Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Far Unlit Unknown

The Far Unlit Unknown: Not for everybody, and that's how we like it.
Some would call where I live the Middle of Nowhere, which would not be inaccurate.  I think we're closer to being 45 Minutes from the Middle of Nowhere, though.  It's been called "The Sticks."  

I prefer the Far Unlit Unknown.  It's a reference to the Rush song "Subdivisions," which is all about the suburbs:

Sprawling on the fringes of the city
in geometric order
an insulated border
in between the bright lights 
and the far, unlit unknown...

The Far Unlit Unknown.  That is such an exquisite, perfect way to describe Home, because "rural" only scratches the surface.  The university I attended for my undergrad years was billed as a "rural campus in a park-like setting."  And I can see how Selinsgrove can be seen as a rural area.  There was a big farm upwind from the U, and the city kids would freak out, every time the shit hit the fields.  You could tell the kids who were from the Urbs and Suburbs, because they'd be going around campus, gagging at the smell while the kids who grew up in more bucolic settings walked around like "this is just another day that ends in -y and smells like they're spraying the field."

I always had to laugh, though.  That "rural area" was right off the 4-lane and boasted a mall and WalMart and now has one of those fancy outdoor "Commons" plazas that has a Target and Red Robin and everything.  

Where I come from, there is no University downwind from big farms.  The closest institutions of higher learning are at least an hour away in any direction.  In order to get to the nearest four-lanes, we plan about forty-five minutes of driving through speed-trap town after speed-trap town that are mere shadows of the shadows of their former selves. We have Dollar Generals, finally (I guess), but Walmart is at least an hour away from my spot of the Far Unlit Unknown.  I'm not sure someone from the town where my "rural" college campus was located could even fathom just how rural we are out here in the Far Unlit Unknown. 

I always felt special kinship with the Townies, though, who were seen as a little provincial and sort of snickered about by my more cosmopolitan counterparts at the university.  If only they knew that in me, they had the worlds least ept fair queen, who'd grown up next door to a veal farm, who took Hunter's Safety in the sixth grade, just like everybody else in my school, and who'd *probably* remember enough about killing, skinning, and dressing out small game to be able to live off the well-fed campus squirrels in the event of apocalyptic disaster which would shut down the caf.

I mean, I probably could, if I weren't so squeamish, going Way Back, even to the sixth grade and Hunter's Safety.  And also, there's the matter of my big, dumb heart and deep affection for fat little squirrels.  They're my spirit animals.

And explaining the Far Unlit Unknown to my classmates and professors at graduate school, at a large urban campus with more students than the total population of my home county- that was a real gas!  My first workshop facilitator, the one who told me I belonged in "woodshop" instead of "writing workshop" couldn't wrap his academic brain around the fact that we didn't have street-signs where I grew up, because there weren't many streets, and every pick-up truck had a full gun-rack in the back window (and a shovel in the bed, I'd add, a little ominously, because not only was this fish out of water, she was swimming in toxic sludge on the 10th floor of Anderson Hall, and mentioning gun-racks and shovels got a reaction!)

It's different out here.  People will go out of their ways to help even a stranger, if a stranger needs help.  We'll give our last dollar, the shirt right off our back.  But we're not so big on outsiders coming in with cases of imported troubles.  We tend not to sit and wait for some big authority to come help us out or to come clean up.  We're more inclined to take matters into our own hands.

It's challenging to live out here in the Far Unlit Unknown.  We don't have a lot of things at our fingertips the way people do in the Urbs, Suburbs, and Enhanced Rural Areas.  But we have our space.  We're quite self-reliant and know we're stronger if we stick together.  We could make a meal out of woodchucks and squirrels if we had to. 

And every time I flip on the News in 2020, I realize that the Far Unlit Unknown is exactly where I belong.

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