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Sharing, A Sense of Place

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It just dawned on me, the things I have been documenting through my posts on Pages of Paradigm extend far beyond my own efforts to share my challenges and triumphs in defining myself as an self-employed, thirty-something, mother of two, living in the rural stretches of the Dakota prairies. There is a greater, overall theme at play. It is my creation of a sense of place.

This is one of those realizations that hits me so clearly, but leaves me wondering, “Why didn’t I see it that way before?” For so many years, I dedicated my time to defining myself as something different from my surroundings. As a child, I wasn’t my mother and I wasn’t my father. I was different, of course. The feeling of being overwhelmed by the challenges they faced in their lives gave me the courage to step into the world, on my own, early on. I was 18, but I was still in high school. I wanted to experience myself and wanted to define my own place in the world. I got my own apartment. I ate chinese take-out on the floor of that furnitureless apartment. I kept my clothes in the laundry baskets I brought them home from the laundry mat in. I when to school on Mondays and Fridays, did all my homework, and maintained a B average. I made my teachers furious. I would skip school to sleep in after a late night out. I would skip school to go see the exhibits at the St. Louis Art Museum. I would hang out in the park, drawing the ducks and swinging on the swings. In ways, I had found myself. The stories as to how I lost all that are complex and not for this post tonight. But for the past several months, I have felt a strong reconnection to that time in my life.

Our lives work in cycles. And sometimes we are fortunate enough to pick-up a thread that was lost along the way.

When I left my successful career job last July, I was terrified that somewhere I would mess things up big time. Not just for me, but for my family. My fear was imbued with the echoes of a unhealthy relationship from years past, “You’ll never be happy. You don’t know how. You bring out the worst in every possible good thing you find.” Sadly, those words became part of the rhetoric my inner critic used regularly against me. But I know better now. Those words are untrue. I am proof that my critic, and former boyfriend were both wrong. Terribly wrong. See!!!

We all have good days and bad days. But the value of those days that can never me overestimated. The bad days that I have seen through so far can only continue to teach me. And as they teach me, I heal. I become comfortable with myself. I become comfortable sharing myself with others. I become comfortable being myself around people I don’t know. I become comfortable calling myself an artist and an art gallery manager. I become comfortable calling myself a foodie and gardener, as well as an activist in the local foods movement. I become comfortable calling myself a writer, as well as a consultant and grant writer for various projects. I share my love for photography, plants, animals, art, skeletons, seeds, words, and life. 

I have grown. And that is where place becomes the palette for exchange. What I share, comes back to me. It comes back, just like the birds do each spring. It blooms, just like the buds of trees when the air warms. I begin to feel nourished, encouraged, and supported by the atmosphere that surrounds me, by the distinct shape of the roads I travel everyday, and by the radiance that emerges from even my everyday experiences.

DPRCA Opera House and Latte Lobby

In ways, it lends to an uneasy feeling. With this sense of acceptance and arrival, I have no idea what is next. I guess that it why it is always good advice to take one day at a time. And for the next 30 days, I will be trying something new (and scary). I will be pursuing one of my goals I laid out for earlier this year. I am going to work on submitting a piece for the North Dakota Humanities Council publication On Second Thought’s call for articles on a sense of place.

Somehow, it feels that everything I’ve done up to this point, professionally, academically, and personally have come together to tell me that I am completely capable of sharing my story of re-creating myself in a tiny town in such away that I could truly bloom where I was planted.


About Rachel

Rachel is an independent artist and writer who thrives on sharing her deep appreciation for the natural world. She has taught college courses in wildlife identification, ethnobotany, environmental science, natural resource management, and cultural studies. She lives in North Dakota with her two boys, husband, dog, and cats. She enjoys gardening, cooking, drawing, writing, hunting, hiking, and snowshoeing, but is usually too tired to do any of these, except for writing...

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