Sunday, March 21, 2010

Blog prompt #6, journal entry for 3/15-3/21

Transformation that stretches beyond borders

When I had reoccurring dreams about a city of bridges, my mind was focused on San Francisco, not Pittsburgh. When I fantasized about having a garage for my car, and never again scraping an ice-coated windshield, my mind was focused on on either California or Florida, not Pittsburgh. When I entertained notions of freelancing or at least improving my writing, my mind was not on Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh chose me.

I grew up with traffic roaring down the hill on which our house perched. We were 10 minutes from the international airport and the Army National Guard, so the jet engines seemed like drums in concert with the birdsong from the woods bordering the backyard. Yet it was not living in the city.

Iowa is highly regarded for its warmth and hospitality, strong family values and simplicity. The entire state has two highways, one running north and south and the other running east and west, making it very easy to navigate from one end to the other. But none of those appealing characteristics would be conducive to the molding and shaping necessary for me. I'm a very complicated case.

There are no highways in Manhattan, Kansas. Downtown main street is empty and dark after 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday evenings. The buildings are no more than four stories high. The primary environmental concern is the ongoing effort to preserve and maintain the prairie, part of the Flint Hills, but I never felt any connection to it. What I did feel was the desire to expose myself to something different, something beyond the borders of Kansas.

Pittsburgh chose me.

Moving to Pittsburgh has been like Alice tumbling down the hole into Wonderland - an alternate reality. I expected to adore public readings, live for the theater, symphony and thrive in the company of other aspiring writers. None of that happened. Instead, I had to endure moments of why didn't I just stay in Kansas and to accept that I am novice in the midst of so many other better, more prolific writers.

Maneuvering and losing my way around the three freeways enveloping Kansas City was the only exercise that came close to preparing me for navigating through the labyrinth of Pittsburgh's freeways. At night, the city is alive with light. The bridges shimmer over the black waters. The foothills sparkle. When I look out the plane window at night, during the final descent, the sea of lights rolls on infinitely.

Even after seven months, I still find myself somewhat hypnotized when gazing up at the towering buildings downtown while claustrophobia threatens to disarm me. Sound waves bounce off pillars of steel and glass. Brakes screech. Sirens scream. Buses roar. My heart pounds. This is what you signed up for the determined part of me reminds myself. Where would you rather be the dreamer part of me asks myself.

I am an ant within this landscape -- almost invisible and displaced, yet Pittsburgh has been guiding me along a path of self-discovery. I've always thought of myself as a city girl, which is one reason why I expected for find happiness here rather than a Midwestern small town. I'm learning, however, that the most significant transformation in me is rooted in an exchange between the natural and spiritual worlds, not from dodging traffic, not from sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, and not squinting through the blur of neon lights.

Pittsburgh chose me.

Pittsburgh has pushed me to seriously question myself as a writer. And if I'm honestly not a writer, then who or what am I? Pittsburgh has trimmed wordiness from my writing. Pittsburgh has pulled me from indifference to the natural world to thinking daily about it. Pittsburgh has stretched my patience and coping skills in an unfamiliar environment. Pittsburgh has re-potted me to grow with other seedlings. Pittsburgh has only just begun getting its hands dirty with me.

1 comment:

Melanie Dylan Fox said...

The way that you are thinking of Pittsburgh and how it's affected you by simultaneously thinking about what it isn't, how it contradicts what you thought you'd find, is such a compelling contrast. And I adore your final line, "Pittsburgh has only just begun getting its hands dirty with me." I think you are absolutely right, that there is more there for you, even in moments of doubt. I'm certain you will emerge stronger in ways that may surprise you yet!