Looking for Me in All the Wrong Places

I am trying to understand how a bit of land could feel so a part of me.  Is it because just through those trees is where my father was born and where he and his three brothers caught frogs and buried treasures and gathered hazel nuts every fall for their mother to lay out on a roof to dry?  And just a little further through the trees is the house my mom and dad built.

My roots go deep here on this particular piece of earth.  And now, on our side of the trees, my husband and I have pounded a well and built a little straw bale house and planted our first garden.

Even with all these memories and the sand of this place embedded in my DNA, it still doesn’t explain how alive and awake I feel every time I walk out my door.  Right now it is still snowed under and a melting mess and yet . . .

Yesterday a bald eagle flew right over my head.  I wanted to pinch myself.  Am I dreaming?

No.  I was dreaming and now my dream is my reality.  How sweet is that?

Many years ago I wrote a collection of short stories called, “Leaving Lake Country.”  The stories were mostly autobiographical—a retelling of my earlier life here and filled with the leftover teen angst I was carrying.  My love of the land still sang through each story, but there was also a weary disgust of the place—and the compelling need to leave.  I wrote that string of stories after reading Tim O’Brien’s, The Things They Carried.  I realized as I was reading O’Brien’s Viet Nam story that those of us growing up on the Leech Lake Reservation on the edge of the sixties had our own shit to carry.

I left in 1977.  I graduated from college one weekend, got married the next weekend, and moved to Rapid City, SD.  I stayed there for over thirty years but, as it turned out, I left a part of me behind.  Finally, the lure of family, forest, land, and open water drew me back home.

I remember a scene in a book by Herman Hesse—I wish I could find that passage again.  Maybe some of you remember this story and can direct me to it.  A man has returned home after a long, long while.  There is a flower outside the steps of his parents’ home and there is something about that flower that both disturbs him and draws him back.  He keeps returning to that bloom—it may have been a lily—and then finally, he remembers.

I am like that man right now.  I can remember reading that story and having no logical idea of what he found in the flower, and yet I knew.  Typical Hesse.  He can speak to the soul in such a beautiful way while leaving the logical mind scratching its head.

My return to lake country is like this.  It is as if my young, wondering soul has diffused itself out across this land like fog or m ist.  I find her settled on leaves and branch tips and little blades of grass like morning dew.  And I am thirsty for her.  I have to taste every bit of it.

Leaving Lake Country has not come full circle to Returning to Lake Country.  I am much changed from the hopeful young woman who fled 30 plus years ago—and yet I am unchanged.  My essence is here.   As I re-gather that essence, I find that it is the source of my growing aliveness, the sense of joy, the play of it all.

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