There hasn’t been much time for letting the words gel in my own current existence, but rest assured, some will come. In the mean time, some words from a while ago, during another May anniversary of mine.
May 16, 2009
In a couple of days it will have been one year since I moved from Kentucky. A place that I debated whether or not I should try to make it feel more like a home. The pace I kept didn’t lend itself to many moments of reflection in this vein, so I don’t know really what I ended up with after the fourth and final cross-country drive. Enough time has elapsed that Bowling Green has slipped into a dream state, a place called Folkloreland. Sometimes I don’t believe that I really lived there. My very first night in Kentucky was thick with humidity. As my family settled into our Kozy Kabin at the KOA on Three Springs Road, I walked to the bathroom in a haze of late night cicada song. This thought came to me: I SHOULD NOT have decided to come here without visiting first. My car had broken during the journey across. My family had to leave me the next afternoon. I started walking to church that first Sunday in a pouring rainstorm, not quite sure which direction I was supposed to go in. I could hardly breathe for the overabundance of water EVERYwhere. I knew nobody. And I kept a thread of self-reassurance running through my actions of that first week that went like this: Nelda, you knew you were supposed to come here. You thought about it and prayed about it so long– you gotta stay now.
And stay I did. I pulled out my shovel and started digging in.
My smiling-est moments include the first time Michael Ann turned to me in folk art class and asked my opinion on a particular chapter from John Dorst’s LOOKING WEST. My opinion as the resident Westerner in the room. Include the time when I stood laughing in Meredith’s living room the night before comps, realizing that I couldn’t remember my own email address, my brain was so full. Include watching the sun go down through the trees while I sat in the back room of the cabin. Catching split second glances from a boy across the room, whose praying voice reminded me that God does hear His children, and who looked really hot in a leather jacket. Listening to Meredith sing to a ring of folklorists in a hotel in Canada. Having Clayson Booher crawl into my lap of his own volition during Primary one Sunday. Gesticulating wildly in front of my ESL class, wondering if I made any sense. Grocery shopping late at night, standing in the organic section of Kroger, frozen in my tracks because the song “She Likes Me for Me” is floating down from the speakers, instantly transporting me to something like Logan, Utah, 1997. Listening to Aimee explain an online zombie game and classical literature in the same discussion. Looking up at the still white light shooting down through the wood and glass layers of the Centre Dwelling at South Union, breathing in cool air and order.
Fortunately, my smiling moments come to mind more readily than my painful moments out there. My heart wanting to split in two so as to somehow reach a friend I dearly loved who was sad and drunk and living 1600 miles away. Realizing that other people’s universes are shattering all the time, I just don’t know about it. Discovering what it’s like when Nelda freaks out.
But not every experience falls on one side of the smiling/painful divider. There were so many things that I needed to learn out there, so many people I needed to meet, so much music I needed to hear, so many words I needed to write. These chapters I find myself living are making me not necessarily a better person, but more of a person.
But because I have desert and not bluegrass in me, I couldn’t stay. Because I didn’t make myself dig in deeper while I was there, I couldn’t stay. Were it not for the things I do and the ways I think and move today, all those things I picked up while I was out there, I would question my memory and active imagination. But as it is, Bowling Green turned out to be another footing. Another brick in the wall. If I can borrow from Mary Sue Martin, it was a stone to stand on, once new and now old, succeeding in getting me safely to the next place I needed to be.
So, Bowling Green, I lit Carol Appel-Basham’s Virgen de Guadalupe candle for you tonight, the one that she left behind in the House of Folk and that Aimee and I kept in our folklore shrine, next to our Important Folklore-Related People matching game and our tobacco sticks. I complained a lot about you while I was there, I bad-mouthed you when I wasn’t there, and yet we both know that you were supposed to happen.