Melanie Hoffert … remember that name. She’s a writer and I’ve had the pleasure of reading her first book. Prairie Silence. Her story tracks much like mine. She couldn’t wait to leave the rural home and head to the big city. And now that she’s acquired a place in that new,brave world – she’s missing parts of the old world.
There is a twist. She grew up on the prairie in North Dakota and kept a secret. She knew at 4 years old she was gay. And that just wasn’t something you told people. You kept that sort of thing to yourself.
This might sound crazy, but if you are from the heart of the country you might understand that you are part of a world that is more connected than any social networking phenomenon of the digital age. Your perosnal profile is peeked at, commented on and updated at every hometown shower, funeral, wedding, pig roast, street dance, and Sunday morning church service — even if you don’t live in the small town anymore.
She came out in college, moved to St. Paul, had a good job … and still, she longed for the prairie. I think if you didn’t grow up in a small town in the midwest, you might not understand. Hoffert does a great job putting words together that makes you feel it – that longing.
In the city mud acts as a flytrap for candy wrappers, gum wads, abandoned newspapers, and sticky pennies. At the farm, dirt is clean. Farm dirt is rich with smell, texture, and even taste. Here dirt swallows seeds and spits them back whole. I, too, need ot be whole. I need to heal, which is why I’m home.
I made the journey home to care for my elderly parents. I only knew a few people still here. I didn’t have a job. My friends were all in Chicago or in North Carolina. Yet, when I came home it was all good. I stood on the hill by the cemetery and some part of my soul knew that spot as if I had never left. Hoffert, in Prairie Silence, captures that coming home feeling.
All I can think about, standing in this field, is how strangely odd and wonderful this moment is. Here I am, standing on the earth. How often do I actually walk on the bare, cement free earth? Due to the recent wet days, the ground is moist and gives under my feet. Each step is like bounding on an angel food cake.
There’s talk about God and worshipping and growing up in a community where everyone goes to church. How can she align being gay with her being a Christian? She doesn’t really… but she does try. She finds God in high school, and even works at a Bible Camp in Iowa one summer. Still …. she never tells her secret in those days. She is silent.
Over the years I have started to see the holy in surprising places. When I study my dad, for example, I witness his life as a holy practice. Each year he opens the earth, inserts life, takes the gifts, and moves quietly into winter. His commitment, practice, and routine rival those of the most devout yogi, meditation practitioner, or priest.
Hoffert finds a lost part of herself, and you cheer for her journey. Those of us from this land can feel her story in our bones. Not the story of being gay — but her story of being a part of this land and how that always stays with you.
I stop and allow the silent land to bring me back to my self, my presence. A fullness wells up in me when I am in this rural world. This is a fullness with perspective, where the wind, and the trees, and sometimes even the faint call of the ocean lead me into a silent meditation. From this space I can imagine a world where we all believe each other worthy.
Prairie Silence goes on sale January 8. I was loaned this uncorrected galley to read and review by my local bookseller, Cornerstone Cottage Books. I was not paid for this review, nor will I keep the book. I consider reading this book a great gift. Visit http://www.melaniehoffert.com/PrairieSilence/Welcome.html for more information.
italicized portions are taken from the book