Saturday, December 30, 2017

Conceptual Continuities

As I often do when I visit my hometown, Vandalia, I drive out to Four Mile Prairie, a place traversed by Illinois route 185. 

My maternal grandmother lived north of the east end of the prairie. The family cemetery where she is buried (and also about twenty other direct ancestors, and other relatives) is also near the prairie. So this is a place frequently visited and traversed during my childhood---and ever since.  

During the summer of 1974, when I was 17 and driving the seen-better-days ’63 Chevy that had been Dad’s stepfather’s, I was completing two genealogy projects: a family history of the Mom’s family, and also a record of all the tombstone inscriptions in the family cemetery.

One morning, driving down IL 185, pressing the clutch and accelerator with bare feet, I had an emotional experience of belonging, a sureness that I would always feel a deep connection to this place: my hometown Vandalia and the surrounding Fayette County. My experience, like a quiet sense of certainty, was right about this location, just east of the turn-off to the cemetery

Just down the road eastbound, I came to the end of the prairie, where the Brownstown Road turns north. The header photo of this blog is a different view of this location.

During the ensuing years, my home area has been (to use Frank Zappa’s phrase) a conceptual continuity for me. All the history teaching and writing that I’ve done connect to the summers I did local genealogy projects. And all the Bible-related and religious work that I’ve done (including most of my twenty books) relate back to my grandma, who not only inspired me to do genealogy but also got me interested in the Bible and spirituality in a very preliminary way that bloomed a year or two after her death. 

This past fall, I made a typical, leisurely drive out to Four Mile and enjoyed being there. I took the country roads out to another familiar place: the location of the one-room school where my mother attended prior to high school. The school has fallen down now, but I thought that the road leading up to it made a pretty picture. 

Is there something in your life that links most or all of your interests and activities in some way? 

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