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
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.
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.
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.
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.