Monday, October 13, 2008

Lost in Maine

1. Lost in Maine

Most days, it seemed, the weather announcer would drone “winds, 15 to 25 mph, with occasional gusts and blowing dust…”

Lubbock, Texas sits isolated in the middle of nowhere, in many ways cut off from the world. Although the internet has changed that somewhat from when I was growing up, one still cannot buy a daily New York Times there. In a strange way, its isolation is its greatest strength: a strong, towering presence, it is self-contained and cares little of what the world thinks.

Resilience…the mere geographical location of Lubbock brings that to mind…on land that is as flat as a table, stretching as far as the eye can see and buffeted by strong wings and swirling dust. It is dry, but the land is supported by an underground aquifer that is being drained with population growth. Because of this water farms of cotton and grain override the desert atmosphere.

Despite the big, beautiful, Georgia O’Keefe sky, I often feel claustrophobic when in Lubbock. For many years I asked myself how can that be? The vistas are enormous with no mountains or forests to make one feel penned in. There is a Wild West mentality of anything is possible. So how can one feel claustrophobic? Eventually I realized it was the deeply entrenched conservatism found there, spearheaded in my day by the Southern Baptist church The long list of do’s and don’ts permeated my life, penned me down, and skewed my world vision until I finally managed to escape, in fits and starts.

After college I worked as an accompanist at the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan. Although I had made numerous tries, that was my first successful attempt to leave Lubbock behind. Despite being recently divorced, I arrived at Interlochen quite innocent of the world beyond the Texas plains. There I had my first open talk with a gay man and befriended a couple living together but not married. In 1979 those things were under the table in Lubbock. At Interlochen I was subject for the first time to some anti-Southern prejudice from a prima donna soprano who did not want me to play for her because of my “hick” accent.

Interlochen gave me a chance to see that the world did not revolve around a church or particular religious belief. The most important thing I learned there was that one could be both a good person and NOT a Christian.

Living in Dallas for 10 years with my husband and our daughter we visited Lubbock several times a year. I didn’t really think much about it…it was where my family was and that’s where I expected to spend holidays and birthdays. And then we moved permanently to Maine and I began to see my hometown with different eyes…

For fifteen years I have been struggling to make Maine my home. I have raised a daughter here, touched many people with my music making, and matured well into middle age. Yet the vast, dusty plains of West Texas still call, beckoning me back. Is that really still my home? Am I always to be a stranger in Maine?

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