Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In the Middle of Nowhere....

Yesterday, I decided to reread Local Wonders, a book which I recently sent a copy to a friend. The author Ted Kooser is our former U.S. Poet Laureate. Mr. Kooser hails from Nebraska, but spent his childhood in Ames. His writing is filled with grace and wisdom. It reads with such ease.

My son Evan gave me a copy of this book for my birthday in July of 2006. Mr. Kooser had come to Ames, around that same time, to do a reading in celebration of "Ted Kooser Day". I, not knowing of Ev's purchase for me, wanted to present him with an autographed copy because he was the one who introduced this man's writing to me.

I had something else going on the day of Kooser's appearance. I decided that I would race to the Octagon to hear the reading, purchase a signed book, then dash back to the other engagement. However, when I arrived, all copies had sold out. I hurried over to our local bookstore to nab an unsigned copy, hoping to catch Mr. Kooser afterwords. I raced back to the reading, but by the time I parked the car, everyone had left. I was so disappointed.

As I walked back to the MINI, I noticed a group gathered on the sidewalk ahead. At center was Mr. Kooser! Completely out of breath, I introduced myself, then explained how much it would mean to Ev to have an autographed copy for his book shelf. Mr. Kooser asked where Ev was and I told him he was at Boy Scout Camp Mitigwa for the week. He had just been inducted into the Order of the Arrow and could not make the reading. Mr. Kooser's face broke into that boyish grin of his; he had been a Boy Scout and understood that July meant summer camp for the scouts. He wrote a special note to Ev, I thanked him and he shook my hand. I practically skipped away, having met such an humble and honorable man.

Back to my original thought...in searching out my copy, I re-discovered the delight I had experienced the first time I turned the pages. The book is divided into 4 sections, each carrying the title of a season. It starts with Spring, but knowing the temperature outside was shooting up to 95 degrees with 99.999% humidity, I flipped thru to Summer and dove right in.

Immediately, I was immersed into his life in the country, driving the gravel roads, living in the Bohemian Alps of Nebraska, out on the Great Plains of these United States. His farmstead is in the middle of nowhere, with its various outbuildings assigned their individual duties. My nose tingled from the sharp tang of musty air with his opening a long-closed door to his "library" shack. Memories of my life on the farm, exploring the granary, or the old chicken coop, flooded my brain.

Of late, I have been thinking about living in the country - away from the city. I live in an incredible city, a college town that carries all the advantages of academia, arts, and diversity of culture. I also live in a perfectly beautiful neighborhood, with neighbors who have become great friends over the years. My home is comfortable and out front is that white, picket fence. But this longing has surfaced and I pine for a small farmhouse with a metal roof so I can lie in bed and hear the rain. It would have a wrap-around porch so I could refresh in the breeze, or enjoy a rain shower, and watch my garden grow. I would want a small flock of chickens for their fresh eggs. I sense it is my childhood spent on the farm that is pestering me to reconsider a change to this life of country. It would be my little slice of heaven.

I am not an empty-nester yet, but it won't be long before Tess is off on her own. And then I see myself working from home as a landscape architect...a woman of a certain age, growing old in this little farmhouse, living out in the middle of nowhere, under stars pressing down from above.

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