My friend and Richmond resident Aaron Nell has been, for many years now, exploring the “poetry of place” – poems and poetic elements, historic and modern, of specific geographical locations around the country. He’s done this on foot, by train and by bike, across the countryside and right here in town.
Part of how I see Aaron’s wanderings is as a way to help us pay attention to the things that we might otherwise miss, and to connect them to our larger understanding of the place we’re in – and why it matters. His recent exploration of the footpaths leading out of Springwood Park is a great example – he finds scenes of beauty, color, emptiness and life that many of us will never know, or that we might walk right by. He captures them with photos and words, sometimes entire poems, and suddenly a place that might seem familiar is made wild and new.
That is only one of Aaron’s “Thousand Gates of Richmond” – a survey of the many ways to leave and enter Richmond, Indiana. I hope you’ll accompany Aaron in some of these, as you might learn something new about this place. I know I have been.
I said that Aaron is a Richmond resident, but the actual place he lives is perhaps not so singular. He lives in the notes of the music he has played at events and gatherings all around town – you’ve probably seen and heard him. He lives in the happy toil of service to others, as he’s given so much of his time and energy to myriad good causes here. He lives in the practice and pursuit of artistic endeavors, wherever those take him. And he lives on the road, making his way by bike on journeys that seem to transcend the precision and predictability of how many of us now experience travel.
Soon, Aaron departs for a new adventure by bike. Days, weeks, months on the road with only what he can carry (and what his custom-welded bike cargo trailer can hold), seeking out more poetry of place. An impressive and heartening cross-section of the Richmond community gathered at Roscoe’s on Friday night to celebrate and encourage him. (He has a crowd-funding campaign set up online, if you want to support his trip with a donation.)
Good travels to you, Aaron, and thank you for showing us new perspectives on Richmond, new parts of our world.
Keep pedaling home.