School is no longer out for the summer–it could never be done for forever. Which is probably a good thing, I suppose. It is funny, Summer has always been my favorite season. Well, maybe that's not all that funny in and of itself. What I mean is, Summer was always my favorite season when I was in K-12 for all the obvious reasons. No class. Lots of time to be outside, play basketball, go to the pool, be active. Lots of time to play video games, go to movies, be a little less active. The season for small vacations and road trips with friends. Bonfires and midnight riverwalk air.
What is funny, I guess, is that Summer is still my favorite season. I am not a schoolkid anymore. Not even a college kid or a grad school kid anymore. With my VA tenure, this year is an exception, but anymore, Summer is effectively the same as every other season, in terms of obligations and free time and all those things that decide what kind of memories you have the time and energy to make. It is, admittedly, a little bit silly to let Summer rest on the laurels of what it meant to me when I was a child, but I think I am okay with that.
Summer is where I have built the most memories that I want to rest in sometimes. Not live in. Not retire to. But rest in for a short while. Borrow, when I would like to borrow them. Memories of swimming in the Mississippi, of hiking or aimlessly wandering the Mines of Spain, of walking to and from midnight movie showings, basking in newfound independence. Of red sunsets, storms threatening on the back porch, chugging energy drinks and sometimes other things. I'm no psychologist, so grain of salt, but I think when we think about our favorite seasons, I think we just latch on to the one that has accumulated the most of those memories you can rest in, can call home. For me, summer has the most home in it.
And I have thought a lot about what that means, about what home means. I don't think it means staying put. A lot of the memories that feel most like home to me are miles and miles from where I live and work and grew up even. Home is a white water raft in Wyoming on your first trip outside the tri-state area as a 17 year-old. Home is the San Diego Beach, 20 years old and seeing the ocean for the first time. Home is a Tennessee mountainside. An ampitheater on a Washington Gorge. A freeway with a full car. Or a living room. An Xbox. The pool down the street from my best friend's house. Swiss Valley Park. The streets you walk your dog down. Hartman Reserve.
How do I say "Home is where the heart is" without saying "Home is where the heart is?" I don't know. Home isn't a place. It is trite, but it is true. Home is the memories you can retreat to–knowingly or unknowingly, sometimes they return as just a feeling–that give you somewhere to rest and, when you need to, reassess your next steps.
I want to thank Hartman Reserve for giving me a place to create more of those homes this summer. Days spent writing poetry on my little bench by the lake. The miles spent walking the trails, befriending the trees, discovering new corners of prairie, of marsh, of brush and flora. The time spent with people I met and worked with through the events and readings we did. The nights and weekends getting ink all over my hands and kitchen–testing out prints and broadsides, and eventually, Cover, Recover.
I want to thank everyone who had any hand in helping me make memories this summer. Of course, thank you to Hartman Reserve Nature Center, Blackhawk County Conservation, and, particularly, Hartman's Connie Svoboda for the support, financial and otherwise, in doing work I could be proud of as this year's Visiting Artist. Thank you as well to all members of the Visiting Artist Committee who had a say in selecting me–I am deeply indebted to your labor. To everyone I worked with at the Hearst Center–Sheri, Emily, Abby, and the rest of the Hearst staff. Everyone at the Waterloo Center for the Arts–Chawne, Elizabeth, and the rest of the staff at WCA. My partner Kat, my dog Luna, every friend and family member I got to make memories with this summer, or otherwise at some time in the past. Even beyond the opportunities my VA tenure gave me, I got to do a lot of fun things this summer. Travel the Pacific Northwest, experience live music again, spend time with people I care about.
In fact, as I chronicled in my very first post here, my summer started with a visit to Colorado with some friends. I received the call from Connie that I had been chosen as this year's Visiting Artist while driving through a late May Denver snowstorm. As far as I am concerned, my summer really started right then, in a late May Denver snowstorm. That memory has become the first home I attribute to this summer.
