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"It gathers each of us, native born and adopted along the way, into her wide-spread skirts …"

The prairie hasn't read the memo yet. It still thinks it's Spring though Summer's nearly two weeks on. Eight inches of rain in the last week has left the corn tall and deep green with muddy feet. Wildflowers smear expanses of prairie grass coming into full fuzzy head now. The thermostat hasn't found its upper reaches and we run with the sun roof and side windows wide open, more ambient than we had any reason to expect. We both seem born to this place. The Muse because she was born to here, me, I suppose, because some of my forebears homesteaded just south of here. The Muse is headed BackHome.

In our part of this culture we say that we "go BackHome." Most of our generation moved away somewhere. The prior generation was no different.
A few sentinels in each generation remain, settling where their parents settled, keeping what we refer to as the home fires burning, carrying on their thoroughly modern lives in the adjacent shadow of the family's more distant past. Those who left carry a deep unshakable regret, though they understand that somehow they were not destined to ever stay. On their better days they might insist that they grew up and out. On their lessor ones, that they grew up and away, heartstrings forever tethered to the old home place, cruelly exiled from their native territory carrying only dusty, ill-wrapped traditions with them.

Holidays and other celebrations bring these exiles streaming back. Always back, never forward or sideways, but BackHome as if drawn by some metabolic tractor beam. The birthplace forever over-reaches any birthright. The soil there seems to attract them to the only place where gravity ever seemed to work right. Even when they first recognized that they could not make their living there, they knew they would always be drawn back, however deep their departing disappointment. Family remaining there could never see them as strangers, no matter how many big city affectations they carry BackHome. For a few blessed days, the orbits of the original planets seem to be restored and all seems suddenly, however briefly, right with the world.

Forward momentum suspended for the duration, those coming home live as the children they once knew themselves to be. They left full responsibility behind them in their adopted houseland, a place almost completely unlike their homeland where the house that holds their worldly possessions stands. Of course every past remains forever past and the future, an entity not yet existing anywhere. Arriving BackHome collapses all the everyday distinctions. The future crumbles into its tenuous presumptions. The past climbs up and out of her shallow grave. The present feels more forward and the past seems surprisingly prescient. None of any of this place ever relied upon anyone's presence to validate its existence, though it always seemed to somehow need us here. This place gathers each of us, native born and adopted along the way, into her wide-spread skirts to nuzzle us BackHome.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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