Is it too much to ask for the hedge of my youth to be clung about with Arthur’s Vines, or for the many lakes in which I fearlessly swum to harbour unspeakable beasts of a time before time? Yes, but I still would like to walk through my town as if through a poem, hardly an epic but worth dwelling on/in, and say THAT house is where great things happened, dark deeds were wrought in THAT ditch by THAT pond, love unconquered burst, of all places, behind that crumbling cenotaph.
Maybe they did, but no one remembers, no one recalls, no one even mythologizes, for fear of stepping outside the bounds of normality, for fear of being called that most dreaded of names: “Interesting.” (It’s an insult where I come from—my father’s equivalent word was “Colorful”.)
Not sure where this is going, or what I’m looking for, but I suppose I’m making a demand of myself that, if I ever were to write again, at length, stories and poetry, that they be borne of my own soil, of mildewed Milwaukee attics, of Green Bays rather a ominous tinge of brown, of the new Lake Geneva, not the old (whose stories are legion and of whose myths I cannot partake), where ancient anglers whisper about fish 20 ft. long that eat drunken canoers who capsize late at night, dragged down by waters too cold to buoy their sotted flesh.
This hunting for stories should not always be like turning over large rocks—the unremarkably lichened granite replaced by crawling horrors, albeit tiny, who were never to see the light of day—for there needs to be some search, however desultory, for a verdant garden, no matter how overgrown, or to be more honest, a search for badly-paved small town streets, kids smoking up behind the gym, skeletons of elms dead 50 years (there I go again), of Al the mayor in his mesh cap, making the rounds of the town green (I never knew his last name).
Every day I read something more about the 12th or 13th century, about bishops and kings and my infamous archdeacons, and, for the most part, what survives concerns only the great, the beautiful, the horrible, the momentous. It makes my world seem so small, my deeds so insignificant. Maybe mine are, but the world which made me is not. I need to look anew, with my historian’s eye, at the small towns and schools of my childhood, wedged between glacial lakes, golf courses, and mile after mile of grain.
Thinking about stories, be they myth, legend, or the cobwebbing of facts we call history. So many things, places and, of course people, are fraught with stories, sometimes worn merely as a coat, sometimes forming the entire spine or Ygdrasil. Wondering where my stories are, where I could find them back in Wisconsin. Does the Midwest even have stories, does it have storytellers? I look back and what seems so omnipresent in my past is dirt, much clearer now in a city where I am so conscious of the lack of dirt. But that dirt is only dirt, good dirt for growing soy, corn and marijuana, but it’s not the soil of ages past, soft yet impenetrable foundation of countless storied generations.