bathed in the red and green and gold of Christmas all times of year. Cars blinked their neons to the beat of trains and slowed to watch the stagnant fireworks in the skys, as people gathered near street lamps and complexes, and played the game of the passerby. Those at home snuggle in bed, open their windows to strangers and cast swaths of foggy auburn through their curtains. The city is alive with traffic lights and radio towers, filled with airplanes celebrating their future here and at home. It is like a billion friends gathered to honor you coming in, coming back, going through. A parade to sleep peacefully.

It is not all bad. Out there, cruising down the highway, suspended just above the beauty of the bay, and watching my childhood playground pass by, and watching more lights flicker on, I cannot help but think it is not all bad. If we cannot find beauty in the world we suffer in, what is the point of suffering? If we cannot find solace in the growth around us, what is the point of persevering on? 

It is hard not to cry on nights like this, when the world shows just what picking itself up from the dirt means. There is only one cruise ship in the harbor now, not the swarms I knew when I was little, but just this one lights up the city like a new Christmas tree, filled with hope I didn’t know I had missed during its months away.

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