Where I Am From

In this hurly-burly of year-end and holidays, it is nice to take a breath and reflect. Who am I now? With each year and the myriad of experiences it brings, it is good to assess the changes that may have been of consequence. Births, deaths, marriages, jobs, illness can all impact our sense of self. What is at your core and how was it created?

As Sally posted on Wednesday, I also admire Amanda Le Rougetel’s blog What’s My Story from her blogsite, https://fiveyearsawriter.blogspot.com/. I did not rise to Amanda’s challenge to make my story in sixty-five words or less. However, it is a great way to describe yourself by encapsulating your experiences in a short poem. In light of Sally’s post “Who Am I”, I was reminded of a prompt Beth Alvarado gave us in a 2013 writing group.  Write a poem that describes where you are from. (I know, I know – don’t end a sentence with a preposition – cardinal error). In 1998 George Ella Lyon, a Kentucky poet, wrote a book titled Where I Am From that was used as a model in teaching memoir writing. Clues to who you are come directly from your roots and experiences. Those memories are touchstones that reconnect me deeply back to myself in chaotic times, physical or emotional. Each stanza describes places that formed my view of the world, places where I was at home or where I lived tenuously until I could move on, ending in Tucson where I belong. I was born in Kansas, spent summers over many years with grandparents in Colorado, lived forty years in Western Washington, and finally settled in the Southwest that combines the sunshine of Kansas, the mountains of Colorado, and the extraordinary high desert skies. These short phrases packed with images, smells, and sounds tell my story.

Where I Am From

I am from the traveling wind, wide blue skies, and waving wheat

Great-grandma’s raw onions by the supper plate

Great-grandpa’s coffee can spittoon beside his rocker

Refrigerator on the back porch and dirt fruit cellar

Fireflies on summer nights

I am from the deep dark earth, mountain highs

Fishing at Estes Park

Honeysuckle, snapdragons, and putting up the beans

A ringer on the washing machine

Cold fried chicken and white bread with butter and sugar

I am from endless gray skies,

Armies of black-green sentinel firs reaching to the clouds

City of a thousand cultures mingled like succulent odors of stew

The drizzle of cold, the smell of mold

Wind in the sails, islands in the fog

I am from the knife-edged mountain peaks with hidden crevices

That rise from the desert floor

Coyotes howling, javelina prowling

The soul-filling smell of the creosote bush after summer monsoons

The endless blue of sky and translucent flower of prickly pear

This is one of the poems published in our book, Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets; Chapter 4, page 285. I sincerely hope you are creating happy memories with family and friends during this holiday season.

Too Many Questions?

It’s hot enough to melt the metal handle on my purse, even if placed in the shade. That might be an exaggeration, but it borders on the truth. It’s July and my husband and I are staying with our son and his family in Hot Springs, South Dakota in an Airbnb apartment on the uppermost floor. We’ve hit the jackpot because it has air-conditioning in each window and the extra luxury of ceiling fans. My husband and son are golfing in the hundred-degree scorcher, Chloe’s mom is napping on the couch and I’m coloring with Chloe, our five-year-old granddaughter. The fan whips cool air above our heads. She tells me she can’t color with her best friend, Olivia at daycare. I ask her why? She tells me because they fight, but Olivia always apologizes. I ask Chloe if she apologizes to Olivia. Silence. I try again as we both color on the same picture. “Grandma,” she says, “stop asking questions!” I smile to myself.

I’ve been accused of the same crime before. Asking so many questions. Where do you live? What’s your dog’s name? What breed is she? Where did you go on your trip? Why did they move there? Did you work there long? It’s just I love peoples’ stories and a good memoir delights me almost more than peanut butter chocolate crust cheesecake with homemade whipped cream. 

Some writers struggle with writing a memoir. They wonder, Is it ho-hum? Is it self-indulgent? I’ve wondered about mine. Who in the world wants to read about me merrily driving a John Deere tractor, singing a Beach Boy’s song at the top of my lungs while plowing a field, then making a turn too wide and ripping out a barb-wired fence at the end of the field? Surely, others have done that. Who would care to read it? It’s that doubt that leaves my manuscript tucked away in a file for over twenty years. I know I need to muffle my critic’s voice inside, dust the manuscript off and believe my story is worth sharing with others.