Rural Diaspora is a new creation by Andy Kopsa, dedicated to collecting the stories of women who grew up in small towns who moved to large cities. (She herself is an Iowan now living in New York City.) More than a sort of ethnography, Rural Diaspora is interested in illustrating how, if you grow up in these small communities, "your writing comes from a different sense of place from the inside and out."
I shared a story of my own; a hymn, of sorts, to the southwest corner of Michigan where I grew up. (And there's me above, age three and growing up.) Here's how my piece begins:
There is a place in Lake Michigan: south of the St. Joseph River’s mouth, a little ways offshore. You wade into the rushing lake, burrow your toes into the sand, and you can see the fireworks of a dozen small towns alighting along the curve of the freshwater coast. A deep blowout sand dune on your left wears a crown of spindly trees, which eases down the side and thickens into old woods. Summer wind fills your lungs and ears, and it is warm and laughs at you a little. Sometimes it slows and sips your skin, careful tastes, like it’s trying to make sure you should be there. The water shivers with the wind. Whitecaps crack sharp. When I remember this place, everything is colored blue and black, except white fringe on the waves, and white sand piled in dunes. White stars, hushed and watching, like you. Then, as if there were a god to conduct them, the little towns send their first shot of fire into the sky. Curving trails of flame, sparking reds and greens and golds, over and over and over. The fireworks boom and echo. They shine at points following the ragged line of the coast, getting smaller farther north, until the fireworks from the last town are only brief blinks of shocking color. All of you, all of us from this corner of Michigan, were facing the same way, our chins tilted up.
In the full story, look for mentions of high school football, the many ways of loving Lake Michigan, a resort hotel turned retirement home, the funny uniform I wore at one of my earliest jobs, and how I see some of this small town here in Detroit.
And below the break, there are more of my photos of life on the lakeshore.