I’ve turned my attention to a little nonfiction project. My workshop instructor, Gail, is encouraging us to enter The Sun’s Readers Write contests. So I’m plugging away at the March 1 deadline theme: The Middle of Nowhere.
This theme screams to me for so many reasons. The middle of nowhere is my childhood encapsulated. I am an only child. I grew up on a farm that had been allowed to return to prairie. I spent my ‘tween years making long, lonely bike rides into town, my bike whizzing through the middle of nowhere. And there’s an avalanche of sharp emotional stuff that’s hard to share.
A favorite memory is walking home from the middle school I attended. On nice days, I’d get this wild need in me to be free the moment the final bell rang. The buses sat parked, waiting in front of the building. All the kids streamed like lemmings toward them. But I’d sneak out the back and hike across the playground, across the baseball diamond and the long expanse of purposeless grass. I’d feel that yoke of peer pressure and school garbage melt off me as the schoolyard melted into the woods. I’d walk along the edge of the woods, forest on one side, tall grass on the other, for a mile or more until the woods faded away into a patchwork quilt of muddy corn fields. In Spring I was careful to stick to the rutted tractor path, picking my way across the matted bleached grass. Eventually, the path led to a small brook. There were a few well placed stones that even I (never graceful, no matter how I tried) could cross without getting my feet wet. A little further along the cornfield and I’d clamber up the ditch onto the road in front of my house. Sometimes the bus whooshed past me in a gush of gray exhaust as I stood on the tractor path, waiting to cross to home.
For the most part, it’s nice revisiting those memories. As for my contest entry, I don’t have any cohesive thesis. My plan is to write and write and write. Eventually, I suspect I’ll find a focus. I guess the middle of nowhere is where I am right now, wandering through my memories, trying to find my way.
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