My history of running away has nearly as many photos as stories. One photo is missing: the first running away. At least the first one I know about. That was on my tricycle in Arkansas on a dirt road. But there are other photos–and other stories. Whenever a place, city, home, people became claustrophobic, for whatever reason, I packed up and ran to some other place with a view.
Then I bought a house. Well, we bought a house and we married. It’s exponentially harder to pack up and leave your own home and a happy marriage. So I get in the car and drive.
Last week, I felt trapped by city. As many of you know, most of my growing up was on a farm in Kansas. But even before, in Arkansas, in the small Kansas prairie town where we moved before the farm, my eyes ranged through miles of space.
That’s what a horizon looks like. Ergo, one week ago, the urge to run-away-to-space strong, I got in the car and drove south. I got close to Belton, Missouri, south by some fifteen miles (by the way I was going on back roads) before I got to country.
Here is the transition point. I’d passed a large tree farm and into open land when I came to railroad tracks. And there I was, between an open field with dried grasses and city graffiti.
The car and I ducked under a railroad bridge and kept driving south.
I stopped here, on the side of the road, and watched the wind–it doesn’t take much to make a willow dance. The weather warm and sunny and the humidity pulled from the pond fuzzed everything like an Impressionist painting. I could live here. There’s even a little dock and a boat for Cliff to go sit in the middle of the pond and fish. That would probably change the painting from a Monet to a Renoir. My shoulders softened and my breathing deepened. This is what I’d come to see although I couldn’t have told you that when I left my driveway.
On down the road, I reached the real destination: someone who talked farm stories.
I stopped because it was such a great shot: tree etchings across the sky and old rust etchings on machinery and everything softened in the warm afternoon air. I’d parked at the edge of the driveway leading up to this scene and taken my shots when I heard a tractor behind me. The driver slowed alongside and pulled around my car to get into the driveway. I couldn’t resist. Following him up the driveway, I put the car into park while he got off his tractor.
After we introduced ourselves, our talk rambled through farm and family stories and books. Because he’d grown up in a storytelling family, he read books; because I’d grown up in a storytelling family, I wrote stories and poems. He pulled out a little brown notebook and wrote down the name of my book. He’d have to get it, he said. So that was nice, but what was even better was talking story and history. People who live on the land talk about land. Oh, yes, and weather. We talked about weather.