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A letter from abroad

Locations: Letters Published

Dear Carbondale:

I’m in Antwerp, Belgium. 

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It’s been a helluva place: culture and arts, a sweet little river with a bike path, pubs loaded with blonds and tripels. If I shut my eyes while I sip that golden, liquid courage, I can almost imagine sitting beside you belly up at the bar. 

But with the lockdown I’m not going anywhere, even my visa’s been extended. And when I open my eyes, I find myself drinking beers alone in the small room I rent in the redlight district. It’s vacant too, incidentally. 

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What’s it like there? I haven’t seen so many pix on social media of you in the hills? Are you allowed to drive up into the mountains? Sending you love in these weird times. 

I’m doing okay. Don’t worry about me. But to be honest, I think I’ve kind of reached the end of this tour. It’s been two years since I left you, but after all the countries, the faces, all the conversations and continents, the cities, the jungles, the monks, the artists, the addicts, the aquamarine waters and the cobalt green forests; I’m just about ready to call it quits. So it’s funny that somehow the world has conspired to find a way to maroon me here in this town, right at the end of my journey: just at the moment when I want to go home. 

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I’m making the most of it though. Oddly enough, a tulip breeder has me filming his garden as it blooms this April. There are over 5000 flowers in over 200 varieties unseen behind the thick stone facade surrounding them. The owner calls it a hortus conclusus: an enclosed garden. It’s an undiscovered heart of green within the limestone walls of an old pastory and the St. George Church. Over the centuries, princes and bishops, diamond moguls and honored dignitaries have walked its paths and contemplated world events. So I have to laugh that today it’s some Colorado cowboy sitting in this holy garden during a global quarantine. 

With my camera in hand, I’m always looking for ways to magnify the grandeur of the divinity here. It’s a dance with plants and insects and lenses. If I can find the angles, I see the tulips rising like spruce trees in the Rockies. I can see the cherry blossoms cascading like snowmelt in a crystal stream. And at a certain time of day, the sun balances on the limestone wall like a little girl on a high mountain pass. The two towers of the church appear to me like the equal summits watching over a small town in the Roaring Fork. If I let it, even the small basin of water at the garden’s edge looks like a glaciated lake, reflecting in the sun. Somehow they all stand guard over my solitude as good friends should, justas your snowy peaks and broad forests used to do. It feels almost like any other April, actually,in this magical place. Just like so many I spent playing in your garden, in fact. The real reason I keep coming back here is to sit with visions of you on hallowed earth, just as I have always done in springtime. I could, according to the Belgian government and according to my own imagination, if I wanted, find a way to see this place as home. 

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I hope you’re doing ok. This too shall pass my friend, and we’ll meet again. I can promise you that. We’ll catch up with a long run in Avalanche Creek and a cold beer at Batch. I miss you, but somehow you’re still with me even among the bluebird tulips and upon the warm breeze in the heart of this far off city. 

Joseph Puglisi
Formerly of Carbondale

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