Happy Father’s Day!

One of my favorite memories with my Dad this year was surprising him at his induction into the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  The banquet was held right around the time of the state tournaments in March.  Basketball was a really big connector for my family—both watching and playing.

I wasn’t a great player by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m sure I was better because of Dad’s coaching and shooting hoops after supper.  My Dad actually sent someone into the locker room at half time to tell me that I wasn’t getting my feet off the floor on my jump shots in a game against our rivals, Gregory.  He was right and I don’t remember exactly, but I suspect that didn’t make me jump much higher.

It was a privilege to hear all of the other high school basketball stories from around South Dakota.  We laughed, we cried and we celebrated hard work, talent and competitiveness.

So on this Father’s Day in 2017 thank you for helping create the woman I am today.  And if you don’t feel like claiming any responsibility, well that’s OK too Dad.  No harm.  No foul.

 

my gentle giant

I discovered this image of my husband Jeff’s legs this morning.  The photo had cool shadows and movement to work with.  After a bit of goofing off and layering—this series is what emerged.

Jeff is off exploring his world right now in a very BIG way.  The first image on the road reminds me of the South Dakota Monster stories my Dad told all seven of his grandchildren.  I don’t see my husband as a monster though—much more like a gentle giant.

We’ve always told our children that they are part prairie & part sea.  When I started choosing photos to layer with Jeff’s legs I was naturally drawn to images of the prairie and the sea.

Here’s to your big adventures this weekend, wherever your feet take you.

Jeff walking on the prairie Lisa Lillibridgeexploring the prairie lisa lillibridgeJeff Govoni on beach approach bigger than lifeFacing our Fears Lisa LillibridgeJP heading to sea

Taking on the World

  1. South Dakota two-lane road near Burke
  2. Abandoned farmhouse south of Burke, South Dakota
  3. Town Neck Beach approach,—Sandwich, Massachusetts
  4. Everglade National Park in Florida
  5. Town Neck Beach, Sandwich, Massachusetts
  6. Florence, Italy

my wearable art

I have a line of scarves and here’s the link to purchase if you are interested.

https://shopvida.com/collections/lisa-lillibridge

Here’s a video about VIDA and their mission on the website.

https://shopvida.com/pages/our-story


 

Hillbilly Elegy & interior geography

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHumans are an intricate system of bones, nerves, blood and memories.  We all have a unique internal map that shaped us.  Interior geography is the exploration of our inner world and the hardwired routes from our childhoods that guide our dispositions and chosen paths.  Exploring our interior geography honors the wisdom we possess from our journey and provides an opportunity to discover new territories we want to explore, but haven’t quite found a path toward yet.

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Hillbilly Elegy is all about J. D. Vance’s interior geography. In this brave memoir about growing up in a poor American Appalachian town, Vance shares the heartbreak of constant childhood disruption and the deep love of the people who were rooting for his success.  He tries to write without judgement and this allows him some generosity (and a little distance) to try to understand the people and the landscaped that shaped him.  To me this book was an invitation to look back at my childhood and take a look at my interior geography—both the chosen paths I’m proud of and the well worn paths I now need to block access to going forward.

My husband, Jeff and I listened to “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance over Christmas.  The author is the reader which lends a certain intimacy to the audible version.  Here are a few thoughts that surfaced for me.

1.  I think a lot of us can recognize “Hillbilly” qualities in our upbringing regardless of our social class. Even though I was raised relatively affluent in a small, South Dakota farm town I can easily relate to many of the themes J. D. Vance references in this memoir.  As we listened to the book, Jeff observed that it could’ve been titled: Reactive or Judgemental Household Elegy—I would guess that most of us grew up with some judgement in our homes.  “Hillbilly” in the title might make you think it will be hard to relate to.  It’s not.  J. D.’s honesty about his childhood—poverty, abuse, clan loyalty, secrets, addiction and his family’s response to all of it are profound.

I was also struck by the way we tend to identify poverty only in financial terms. I believe a poverty of the mind can manifest in ways that deeply affect our lives too. J. D. Vance describes this as well as he does financial poverty. When social, cultural, political or religious views challenge our ability to see the bigger picture of things around us—outside influences are perceived as threatening and we’re left with even less understanding of our differences.  I’m optimistic that if we focus more on our similarities we will be more unified.

Like the author, I’m trying to not be judgemental here and look through a more sociological lens.  I know I’m guilty at times of not seeking more understanding of the world around me.  For heaven’s sake, I’m a liberal and I live in Vermont. I get it.  If you’re familiar with the Hunger Games series, I’ve been joking that Vermont is like living in District 12.  I’m willing to admit that I’m living in a bubble and Hillbilly Elegy helped burst it a little bit.

By examining our childhoods, we can gain some insight and are given an opportunity for self-correction if necessary.  This brings me to the second reason this book was so important to me and well-timed.

2. The shadow side of our personality traits.  I’ve always been really proud of my independent spirit.  It’s my nature and was well-honed during my childhood.  I had a lot of freedom growing up in a small town in South Dakota and it allowed me to exist “under the radar” in a sense. My whole adult life I thought it served me quite well.  However, while listening to this book, as my tears flowed, I realized that my fierce independence has not always been an asset to my parenting or my marriage. memories-lisa-lillibridge-burke-south-dakotaAny perceived threat (big or small) to my independence or sovereign self can set me off—my own reactivity or judgement.  That’s the shadow side of my independence and it ain’t pretty.  Here’s the upside; now that I’ve recognized this in myself, well shit, I can’t unsee it now.

Thank you J. D. Vance, oh and Jeff too.

