Well, it is probably about time to turn my thoughts toward home.
Actually, they have never really left there. When I was living in New York City in my mid-twenties (35 years ago), one of my best friends made me aware that being from the Midwest was neither a burden, nor a shame. It was not something you had to explain or hide, or do any of the other things Midwesterners sometimes do when they leave their Midwestern homes behind. Through her example, she helped me understand that the roots that some people choose to dismiss or deny (usually under pressure of a surrounding atmosphere in which the Midwest is hardly seen as a place of general interest and admiration) were, or at least could be, a source of strength. For me that strength was crucial, an essential resource that helped me in becoming the adult me I wanted to be–while retaining the essential me that has always been.
My friend is from South Dakota, and she kept a map of her home state on the wall of her office in New York. That was something I had never thought of doing, but pretty soon I had put a map of Minnesota on a wall in my home, and marked certain special places on it. Inexplicably, it made me feel good–more relaxed, happier–every time I looked at it. Sometimes I would reach out and touch it as I hurried past, as if it had some talismanic power. I think maybe it did.
I’m no longer living in New York and I’m not back in Minnesota either, though I have spent enough time there over the years that it still feels like home, one of the three places in the world where I feel happiest and most comfortable.
For more years than I care to think about I have been working on a memoir called “A Long Way from Iowa.” Iowa, because that is where my grandmother was from, and that is where my story (in a way) begins.
It has been hard to find the time to work on this book for a host of reasons. But I have been steadily plugging away at it, as I can. I’ve recently returned to it and am filling it out and figuring out which parts of the story are still missing. It is work that I love more than I can say.
So I thought maybe it was time for my blog to have a place for writing about the Midwest. Just to be ready for whatever comes next.
Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and literature based in Silver Spring, Maryland. Each summer she teaches a literature course in Paris, for Queens College, CUNY (“Paris: A Literary Adventure”). She also teaches culture and literature courses at Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington D.C. and Writing from the Heart workshops in Essoyes, a beautiful little village in the Champagne region of France.