Friday, September 18, 2009

Small Town

Everyone in the small co-orbiting towns of St. Francis and Bird City is an amateur genealogist. Each has a curiosity and supply of information about who is whose child, and to whom they were married. This has been complicated by divorce and widowhood, causing remarriages and blended families, all of which are duly noted and considered relevant information when telling a story about an individual.

They each have a pharmacist’s knowledge of pills and what they’re for, how much is taken, and especially the side effects. In fact, side effects and various ailments are appropriate conversation at any time or location. Growing old and dying are familiar aspects of the neighborhood, perhaps helping an individual reconcile to the fact of his own mortality and dwindling independence in a way that makes it harder on a person like me.

Almost all of these small-town citizens have attempted a country occupation like farming or cow-herding at one time or another, and so ought to be classified with country folk. They are innovators, recognizing their limitations and designing ways to compensate. Just as if a field had not enough water to grow corn, they would grow something else or dig a trench, so they treat all of life. Bad knee? Short term memory loss? Hailed out crops? There is a way to move on with every situation. Tenaciously they cling to their possibilities, but they are fatalists, resigned when at last there is no other way out. “That’s how it will have to be.” “This is best.”

In the little metropolis, signs are everywhere about country things and health things. Not only hospitals, but gas stations and grocery stores advertise ways to prevent the flu. Another common sign is that the establishment does not accept credit cards – but they do accept checks, local ones. It’s so backwards from the big city. And their streets perfectly crisscross, perpendicular to each other, but with only a rare stop sign and no hint of right of way.

I got to talking louder last week in the small towns, with all the hearing loss about. And I breathed deeper. Feelings were opened up in that safe, dear place. The country is both an art gallery and a museum, but it is my retreat, a rare place where I am myself and that is all I want to be.

To God be all glory.

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