After learning that I was blogging, a friend asked me, “What are you blogging about?” My mind went blank, and I had to think of how I was going to articulate what this blog means to me in a clear sentence. Distracted by something else in the room, we both went on to the next thing (indicative of today’s fast-paced, multi-tasking culture!), but his enquiry stayed with me throughout the day.
What am I blogging about? Many of my friends have clear purposes for their blogs: book reviews, sharing the adventures of their first home, travel, parish ministry, and the anticipation of a baby.
Thus far, I’ve written about the story behind the name of the blog, a very special small town in Indiana, and hometowns. These posts all have common threads: land, reflection, home, growth, geography. They are small glimpses of the grander themes that seem to be in keeping with “God’s Acre.” This indeed is a time for trying out new seeds, nurturing what works, reflecting on why (or why not) it’s working, and knowing when it’s time to plant again.
Thanks for joining me on this (sometimes) obscure journey!
During the typical discourse of introductions and networking, we’ve all been asked, “Where are you from?” While some of us are certain of the answer, the rest of us are ambiguous.
In the profile section of Facebook, there is a window for the user to input your hometown. Users are forced to decide – where am I from? Where do I call my “hometown?” I’ve filled out this window more than once (and deleted it more than once), with the names of different towns where I’ve lived, never quite being able to land on which town I want to claim as my “hometown.”
In my last blog entry, I wrote about Dana, Indiana – a precious little place in Western Indiana where I visit during summers, and where lived a child. I could claim Dana. I was born in California, and so I could claim it. I would certainly call the long period that I lived in Reidsville, NC, my most formative years -middle and high school, first boyfriend, church formation, and accepting a call to ministry (First Baptist Church, Reidsville). Reidsville would certainly qualify as a suitable response for any hometown enquiries. Still, I’m ambivalent – having lived in California, Indiana, and several towns in North Carolina.
To be coy, “home is where the heart is,” and that is always true. Hometowns, however, may be subject to other variables.
Where do you call your hometown? What’s in a hometown?
At the point were US highway 36 crosses east from Illinois into Indiana, the road travels to Indianapolis, the most sought after Indiana destination. But the real jewels along US 36 are the long forgotten towns of rural Indiana.
When I was a teenager, I spent my summer months in Dana, Indiana, a small farming community in Western Indiana, at the Illinois border. I lived with my grandparents during my visits, and had adventures with my cousins, who were both close to my age.
At the end of each summer, the town of Dana held its “Dana Festival,” the largest event for the community of just over 600 people (2000 Census). Held Thursday through Saturday night, the festivities included: the Dana Festival Queen contest, celebrity auction, flea markets, festival food, games, talent show, pet parade, cake walks, Jonah Fish Fry, jitterbug contest (we entered every year!), merchandise drawings, tours of the Ernie Pyle home, and a large parade on Saturday afternoon. The talent show and Jitterbug contest have long since been dissolved, but the other traditions continue. The 49’er Club, with members made up of my grandparents contemporaries, auction off a handmade quilt each year, and it is the time of the year for the entire town to come together.
This August, I returned for the Dana Festival for the first time since 1996. I had been home other times of the year, but was never able to catch the festival. My grandparents have long since died, and the town has changed into a smaller version of its bustling self. The Ernie Pyle Home is still open, and I celebrate each time I see it. What a treasure for this small town whose only grocery store burned down just over a year ago!
My uncle and father tell me Dana used to be a bustling town, with a movie theatre and five grocery stores (my grandfather owned one of them). Those were the days when folks stayed in town and didn’t drive to get their goods elsewhere. The “good ol‘ days,” I’ve heard people say.
At festival time, the good ol‘ days seem to return. The town comes alive again, and people return home to see friends and neighbors. And when I travel from the Indianapolis airport on Highway 36 west toward the quiet town of Dana, I long for the sign standing in the cornfields that says, “Welcome to Dana, Home of Ernie Pyle” that’s when I know I am home.