Where I’m from

I saw this post over on Charlotte’s Web and it seems like a good writing exercise to begin the week. Oh, for those interested, I ended up having to quit my freelance work for Old Job last week – long, involved reasons that truly go on forever but I finally just told Old Job’s boss that obviously with all the problems cropping up it would behoove the organization to hire someone full-time to make sure the clients are happy with the end result. She completely disagrees, but what can you do? All things must come to an end, and I couldn’t keep balancing that work, plus a job and my own writing. My revisions are due to Literary Magazine next Wednesday and its now time to focus on things like that. Now, without further ado, Where I’m From.

*I’m going through now to fix a whole lotta typos and I realize how careless this sounds – I took on freelance work, problems cropped up, I quit – that’s not so much the case as I’ve been involved with these people for almost two years and I truly believed no solution was in the future, near or far, but rest assured I have learned a lesson, and will not be taking on any extra work that isn’t entirely my own.


I am from a small town on a great lake in Northeastern Lower Michigan – the farthest east you can go on your pointer finger if you rest your hand, thumb pointing right, to resemble the mitten my state resembles on a map. I am from the peninsula state and teachers always taught that this was special, being surrounded almost completely by water, water, everywhere. I am from long stretches of shoreline – I am from wet sand and warm sun and various greasy restaurants dotting various beach shorelines, so now the smell of Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza and chinese food make me want to go swimming, and when I go swimming I invariably want Kentucky Fried chicken, pizza, or chinese food.

I am from sitting in the cabs of pickup trucks, sharing bottles of strawberry Boone;s Farm wine with my girlfriends while the boys we knew played midnight football underneath the touchable Milky Way. I am from dancing with garage band stars to “Stairway to Heaven,” that endless Led Zeppelin song, and I am from the 1st Presbyterian Church, where I played volleyball and studied scripture in the coffee-scented church gymnasium. I am from Hemingway’s famous Northern Woods, and I am from the stillness that occurs there. I am from parents who taught me to sit still for hours, rocking in a fishing boat, swathed in late afternoon sunlight, doing nothing but casting my line in the direction of darkness.

I am also from winter, long dark stretches of winter. I am from Avalanche Mountain, which my cousins and I would hurtle down on cheap plastic saucers, and I am from hockey championships, ice-sculpture competitions, huddling by the woodstove with a spaniel on my feet to keep me warm. I am from wet wool mittens and walking to school no matter what the weather, I am from parents who worship the change of seasons and saw winter not as something to complain about but something to seize, so I am from long treks cross-country skiing and snowshoeing and “Look, Courtney, did you see the cardinal?”

I am also from plants I won’t name by name, a paper plant and a cement plant and a waste-treatment plant. I am from large clouds of smoke marring our view towards Canada, and I am from the horrible stench of something like smoldering cigarettes, burning leaves and forest fire, which covers the small town on the Great Lake whenever the wind blows east, which is often. I am from a town with exceptionally high cancer rates and people unable to bite the hands that feed them, so no one really makes a fuss. I am from a town with a lot poverty – not the inner city, much publicized kind of poverty but the poverty of farmers who can barely sustain a once profitable way of life. I am from acres of strawberry fields and miles of cherry orchards, I am from a land where you are never more than six miles from fresh water.

I am from a surprising amount of artistic people, so now the thought of warm ballet shoes makes me want to cry. I am from dancers and actors and painters and renegade writers, I am from artists who chose to stay or move to our small town because they could do what they wanted to without anybody really caring. I am from strong men and stronger women, I am from gregarious cocktail hours and extreme family gatherings, I am from my mom and dad and my aunts and uncles and a whole brood of golden-haired, blue eyed cousins, none of whom are afraid to say “I have a story about the craziest shit, ever.” I am from long kisses on the beach and Friday night football and I am from parents who encouraged me to leave, so that I could appreciate where I’m from, instead of hate it. Mostly, I am very fortunate, because more than anything else, I am from love.

Where are you from? If you read this, I’m tagging you. Charlotte made it look so easy, but it’s actually quite hard!

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11 Responses to Where I’m from

  1. m says:

    oh! you made me very homesick and teary. Very well written- as always. I am continually amazed and delighted with the way you are able to capture northern Michigan. I am still filled with glee every time it snows more than an inch- much to the distain of my city born co-workers.

  2. Emily says:

    Uh-oh. I shouldn’t have read this. I can’t possibly do it as well as you and Charlotte have, but now I’m tagged, I’ll give it a go at some point.

  3. Ooh, I loved this, Courtney, all of it but especially this: “I am from parents who encouraged me to leave, so that I could appreciate where I’m from, instead of hate it.” I think puts a finger on why I love where I’m from too – because I didn’t have to STAY there.

    I love the sense of water and of family, both of which come across so strongly. Michigan must be lovely (apart from those plants …).

  4. smithereens says:

    Your post is wonderfully written. It’s not an easy task, but tagged I am…

  5. LK says:

    Can’t do this myself, at all, but oh, my, this was so lovely. Thank you.

  6. Kerryn says:

    I love this post because it gives me such a strong sense of who you are but this following “I am from” spoke directly to me…

    I am from a town with a lot poverty – not the inner city, much publicized kind of poverty but the poverty of farmers who can barely sustain a once profitable way of life.

    because I am from a farmer, on the other side of the world, who no longer has the will to battle to sustain his once profitable way of life.

    Such a lovely, honest post.

    (And well done on “sacking” the freelance work and concentrating on what is important to you.)

  7. bloglily says:

    Oh Courtney that made me cry. What a beautiful piece. And how lucky you are to be from all that and to know it so well.

  8. SA says:

    As one of the blond-haired, blue-eyed cousins, I recognized tons of our mutual childhoods in that one, despite that you are east side MI and I am west side MI – and my football team will always be superior to your football team.

    What is going to be our story about “the craziest shit ever?” has it happened already?

  9. M- hmm, I’m wondering if you are so delighted this morning? I saw Chicago is practically shut down today! I know what you mean, though – i will always, always love snow!

    Emily – that’s right – you are tagged, tagged, tagged. Get to it, sister!

    Charlotte – You are right – Michigan IS lovely, except for the plants. Unfortunately they are a problem that plague more than my hometown!

    Smithereens – you did a wonderful job on your blog!
    LK – Oh, you could so do it. I’m still tagging you!

    Kerryn- it’s an entirely different kind of difficulty, isn’t it? I don’t know if any harder or more distressing, but it’s still an invasive poverty that crosses oceans. It’s really heart-breaking.

    Bloglily – so good to see you back! I can’t wait to hop over to your blog and see how you are! Thank you so much for the kind words.

    SA – We are nowhere NEAR our craziest shit ever – not even close. In fact, I’m not sure Ron and Lynn have even hit that yet, although I’m sure our dads are on the other end…and since it’s 11 years away now I can finally concede your football team – yes – will always be better than our football team. Except when it’s not, and I, for one, can’t wait for that day.

  10. litlove says:

    It’s tricky isn’t it? I just did mine. Love yours, Courtney, but then I knew I would anyway. Beautifully done.

  11. Pingback: I Am From… « Make Tea Not War

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