Creative nonfiction flash/hybrid essay
A RURAL APRIL – 12 DAYS
You think we hide behind these rows of corn with some lopsided notion of loyalty. You think our days rattle on along the furrow end of insignificance. But that’s where your logic flattens. We have mouths to feed, and nothing weighs more than a hungry globe hurtling through space. See those tiny shoots? We played God and dropped them there. Turn, chisel, turn. Dig ‘til your palms leach salt into the already-rich loam. Oh farmer stooped so low, your son behind that plow won’t go to college, and when morning comes, no one will remember your name.
April 1 – Arizona. Signs near Yuma Proving Grounds and around the city say, Danger: U. S. Government Property. Impact Area. Unexploded Ammunition. No Trespassing. Curiosity fuels a writer; fear or anger drives her forward.
April 2 – (Arizona) More signs: 44 miles to Mexico. Watch for animals next 20 miles. The border patrolman follows me around back country roads. I pull over to ask him why. He tells me the area has “lots of criminal activity,” your rental car, he says, and a face we’ve never seen before. But my mother’s birthday, I say, and see, my dad’s walking stick. I’m hiking, want to hike, search for trails. So we talk and talk, he checks the car, the trunk, tells me about last week’s 40# of meth found in the door panels of a newer pickup truck driven by another stranger. I hope he doesn’t tear my rental car apart, and does anyone care that his name is Doug?
April 3 – (Arizona) I call them mountains; they call them foothills, a sultry bronze and orange. The desert sleeps after every mellow winter, and each blue sky drags its clouds along. The roads to the mountains have names: Muggins Pass, Coyote Peak, Telegraph Pass, Jasper Trail. Miles of paths and a bad hip to hobble on.
April 4 – (Arizona) The heat is a killer in the desert southwest. During 2016’s summer heat wave, several hikers died along these sands, because into everyone’s chronology slides a million sunsets, but these sear deeper, flare from the bone-side out.
April 5 – (Arizona) The sun plays poker this far south, games of chance, betting on odds. Water is the costly chip and a freak thunderstorm can bankrupt slovenly players. A dry sand gulch is called a wash which floods when rains heave down the mountain passes. Dad warns me to keep an eye to the sky and my feet dry.
April 6 – (Arizona) Mom sings a short refrain in her kitchen, a wash of sound from an aging pass. The breeze swings in. This is comfort. No fear in suns today, and every bird has wings. If I never had to leave here, could heaven exist in a hell this hot?
April 7 – My parents have always been old. “Huh?” is still Dad’s favorite word. Mom hears well enough but staggers on that one bad knee. She used to swim like a fish, she says, and Dad raced us running backwards, and won. On a third trip to Arizona, the sand leapt, always leaping.
April 8 – Back home in Iowa, there are farmers in the fields, always farmers in the fields. I’m not sure another kind of geography exists anymore, only a day away from flat sands and paltry peaks. I tell my farmer: those seeds you hold fast, spill a few here where fresh furrows wait, and where rain gently gathers on the horizon.
April 9 – Persephone rises. The upside of April is spring’s somewhat passé triumphs: new green tips poking from the sod, a long-awaited warming of our winter bones, and every kind of pleasant going. April defines forward movement, a sweet hope. In April, the Midwest shows a leg.
April 10 – Days are not sequential. Life is not. A cold early spring day is followed by two early summer days, back to spring, and forward again. Sequentiality is a myth, but it’s how we order our lives for the sake of stability. We are abacus-lovers—each peg neatly slid from one shaft to the next. The last peg slid, we look back, there we go: a tidy existence. A dose, a dot, a line, a story. Patience is the repeating decimal of our days.
April 11 – My latest self-realization is that I don’t know how to relax. I fall asleep thinking of what I can accomplish the next day. I wake wondering how much I’ll get done, if I’ll live long enough to make good, make up for lost time. Vacation? Isn’t that a thing rich people do when bored? I consider taking a day off and end up with a notebook or camera in hand, not to relax but to document, to consider. I take Jeep rides but never for fun: to hike, to exercise, to do something, record something. This is a great failing.
April 12 – Tomorrow is Easter. We recline in a conservative stronghold; churches run wild and farm folk are notoriously family-centric, live off the land. We see calves born and fresh life; there is little that discomfits us. Skies skip blue, loam runs black and deep, but floods trawl us along too and remind us of our subcelestiality. And sometimes we stop dreaming.
What brought us here? A river of years, a dust of desire, paths of obsession, houses of habit. What brought us here is Fate mixed with decisions blended into will. Oh the heaviness of philosophy and the redundancy of theology. I am here under the bright stars of evening and houses lit and strung along these country miles. I am here in the middle of Happening and Will-Be, in the midst of an unfolding.
German-born Chila Woychik has bylines in journals such as Cimarron, Portland Review, and Silk Road. She won the Loren Eiseley Creative Nonfiction Award (2017) & the Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Award (2016). She is the founding editor at Eastern Iowa Review. www.chilawoychik.com