All of my stories began on the Farm.
None of them have been finished there, but those first stirrings – an imagined city, a mysterious stranger, a laughing voice trying to tell me about magic – happen at North Hill.
On the weathered front porch where I can watch spring light dancing on green leaves across our quiet country road.
Up the lane surrounded by brown fields and distant forests red and gold with Autumn.
Biking over warm worn pavement, summer air filled with the smell of grapevines.
Or the smell of spearmint.
Or the sounds of spring peepers and later crickets singing from water and long grass.
I don’t know where ideas come from, but I do know something about this land makes it easier for me to hear and to listen to them. Something about the way bare branches brush the sky at dusk, the way red moonlight falls on the snow, the way the old sycamore by the mailbox looks like it’s waving when the wind blows through it, the way sun-baked crumbles of earth in the family garden feel on my toes, the way fresh-bloomed dandelions look in our overgrown yard, the way Mill Creek sounds when it runs through willow switches, the way storm clouds roar in from the West, tumbling blue and silver and black and laced with lightning, the way jets flash red and green against thousands of stars, the way rain smells when dripping from the farmhouse’s gutterless eaves.
This is not to say that light and storms, rain and the sounds of a peaceful world cannot be found elsewhere, or that stories cannot be created elsewhere – it is simply true that all of the writing I like best has had its start on those acres, under that part of Michigan’s sky.
And it is to that place I return to in my mind when I feel far away from my own created universes and the people who first started talking to me in my head.
I’ve made homes in other places. College dorms, college apartments, the pretty corner bedroom of my Aunt Robin’s lovely home, the rambling chaos of a Grand Rapids rental with six crazy roommates, and now, most recently, a creaking white house in a town so much smaller than Grand Rapids it smells of orchards and cow manure most of the time, making it utterly charming.
Perhaps stories will begin to begin there, on mornings when summer breezes come through many windows, when the stump of the largest Catalpa tree in the United States sprouts a little more new growth, when the cold seeps up from our basement through red-brown wood floors, when the light falls on overgrown grass, when storms roar in from the West, and when the rain drips from our gutterless eaves . . .
Until then, I will think of the Farm, remember all the ways it made me want to write, and begin.