May 8, 2020

Dear Hope Nation,

Magic is a time and not a place.

Forty years ago, I was finishing up my four-year hitch in the Army. After having been stationed in Germany for 30 months, I spent my last year at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I’d been off heroin for a couple years, my drinking was occasionally excessive but mainly controlled and I had a pretty easy job—doing a daily radio show that was syndicated to some local stations. Since Leonard Wood was by far the largest employer in the area, a radio show about comings and goings at the fort drew a reasonable audience. I found a one-room cabin beside the Big Piney River in Devils Elbow, acted with the local theater company and fell in love. When I got out of the Army, I took a job as news director at one of the local radio stations. In short, 1980 in Devils Elbow was magical.

Magic is a time and not a place.

A couple years later I got my bachelor’s degree at UNH and wanted to revisit Devils Elbow. I was all set to attend graduate school in the fall, so I hitchhiked to Missouri and went to the radio station I’d worked for. A lot of the same people were still working there (and for all I know may still be working there), but it wasn’t the same. I visited my old cabin beside the Big Piney. It was still serene and beautiful, but it wasn’t the same.

Magic is a time and not a place.

Twenty-five years ago, my best friend died of HIV-related illnesses. Dave was a hemophiliac who’d apparently contracted the disease from faulty blood product when he’d lived in San Francisco. Dave and I had worked together in Nashua, me as director of an alternative high school, Dave running a junior-high program. I loved him as much as I’ve ever loved a man, and his death hit me hard. I decided to go back to that Nashua job from another school I was running, hoping to find the magic Dave and I had shared.

Magic is a time and not a place.

I’d been gone from that job for five years. While I’d done a great job there during my first stint, nothing was the same this time around. I’d been a quirky and energetic leader (sound familiar?), but the school had matured and the culture was more structured, which only makes sense I guess. Halfway through the school year, I recognized I was running out of oxygen and left. Things just weren’t the same.

Magic is a time and not a place.

At some point, Hope will reopen with a lot of changes. Meetings will be smaller. Safety will be the priority. Health concerns will lead to new practices we can’t even imagine now. Hope will not be the same. I know that. You know that. We all know that.

During this time of planning, and, especially, during those few weeks of settling into the changes, let us remember we can create new magic in the new space, we can share the magic within us and the magic surrounding us, we can find new ways to communicate the magic of recovery . . . or we can talk about how things just aren’t the same.

Let us make magic in the time to come, not mourn the place we will never be!

Magic is time, not place.

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith