“Winter is not a personal experience.”
I am proud to be from the Midwest.
Of course, I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and when I was growing up, I didn’t know anyone who would have referred to it as a “midwestern” town. There was more of a need to identify with the South: mint juleps. Horses. Drawls. But as I aged, and read, and eventually moved away, I realized that Midwest it is, and at my core, Midwest, I am.
The Midwest is a duplicitous place. It will often smile at you with a very workmanlike politeness, while judging you for your shoddy morals behind bright eyes. It has other issues, too. But when I compare it to the northeast, from which I’m a happy refugee, I am much more comfortable. Here, I can think twice about which way to turn, and do so without someone shoulder-checking me on the sidewalk. Hell, around these parts most people will tip the hat and say “Hi” to you on the sidewalk.
I dig that.
The Day Job closes its doors for the whole week between Christmas and New Year’s. I decided to spend that time in a place where introspection could be readily had, in one of my adopted states, Michigan. Rugged and more independent than where I grew up, it was the perfect place for me to fill my beloved fountain pens, make notes on my endlessly unfinished attempt at The Great American Memoir, and bare the lens of my Nikon to the elements.
I share with you these words from one of my favorites, Garrison Keillor, where he summarizes beautifully the culture and the climate from which I wrote and shot this week:
I imagine life will take you off to strange places, and lucky you, but I do think you were lucky to be from the Midwest. This is a culture that teaches you good basic things. To be competent and useful. Not to be an arrogant blowhard who’s all gas and no flame. To be helpful. Don’t pass by people in trouble and pretend you don’t see them. To be mannerly. To be cheerful. To avoid self-pity. Winter is not a personal experience; everyone else is as cold as you are; so don’t complain about it too much. But the Midwest can’t teach you everything, and it is not good about teaching you to be an individual. This culture that you grew up in prizes mediocrity and conformity. It is not happy about people who think independently and say so.
My pens are now packed, and my legs ache from some seriously remote cross country skiing. Slipping the skis into the dual groomed tracks, I thought about the duality of the experience: running along under your own power, but along what amounts to rails set down by someone else. It’s kinda like The Day Job I return to come Wednesday.
2013 will see me making small strides towards a little more independence. I promise to share with you, as I go, if you’re interested. And I hope you are. I could use all the encouragement I could get. After all, I’m a midwestern guy.
(If you like your pictures big n’ sharp, just click on each one.)