Collecting Dust

When my family originally settled in central Virginia, they worked to build a foundation for their children. Seven generations in, and we are lucky enough to still own and maintain the original farmhouse and its surrounding land. For decades, it was used as an isolated hunting camp, but recently, we’ve reclaimed the functionality of the home and its history and beauty. The barn’s relics are coated in patina and the accumulated dust and dirt that comes with years of being overlooked and underused, but they are a snapshot of time and history that I’m working to catalog.

Like the oftentimes primitive tools that line the barn’s nooks, I’ve neglected my creative side in favor of navigating life and its demands. Every day, I open my social media or news feeds, and I am confronted with a reality that demands my attention, but at the same time, I find myself drained by the onslaught of immediacy. As I read about foreign affairs and public policy positions, I can’t help but start to wonder about the rest of us: those who are getting up and maintaining in a world that seems to be entirely too upside down.

want to live in a world where we are all informed and critically engaging and asking big questions. I wouldn’t teach for a living if I didn’t, but I get so overwhelmed by all the big that what is right in front of me starts to fade.

That stops now.

This moment in time is preoccupied with the grandiose, and I need a life that highlights the microscopic–the smallest parts that I can influence and maybe, just maybe, strengthen or encourage or make just a little bit better.

In college, I had a writing teacher who once said to me that one day I would grow a set and get it out because, he argued, I had something very important to say. Almost 20 years later, I still doubt the validity of pretty much all of Mark’s claims, but I don’t know how else to find a rational space in the landscape I currently occupy.

So starting today, I’m dusting off my notes, my memories, and my photographs. I’m re-familiarizing myself with a keyboard and a blank page that has felt more like a stranger than a friend these last few years. In doing so, my hope is to refocus my attention. I don’t plan on ignoring the really big world around me, but I also recognize that Mark was right about one thing all those years ago: if we don’t speak up and out, then our voices get lost.

My sister and brother-in-law worked hard to make the farm a place where my family could come together again. Yet, they did more than just create a functional space. They gave us the opportunity to participate in the long line of family lore. And this is way bigger and more important than a family get-together because it’s like I tell my students: the voice that controls the narrative controls the history. When you’ve been excluded, either by choice or by situation, then you run the risk of being lost.

I’ve decided that I’m not willing to be lost in the dissonance anymore.

I don’t know if Mark was right all those years ago about me and my need to find my courage, but I think that right now, our courage is all we’ve got. And maybe if each of us reaches deep down and finds the smallest sliver of it in us, then we can start to make sense of the noise and reclaim our place in the silence that is left behind.




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