Friday, March 23, 2007

home coming

There is no simple way to write about the past three days. If one said 'I went home' and left it at that it might be simple. But it is more complicated than that. Going home can't be simple because one left for a reason and when you return, you return changed. The past and present collide. The life you live discovers that the language you speak is not born of the present but of the past. But you speak it with an accent now. You are no longer native and while you think in that language - you don't speak it the same and something as simple as a conversation changes.

Once upon a time, I grew up in a dilapidated house on a farm where there stood a barn, a garage, several chicken coops, a garden, a tin shed for the pigs, there was a light pole to show a home was there in the middle of an empty section. There were tall trees with two ropes from which hung tires. There were sheep, goats, cats, a variety of other animals and a dog named Bonnie. Four of us children lived there with our parents. We grew up and everyone left. And now everything is gone.

(where the story started)

You can stop in the past and drink the water but you cannot stay. Weeds have grown where productive life was. Life never stops in those by-ways and roadsides, it moves on along a road where we all must walk or lose sight of our hope.

(the water tanks maintained for our landlord instead of paying rent money)

I came from a land that is much wilder than I remember - there is little about it that is tame. I would guess that when settlers first homesteaded it anything they brought in soon look dried out and frayed. There is something about the land here that denies anything new but that which can be fed by rain and wind. And now the civilization in this country is passing on - the wind and rain have won and are at the business of returning the land to itself.

The schools shrink until they must consolidate and those new schools shrink and people move away. And churches can no longer sustain a pastor and so they share a man with another church. And people grow tired and pass away.

But there are those who stay - and they are beautiful. There is the temptation to romanticize their life - to suggest that they somehow have achieved a level of goodness and purity that those of us who live in the corruption of the city can't achieve. There is the desire to say - it is better.

It isn't. I wasn't the only one to leave. All of my siblings left as did my parents. And it wasn't because they had always dreamed to leave. There are ways that isolated communities are difficult in ways that aren't nice.

There is part of me that wonders, what if? For it was good to connect to the roots of my language the place that speaks deepest. The well=spring that God gave me to use in viewing this world - where my poetry, photography, words, and craft come from. Because I am sure my photography would look different if I grew up somewhere else. My metaphors would shift. My inspiration certainly would not sit in the odd places it does.

more to come...


  1. This is beautiful. I only live 4 miles from the 13 acres I grew up on--the house still stands (and is lived in by my mother and her husband) but the property got divided by death and divorce and several years ago I went back and took a walk--and came away with a very similar story though for a different reason.

    The woods and pond, my playground as a child, stood delabitated and reflecxted my loss as I dealt with my parents, then new, divorce. Now my dad has gone back and cleaned up the property and my mom deals well with the house and the neglect has been replaced by order but that time stays in the back of my memory, a reflection of what happened and the mourning of my soul for all that I had lost.

  2. I remember leaving Kansas on the train to go to school in Chicago. In the 38 years since that time, I returned to Kansas, where you grew up, a total of 6 times. The first 5 times were spent with my family. I don't remember meeting any of my High School friends. However, the last time I returned it was with your dad and mom for my 30 year High School reunion. We stayed at your grandparent's house. On the Saturday we were there your mom and grandma spent time together. Your grandma was beginning to worry at having Alzheimer's. Your father and grandfather spent the day at an auction.

    I drove past the church on my way to N. I stopped and took a photo of a field where I helped V.T. repair a windmill pump one Thanksgiving weekend. I also took some photos while driving on the road that goes from P. to N. I remember driving around the downtown section of N. and seeing all the boarded up stores. Stores that were so busy 30 years earlier.

    That Saturday afternoon, I drove past the High School. I met most of my classmates for a lunch and talk about families, jobs and years gone past. After the lunch we went to the school and walked around talking about our school days. We opened our class prophecies. I was surprised that only two of us had done what we said we wanted to do with our lives. Then it was over. On Sunday afternoon, your dad drove us back to Grandpa M.

    So I agree with you when you say:

    Going home can't be simple because one left for a reason and when you return, you return changed. The past and present collide.

    All of us at that 30-year High School reunion were basically the same person we had been in school. However, all of us had been changed by our experiences. After years of resisting, I will say though that it was a good experience to go back and visit some of the roots that helped form the person I am today.

  3. Thank you for this thoughtful post. I often wonder what "home" means in my own life. And the mutuality of influences: us on my backgrounds, our backgrounds on us.

    I look forward to the "more to come".

  4. This is such a beautiful, provocative post. The photos are stunning and the words are like music. I am grateful that our paths have crossed and that I get to enjoy your gifts.

  5. These words:

    Going home can't be simple because one left for a reason and when you return, you return changed. The past and present collide. The life you live discovers that the language you speak is not born of the present but of the past.

    You capture so perfectly that hazines I feel whenever I go "home" even if it is just in my head.

    -- Krina