Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Myopic & Self-Indulgent History #1

I write a lot about places because I see my life in terms of places. More than dates or age, I think of a city or a state, a country sometimes, and match myself, who I was, am, what I did and what I thought with that location. Part of the reason for this is that, as a child and adolescent, I moved a lot. My father worked for the VA, the federal gov't's Veterans Administration, where he was a psychologist and then Chief of Staff (administrator) and when he was promoted we'd pack up and go. I didn't move as much as, say, a military family might, but compared to some, we moved enough. I think of my second daughter, who is now fifteen, and she has friends that she's known since she was three. Three! I don't know what that's like.
So, I have four hometowns: Sioux Falls, South Dakota (my birth town), then Vancouver, Washington (my favorite town), Johnson City, Tennessee (also lived in Jonesborough for a year--both towns last on my list of importance) and then Des Moines, Iowa (my adopted hometown).
Then there's Iowa City. It's a place in its own category of importance: my college town, my town of reaching independence, of new friends, loves and plain old fun.
Then there are places where I lived as an adult. Some of them I was there for years, some for maybe but three months. But they are places where I worked and wandered, where I had relationships and felt a part of the community, have an intimate understanding and affection for. So, that would be Santa Fe NM, Los Angeles CA, Grayton Beach FL, Seattle WA, Champaign IL, Missoula MT, Fort Lauderdale FL.
And then there are the places I traveled to or through, spent invested time in and feel connected to: New York NY, Key West FL, Chicago IL, maybe New Orleans.
There are also places I've traveled to or visited that carry meaning, places more numerous than I can think of right now but includes state parks, National Parks and National Forests, campgrounds or stretches of highway, small towns and cities all around the country.
I have not been a big international traveler--though wish I had been, wish I was. I have spent time in Montreal and western Canada, a long trip into Mexico by myself and a few border crossings, a trip to Sweden and looks like I'm going down to the BVI's soon. I currently live in a place where there are many people from many countries, where friends travel and have traveled much further, wider and wilder than I ever have or ever will. So I know my experiences--geographically and adventure-wise--are small potatoes. But, really, it's the relating of the experience, the emotion and understanding of it, that lends it gravity, not just the location or drama of action.
Look at the poet Emily Dickinson--a virtual recluse who wrote wonderful, insightful work, often drawing on the small and limited to make universal points. Take a writer like Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings who wrote about the life and doings of rural central Florida. It was her ability to see, depict, frame this place and its people that made her work meaningful to readers worldwide. There is evidence of this in all types of art and life--from the painting of a smile to tribal dance to the capture of light in photographs, and more, that transcend the simplicity of their subjects. In a way, Darwin was about looking at the miniscule in order to understand the big picture.
This is but a little blog and I'm not trying to put myself in anyone's company. I am but trying to make a comparable point. No doubt--if anyone visits this site, if anyone reads it and visits more than once--many will view this as self-indulgent, will mock it as banal, trite, boring. Others will see it as self-therapy or self-myth-making. Hopefully some will find it of passing interest, a scattershot look at one person's experiences, small and large, with its own cast of characters, moral and physical boundaries and lessons learned. And they would all be correct in their views . . . What I do is what I do on these pages and I'm still figuring out the depth and presentation of these personal vignettes. I don't want to know, precisely, why I'm doing it. I just want to do it and anyone who wants to come along for the ride, please, grab a seat. I'll slide over and drive.

No comments: