A journal of travels

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Aloft on Google Earth

March 8th, 2011 · 5 Comments · Looking Homewards

You can go home again. I don’t very often. I wasn’t that fond of growing up in the boxy Washington, D.C. suburbs. When I was there, I was always burning to be somewhere else: India,  Japan, Hawaii, Cambridge,  (never New York, but that’s perhaps because I already had an aunt there and it was known territory). Even Washington, D.C., across the bridge, where the drinking age was 18, was a steady lure.

After I moved to the West Coast, going back to Falls Church never topped the list of wanna-be destinations. My parents had moved away, and I associated the place with anguished teen years.

And then I discovered Google Earth. Now, swooping in on the map, like a lost girl traveling on wires in a Peter Pan stage show, I can fly to my childhood house. I can visit anytime. I can peer at the roof and yard, see what cars are parked on the street. I feel I’m digitally right at the window, though unable to quite see in.

And that’s fine. My old room (bedroom 3 of 3, under the front gable, across from the bathroom) is somebody else’s now. My parents died years ago; the house itself  was passed on to others in the ’70s.  I guess, now that my own son is grown, I’m comforted to know it’s still there, that I have a past that’s not all in my head. The house is brick and it’s not in earthquake country. It remains.

But a second look shows me how the trees have grown up, creating a wild forest in this subdivision which had seemed somehow shaved to the ground when we moved there in 1952. Nature is making a comeback. Perhaps even bears are returning, prowling for Davy Crockett in his coonskin hat.

No that’s pushing it. There’s a cul-de-sac where the wild land used to beckon behind the houses across the street. And a white car – not my mother’s Jeepster – is parked in our old driveway. No bears. No abandoned children’s toys in sight.

But I do admire the look of the greenery almost covering the street. And I wonder how long ago Google snapped the satellite pictures and how much the trees have grown since then.

© 2011 by Shelley Buck. Used with permission. Shelley Buck lives in Northern California. Her 2010 eBook, Floating Point, is due out in paperback in 2011 from WriteWords Press.


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5 Comments so far ↓

  • Nancy

    Thanks for the great idea. I will immediately go look at my childhood homes… brilliant use of a new technology to take a peek at the past!

  • Margaret

    Wonderful voyage for 2011, wonderful writing. And I just learned that Google Earth can take us to the portal beyond life! It can zero in on graves in those lonely cemeteries all across the country and so far from home. We can visit our parents, our grandparents, anytime with our computer in hand.

  • Paula

    I think I could read a whole book of Google Earth adventures written by this writer! It leaves me wanting to know more about this neighborhood and the life lived there.

  • Shirley B

    After reading this piece, I was compelled to go check Google Earth, along with Google Maps, for my own childhood home. The magnolia tree I planted at age 10 (50 years ago) is mature and stately, and the “empty” lot next door where friends and I found the den of baby rabbits is still pristine. “Aloft on Google Earth” is lovely, evocative writing that touched my heart.

  • Iris

    Interesting way of traveling “back in time.” Beautiful writing. Need to read more of this writer’s works.

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