This insight gives me an opportunity to take a moment and see if what’s being asked of me is truly a threat to my independent, sovereign self (probably not) and I can try to respond like a grown-up and not be reactive. I’m writing this for me, for accountability regarding something I’ve learned and cannot unlearn now.  J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy gave me a little more courage to write about my life and for that I’m grateful.

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FROM GOODREADS  “From a former Marine and Yale Law School Graduate, a poignant account of growing up in a poor Appalachian town, that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class. Part memoir, part historical and social analysis, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy is a fascinating consideration of class, culture, and the American dream.

Vance’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love.” They got married and moved north from Kentucky to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. Their grandchild (the author) graduated from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving upward mobility for their family. But Vance cautions that is only the short version. The slightly longer version is that his grandparents, aunt, uncle, and mother struggled to varying degrees with the demands of their new middle class life and they, and Vance himself, still carry around the demons of their chaotic family history.” 

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27161156-hillbilly-elegy

ego vs. heart

Somehow folks, photographs of Herrick, South Dakota struck at the heart of many people…actually WAY more people than had ever read my blog before.  So, at first it fed my ego.  I was obsessively checking the number of viewers I had for those Herrick photographs.  (Obsessively is almost too small of a word for my behavior.)  I kept thinking about the comments of people who grew up in Herrick and moved away.  A former babysitter of mine wrote and people were connecting about their love of Herrick and rural South Dakota.  That was a blast for me.  Thank you.

This morning in my NIA dance class we did a move that protected our hearts and then we gave them out to the world.  Arms closed and wrapped in protection across our hearts then opened wide. It made me think about EGO vs. HEART—protecting the way the world sees me vs. vulnerability & social risk.  I was thinking about the volume of traffic I had to my site and then it all went straight to my heart.  Arms wide and then crossed.  Try it, it’s kind of a cool way to get a sense of vulnerability and protection in your body.  I’m not surprised that my pictures of Herrick, South Dakota sparked so much interest and dialogue.

I think the geography of our upbringing is in our bones.

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“…voluntary settlement to a frontier area tends to produce individualism.”  Geographical Psychology; Exploring the Interaction of Environment and Behavior edited by Peter J. Renfrow.  Cool, huh?  I often think about the freedom and spaciousness I was allowed growing up on the prairie. It was awesome AND I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Burke.  To quote Joni Mitchell, “I got the urge for going”.

lowell-s

My settlement in Burke was involuntary at my birth, however, it did produce a sense of individualism in me.  I suspect in many others too (judging by your response to my photos, shut up ego, let the heart take over).  In the book I referenced it suggests that people in frontier areas are naturally more suspicious of outsiders because of the potential to spread disease.  Fascinating lizard brain stuff, huh?

For many reasons “pioneer & frontier thinking” has been bouncing around in my head a lot lately.  Last week a relative sent me this article about my Great Grandfather, Lowell Stanton Lillibridge, pioneer banker. These few paragraphs tell a great story about pioneer life in South Dakota at the turn of the century.

I’m grateful I have a different lens to view the landscape that informed who I am.  I’m not wild about some other middle aged issues, but I do appreciate the wisdom.

I haven’t lived in South Dakota since 1989.  I moved to Vermont on New Year’s Day 1990, and yet an image of a South Dakota two-lane highway is my constant muse.  Funny how different things look with a quite few more years in the rear view mirror.

I encourage you to think about what specifically speaks to you about the geography you experienced growing up.  What’s your “South Dakota two-lane”?  That image got me through some rough dental work last week.  You might want to consider a landscape as a sort of meditation…a “go to” place when you need to settle your brain down.

Thank you for reading.  I’m truly grateful for your time.

Herrick, South Dakota

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The week before Thanksgiving I was in South Dakota visiting my family.  I had an afternoon to drive around and shoot some photos.  I headed to Herrick, just east of Burke, listening to korn country 92.1. I love Keith Urban’s song; Blue Ain’t Your Color.  If you don’t know this song, it’s a damn shame.  Here’s the video.

I spent a lot of time in Herrick growing up.  I “worked bees” two summers. That was highly educational, messy and sometimes painful work.  I got stung 17 times one day (my forearms looked like Popeye’s). I played softball in the field behind the truck.  I think I might’ve even knocked back a few beers at parties in the outfield on occasion. I had a friend who lived on a farm in Herrick and since I was a “city kid” riding the bus to Anita’s farm was a grand adventure.  We could drive at fourteen.  We didn’t have to ride the bus too long.  So, I had a blast driving around Herrick in beautiful, autumn, late afternoon light and thinking about my Herrick Days.

Next time, perhaps a whole series of photos devoted to Bernie’s Inn, the historic watering hole in Herrick.  Would that be a possibility?  Let me know.

Prairie beauty. 

There is a unique beauty the prairie possesses. The starkness out here is as rugged as the frontier spirit.  This is a part of the world that would prefer things stay known, steady and traditional. It never does. Shifts occur. 

I’m visiting my family in South Dakota now. I can see both the independence I reveled in as a teenager AND the uncertainty about how the world is changing.  Understanding this duality fosters my curiosity about things unknown. I like that. I’m grateful for both my independence and my deep roots here. 

Life is a puzzle, people are puzzling and sometimes all we can do is keep looking between the cushions or under the couch for the piece we’re missing. 

Let’s all keep seeking understanding and looking for the missing pieces folks. Let’s ask more questions of eachother than lecture. I do believe a little curiosity can change the world or at least your holiday table.  It will be a much shorter drive home from Grandma’s if everyone felt heard and respected. 

Happy Thanksgiving!