June 11th, 2004



Out walking in the fields yesterday evening, I stopped to listen. We're out in farm country and the gravel road I was on goes past empty pastures, empty woods, a few houses, and if I had continued all the way to the end would have ended up at the ostrich farm and the river. Birdsong, at least three different ones, the only one I recognized was blackbird. I could hear a tractor chuffing and a lawnmower duet. Cars passed by on the main road far behind me, with that whooOOOOoooosh so particular to intermittant traffic. The breeze was ruffling the fluffy heads of the grasses. A dove cooed. A dog barked. My feet kicked stones aside as I started walking again, click clack. Nearly home again, the sun in my face, still high in the sky despite the lateness of the hour, drew a shining screen across my eyes. Squinting down I saw stars: tiny meadow daisies in the grass.

The only other time I lived in the country like this was in Belgium. I was too little when we lived in Montana to remember much but snow. Nearly everywhere else we lived when I was young was base housing or suburbs. As an adult in Chicago, I lived first in the suburbs, small cities in themselves and then right smack in the pulsing heart of the city. I loved it, it was so alive. It made me walk bouncing on the balls of my feet, that electric living town.

In Missouri, my sister and I ranged far and wide and made mud pies at Baby Face Creek. We decorated them, little Marthas, with berries and leaves and shiny rounded stones from the creekbed. The woods were ours, a green leafy canopy. We thrilled to see a snake swimming in the waterhole, shivering with terrified delight in the belief that it was a water moccasin, and some animal jumped out of the bushes at Sarah and scared us up the side of a sandy cliff.

In Alabama, there was another creek that we explored for miles, chasing frogs and staring in awe at the Spanish moss draping the treetops.

Overpelt, Belgium was, and is, bigger than Flyinge, but it had much the same atmosphere. A little farming town, out in the fields. We lived on the outskirts in a big, brick house. It was the first time I had a bedroom to myself, and oh, how I loved it. Down the road from us was a real farm with cows and pigs that had babies each spring, chickens in the yard, and kittens tumbling among the big, squared haybales. The electric fence I shocked my sister with was down another little street, near the nine-pin skittles* bowling alley that the old men of the village hung out at. My brother hung out there too, retrieving balls and setting up pins for a few centimes and francs.

Now, walking around Flyinge in the sunshine, listening to the buzz of insects and the wind in the trees, watching summer swell around me, I realize that I am once again bouncing on the balls of my feet as I go. Electric living, indeed.

Happy Birthday Wishes to anniz!

*called something like keggels in Flemish
  • Current Music
    Echo & the Bunnymen—Heaven Up Here