I started this journey hoping to bridge the divide between city and rural life. I didn’t know where I would go as I was only allowing myself to go where I was sent along the way. I didn’t know who I would meet, as I had not planned to meet anyone in particular. And I didn’t know where I would stay. I would find shelter along the way or pull into some wayside road and tumble into the foldable bed nestled in the back of my van.
This has both awed people and baffled them.
“What?” they ask, “You don’t have a map of where you’re going? Really, you really don’t know?”
I really don’t know.
I believe that if we are to find out the truth about our world, especially our rural world, we must be willing to give up any city conception of how to get there and be guided by people who are of this world.
I really truly don’t know.
My only ‘directive’ is to follow the ‘thread’ of finding out about the challenges, dreams, and hopes of rural America. I want to see what is in common among these communities. I want to meet the people who give their lives to bring their towns back to life. I want to feel into, see into, and listen into this world that so most of us know so little about.
As I sit in this motel room writing for a day, I listen as cars whiz by heading to a tourist destination beyond the limits of this tiny little town.
I am thankful for this poem. It’s is my beacon and my guide.
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
This, all this, has been true on my journey. The only thing that’s different is that the trip has released me of the temporary state of getting old. I feel like I’ve reclaimed my life and had the opportunity to meet and learn from amazing and unsung wizards of our time. They have shared with me so much of the tragedy and struggle that they and their towns have faced. And they have taught me what true optimism means — hopefulness and confidence about the future grounded in the reality of where you’ve been and are determined not to be again.
Thank you rural folks for all that you have taught me!!!