Who I Am in Sweet Valley, Arkansas

Reading awakens a thirst for the world.

It is probably for this reason that many of us read books, blogs; basically anything we can get our grimy little hands on to read and devour, to escape from one place and live as another, even if it’s only for just an hour before bedtime.

Probably one of the odder things about this is that books can take a place that didn’t seem very enticing before and somehow, make it a place where we crave to be. If you have ever read one sentence of anything I have ever wrote, you probably know that I’m from, and am currently stuck in, a small farm town in the woods where it takes 20 minutes to get to the gas station. However, today during the office Internet outage, when I finished up the last few pages of my newest read, Windchill Summer by Norris Church Mailer, I had a real craving for visiting the little Southern town where the main character, Cherry, lives and goes to school.

Cherry lives in Sweet Valley, Arkansas, and her life really isn’t anything exceptional. She works at a pickle plant and studies Art Education at the local college during the peak of the Vietnam War. The book deals with a local murder, the wants of those with wasted youths, and the horrors of war. However, the writing is so real, so compelling, that even with these tragic issues, the books made me, and probably other readers, feel a compulsion to want to visit this little town, where I can almost feel the hot wind blowing in the dry summer and see the corn stalks swaying and hear my friends with their deep Southern accents laughing and talking.

It’s a life like this that seems so peaceful, so relaxing to even just breathe in and out, so simple. I feel like if I were Cherry and I lived in Arkansas, I wouldn’t grapple with questions like where is my career going? Where am I going to live? How is this all going to work out? What the hell am I doing? 

I actually have to kind of hit myself when I think these things, because I already live in a town like this and guess what? These are my exact problems. But this is all besides my point. Reading and writing awaken the joy of travel, of learning, of living a new life when you really aren’t happy with your current one. In reality, this written life probably wouldn’t even be that great. But for now, for this hour before you fall asleep, it feels pretty nice to just pretend.


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