The skyscrapers rise ahead of me on the expressway coming out of the fog ahead until at last I am in the midst of them, the buildings towering over, stretching to greet me, to welcome me home. I moved to Chicago for work in 2009 frightened and lonely yet found a home there. Marilynne Robinson said that being in an unfamiliar place lets you see all things new. Her wording was much more beautiful than that, but I deeply connected with her observation. Each time I moved in my 20s, I had the opportunity to settle into a new culture, to see the world through a new set of eyes. I view that as a wonderful gift and Chicago holds an important place in my heart- a symbol of bravery, ambition, and self-discovery.
Lit Fest was the reason for my pilgrimage today, my 5th year going. Each year I’m filled with new ideas; I could just sit and think for days in complete bliss. Sometimes I listen to authors who I’ve never heard of and whose books I have no interest in, yet the things they say touch me deeply as if all writers have an intimate connection to the very fiber of humanity. Today I kept to a tight schedule sitting mesmerized by the wisdom of the Pulitzer Prize winning Marilynne Robinson, indulging in childhood memories with R.L. Stine, and soaking in the stories and life experiences of Adam Hasslett and Charlotte Rogan (who didn’t even start writing until age 30). Each venue allowed me to secure a front row seat. I even sat right next to R.L. Stine’s grandson and his son (Matthew) while I watched their reactions to stories about Matthew’s childhood.
Learning how to see something is a great experience in life.
Marilynne Robinson said today, “Learning how to see something is a great experience in life.” Curving through country roads on my way out of the city after Lit Fest offered me the opportunity to view the beauty of my new community. Fields this time of year are sprinkled with soybeans and corn just beginning to reach up towards the sky, small towns stand proud each with a church at their heart, and children race around on bikes or splash through sprinklers like times gone by. Now as I sit typing, the sun dips below the trees spreading out like watercolors and I feel blessed, blessed to have somehow been called to live in this small town in Central Illinois, blessed with an incredible job and wonderful friends, and blessed to still have an entire day of weekend before me to read and write and dream. Most of all, I’m grateful to be home.