Google Earth is wonderful. Of all the programs I have downloaded to my computer, it is among my favorites. Sometimes I use it to find landmarks before I drive to a place for the first time. On other occasions I look up places I have never been and will probably never visit. On other occasions I study Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, where I live. Most of the time I use Google Earth, however, I stroll down memory lane.
I have lived in Athens for slightly more than eleven years–since early August 2005. This is longer than I have resided in any other place. Within Athens I have had only two addresses, moving most recently in August 2007. Most of my moves to prior to August 2005 were related to my family–my father’s ministerial career, to be precise. Most of the other moves pertained to college. I have had more addresses and telephone numbers than I can recall, for, after I relocate geographically, I move psychologically.
My memories of places I used to live is such that I recall certain details of them and can recognize them easily when I see them or images of them. The first step in this process is looking at the satellite view; the street view continues the facilitation of the stirring up of memories. There is the pastorium in Newington, Georgia; I could not have drawn it yet I recognized it immediately when I saw it on satellite view. There is the park in Vidette, Georgia; I recall playing there in 1980-1982. There is the Vidette United Methodist Church; people have expanded the facilities since 1982, but the parsonage looks worse than it did in the early 1980s. There is the now-vacant lot just outside Dublin, Georgia, where I rented a mobile home for a time between degree programs. There are the congregations where I attended services prior to moving to Athens. There are the schools I attended and there are the places where those schools stood.
Spending time recalling the past is a useful exercise, for it (A) helps me to understand better the course of my path to the present and (B) prevents me from falling into the error of nostalgia. The good old days were not as good as some imagine, I know. The more I plumb the depths of my memory, the more I know that, despite certain aspects of my reality. I am, all things considered, actually much better off in 2016 than I was during the time period before I relocated to Athens. If I could I exchange places with a pre-Athens version of myself, I would not do so.
The past can be a fine place to visit via one’s memories, but one should never live there, seek to reside there, or romanticize it.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
SEPTEMBER 7, 2016 COMMON ERA