So 2017 is on the horizon and here I sit at ten minutes past ten at night in the living room of our apartment here in Madison, Wisconsin and I must admit that I am reflective.
It has been some months since my last contribution to the pages of this blog, a hiatus that can be explained by work, lack of sleep, the endless turning of the wheel of the rat race and, obviously my mixing of metaphors. However it all adds up to the same thing. Life can get busy and when your life is caught up in the gradual transition from one culture to another, it seems somehow busier.
The legal process of leaving Country A for Country B, can be a lengthy one and when, on top of that, the person you love is in Country B and you still in Country A, is can seem interminable. On top of that, there is the adjustment to a new country and its way of life. So Mrs Geekrant and myself can find ourselves feeling rather burnt out from time to time. That's not to say that we're unhappy, far from it! However it is natural to wish that the merry-go-round that is existence would slow down for a while. Give us chance to catch our breath.
So, as I said, I'm reflective. I'm sitting here, caught in a strange moment. Everything and everyone that I ever knew lies in 2017, 6 hours ahead of me on the other side of a rather large body of water; Mrs Geekrant, myself and our life here hangs tenuously on to 2016.
It feels quiet with a kind of stillness, the night seems silenced of its noisiness of city living. The ever-present distant hum of traffic stilled. Everyone is out somewhere at New Year's Eve's parties and the city centre is undoubtedly rife with revelers, heaving with humming hostelries and busy bars.
Life is good. Every new day seems to bring something fresh to our doorstep. It feels strange to know that it has been over a year since I saw my native shore. It doesn't feel that long and yet it feels like an eternity. Whenever I visit, I wonder, will I fall to the ground and kiss the dirt, crying for sweet England as the Californian accented Kevin Costner does in Prince of Thieves? Or will I realise that now I will always feel slightly at home and slightly alien in both worlds. Maybe that's what it means to be an immigrant. Or maybe that's just what it means to move away from home.
I have done many things this year, that I could never have imagined doing before. I have driven a boat, nearly killed myself going down a hillside on a quad bike (I ended up underneath it in case you wondered, although it should be acknowledged that I got the thing up there in the first place.), I've learned how to make bread, Mrs Geekrant's Uncle Jim showing me how in a relatively basic kitchen, in a cabin, by a lake somewhere in the North of Wisconsin, I've eaten a venison roast and seem the remains of deer strapped to the roofs of hunter's trunks on the highway. I have felt overwhelmed, despite my political geekery, by the endless onslaught of U.S. Political ads during the election. I have seen one of my favourite bands play in a venue only a 15 minute drive from our apartment (the previous two times I'd seen them it had taken me over 2 hours in a car to get to the venue.) and been amazed at the fact that every band's American tour passes somewhere nearby.
I have learned the drawback to the warm temperatures of an American continental summer, seemingly never-ending humidity and swarms of mosquitoes1; I have faced the harshness of arctic cold and seen my first true snow drifts. I have journeyed along the banks of the mighty Mississippi in every season that this world has been granted and have fallen in love with the landscape in all of them.
I have introduced a friend to the epic landscape that is the Mid-West. I have seen an Ice Hockey game and a Baseball game. I have seen opossums, chipmunks, hawks. Our car was once flown over by an eagle not 4 feet above our heads. I remember being a child and wondering if I'd ever see an eagle in the wild, now I have.
I have tilted my head back in the back seat of a convertible and watched as the trees bordering the road slowly drifted past and have understood the calling of the road in so much American literature. Maybe it is the echo of the pioneer in each American, to find some unspoiled piece of land and find their true selves there.
I am not an American, the thirty two years I spent growing up in a small steel town in the North of England mean I am pretty much a British man for life. Yet, despite my, by now well documented, difficulties with adapting to this culture, I find myself feeling more than just occasionally, at home.
The Mid-West of the United States is not the place that, as Rupert Brooke once said, “Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam” to me, but it is, somehow, my new home. I have fallen in love with much that it has to give and offer. There is a poetry to be found in its landscape, the optimism of its people. Its funny, to see that culture that has influenced so much of my life from afar, now from the inside.
When I was young, they repeated “The Waltons” on television, I still don't really know how I ended up watching it but I remember how it made me feel, the land and the sky, the world that was different. I also remember the credits from “Little House on the Prairie” where the little girls run down the hill, I was always intrigued by the history of those days. Those pioneers who set out to find a new land. A land that seems to go on forever under a sapphire blue sky.
I sometimes forget, I have been there. I have trod the same streets that Laura Ingalls Wilder trod and have seen the small hill town where Ulysses S. Grant lived before he went to war. The Republican party was founded in Wisconsin, Happy Days was set here, Harley Davidson manufactures here, so does Miller Beer, can you get anymore American than that?
So I'm pensive, because I love our life here but it still is sometimes strange to me. I am in a land of television dreams, a land that always intrigued me but I never wanted to visit. Maybe my whole life will be lived in the six hours time distance between the land of my birth and the land of my marital existence.
Still we make it work, we're happy. I get excited for tomorrow and wonder what's on the next horizon. I am an immigrant in a new land and tomorrow is a brand new day and a brand new year and there's so much more to see. Perhaps there is something of the pioneer within me, maybe all it needed was some unspoiled land and an open sky to come alive.
So, I hope you enjoyed my little rant tonight, I hope its not too disjointed. I didn't plan it as well as I plan most of my blogs, but I wanted to say “Thank You” to all of you for reading my little blog, so that required me to write something. It is a great pleasure to write it and know that somebody reads it. You are all wonderful.
So, Happy New Year and to borrow the Facebook sign-off of my wife's grandmother “Love to All!”
1Each state had its own state bird, of which Wisconsin's is the American Robin. However a running joke seemingly throughout the Mid-West is that the real state bird of every state is the mosquito.