horizontal mystery ship—for Dad

HORIZONTAL MYSTERY SHIP

when you leave at seventeen
rarely home
more than two weeks at a time 
months, years and decades
can be surprisingly unreliable markers of adulthood

only once
in the summer of ‘88
a recent college grad
wide-eyed and wanderlust-fueled
my tonsils required more
I stayed a whole month

once healed, packed, and in possession of necessary visas
off to the southern hemisphere
a young pioneer 
in search adventure
and different stars

now, when visiting 
after a lifetime lived elsewhere
grey hairs visible
no matter my efforts
I find myself
sliding into a peculiar second adolescence of sorts

driving Dad’s truck 
windows down, hair blowing 
mile after mile of expansive, wild beauty 
the prairie 
a determined cellular homesteader 
forever staking a claim in my blood and bones

I want to sneak out to the bar
play Space Invaders
sadly, no longer a standard
unlike 1982
drink beer, eat junk food
and avoid the endless expectations of being a grown-up

Looking back with midlife sensibilities 
I realize
those late nights in high school
tenth grade, I believe
laser focused, playing Space Invaders
provided a surprisingly valuable education 

initials entered, quarters stacked
protect the bunkers, defeat the aliens
monitor the horizontal mystery ship with vigilance 
my peripheral vision unknowingly trained 
to notice things beyond immediate scope
bonus points pinged
while friends waited impatiently

twenty more minutes, please

under a waning August moon
only one lunar phase ago
I was still my father’s daughter
a middle-aged, South Dakota teenager
pretending time actually plays tricks
wanting desperately to disregard reality 

one more visit on the calendar
one more phone call
cheeseburger or ice cream cone 
one more evening watching
Everybody Loves Raymond
M.A.S.H. 
or Mayberry RFD

twenty more minutes, please

quarters stacked no longer
Space Invaders
the nearly forgotten teenage relic 
of a heartbroken
fifty-something
fatherless daughter

once again, 
I am protecting my bunkers
monitoring a new horizontal mystery ship
paying very close attention
to what's just beyond my immediate scope

just twenty more minutes, please

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!

geography & identity

I’m very curious about how our interior geography affects our moods and choices in life.  I find myself at nearly 50 years old realizing that I need a lot of spaciousness to feel most comfortable in my own skin.  I truly understand how growing up and forming my identity on the prairie instilled an interior geography within me. I want to understand this better.

prairie beach lillibridge interior geography

There is an eternal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.

—Josephine Hart, Irish novelist

I layered these images of flying into South Dakota and the Town Neck Beach approach in Sandwich, Massachusetts.  The vastness of the ocean gives me the same feeling of ease that the prairie gives me.  It doesn’t matter if I’m driving country roads in South Dakota or kayaking the Cape Cod Bay.  The inner feeling is the same.

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I just ordered this book:  Geographical Psychology: Exploring the Interaction of Environment and Behavior by Peter J. Rentfrow, PhD.

“The research described in this volume indicates that personality, political ideology, well-being, happiness, human virtues, and personal concerns are related to several important geographic social indicators.”

I can’t wait to delve further into more understanding about this subject.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.