And my last memories, my last homes, of summer, of my VA tenure came this past week, the last week of September and technically the first full week of Fall, as I bid farewell. It is not a farewell to the Reserve as a whole–I will of course still be around–but a farewell to what it has meant to me this summer. The land has already started to change. Not drastically. But there are orange, red, yellow trees. Some, but not many, are already bare. Some still green, still at their fullest, perhaps yet unaware how close they are to turning orange, red, yellow. Bare. On Monday, I sat by the lake in my usual spot, my usual bench. I was wearing a T shirt and basketball shorts–what I usually wore to Hartman this summer.
Even though it was the middle of the day, it was chilly. Not so chilly that I absolutely needed a jacket or a sweater or longer pants or a Matrix-style leather duster or Wizard robe or anything. But chilly enough I probably should have worn a jacket or a sweater or longer pants and honestly probably not any of those other things still. I sat on my bench writing in my journal. There was a breeze. I knew that I had been here before. Both in this place–on this same bench, at a different time under different skies–and in a different place–in the same early Fall chill, but on Horseshoe Bluff at the Mines of Spain, or on trails stomping dead leaves into train tracks, or by the Riverwalk staring at the lights over Dubuque in the middle of the night, knowing it is one of your last chances of the season to be there and be able to withstand the cold. I thanked Hartman for the portal to these memories. For the chance to add this moment, these moments, to the collection. For making me realize there are homes outside of Summer I can look forward to, while I let these ones rest.
And so before I sign off as Visiting Artist for the summer, I should let you know what this space will look like from now on. Everything I have done here on this website will stay up as long as I keep the domain. All of this is completely undecided still, but for full transparency, there is a possibility some poem excerpts could come down for publishing reasons, but no full blog posts/newsletters will be deleted (alternatively it is possible I throw a free PDF of Cover, Recover on here. Who knows!) This site will work as a de facto Author's Site for me in addition to having all Visiting Artist content archived. This will still be the best place on the web to check for any speaking engagements that may come up, or if you are a person who wants me to come do a speaking engagement (find me in the Contact page).
You're welcome to stay subscribed; I will not be sending posts out weekly anymore, but I will send out reminders here and there about events and book stuff, any other big news about my creative work that may arise, etc. If you just wanted to stick around for the summer–no more, no less–I will not be offended if you unsubscribe. But hey, if you wanna keep up on what I'm doing, I would be honored to have your continued subscription.
To sign off from my regular weekly letters this summer, I want to leave you with a bit of serendipity, an act of homes colliding. There is one band I have talked about this past summer quite a bit–both in this blog and in some of my speaking engagements. That's right. My fellow Iowans, them crazy masked Slipknot boys. I was a big Slipknot fan as a teen, and while I don't connect with the music as much or as often anymore, I had some time this summer to reevaluate my relationship with their music. That reevaluation ended up becoming a poem that is very important, I think, to the movement of the chapbook. And as the aforementioned bit of serendipity, ol' Slippy put out an album called The End (So Far) this past Friday, the final contracted day of my Hartman tenure. So the last poem I will leave you with is a poem about Slipknot, but also a poem about forgiveness and rest. A poem about revisiting those homes in your memories, but letting the self that built them sleep. It is called "Letters to a Young Maggot (Listening to Slipknot in the Woods)" and this is just the first few lines of it. You can buy the book to read the rest here. Or not. Regardless, thank you for reading. Thank you.
I bend towards, past, the wildflowers and scrape/ a dirt nest in the earth for a 16 year-old me/ and I will say to them you do not need your rage/ but you can hang it on a spiderwort stem, wait, bleed, grab it,/ protect yourself if you must, it is your right to have it you do not/ need to sleep in the arms of shattered trees/ anymore i promise i am still picking out each splinter left behind/ your job is done my throat is all petals and pollen i will still scream/ along with you with 8 the blood in our shared esophagus/ will continue to boil i promise it is not your fault that it must