Alan Van Wyk
The sky here still feels a little off; a little too much. Not too big, exactly, but too deep, appearing without surface or limit. Simply there. Everywhere. An upward sink of feeling, drawing attention, making it impossible to look anywhere else. To try to look down is only to fall into the reflection of this sky, into a limitless place without mark or measure.
Growing up in California there was always a limit. Mountains one direction ocean the other. The continent ended at our feet; we could jump off any time we wanted. And it was impossible to turn away from the horizon, from that offing where the future reached the edge of the world. A point that was always more movement than destination, the never quite fixed place of possibility.
In our imagination we followed the sun as if it were ours alone.
History—the one history that we were taught as the only history that mattered—unfurled behind us towards us, as a movement of time that was our destiny. Which is to say that any reflection on place is also about privilege. Or perspective. So to write, as to live, from that place was always to imagine into that not quite fixed future, a future made large as the possibility of our own want. Yet as our desire it was a future founded on a confusion between what was and what might have been. There the present was always already a nostalgia of possibility lost.
But in this place, in this media res, where there is no true horizon, history is not so straight forward. It continues to roil over us.
It has been said that our work ethic—those of us who have always been outsiders here—arises from a certain anxiety, an anxiety over the uncertainty of grace. Which would mean that we continue to fill these pages not as an imagining but to fix these our lives and loves. But here and now I’m not so sure, for we—again, those of us who have always been outsiders here—seem quite aware that we have arrived by violence and not by grace. And in this violence I remain lost. Unbounded and without direction attention wanders and so grace remains impossible to fix. To write here is to try to find another work, another ethic, to fall into this blood soaked land to find purchase, attending to a land a mirror to a sky that is too much.
Alan Van Wyk is a writer living in St. Paul, MN. He has a PhD in religious and cultural studies and has written for the LARB, The Public Sphere, and Topology Magazine.
What is the #Midwessay? What is the Midwest? What are the characteristics, if any, of the #Midwessay (the Midwest essay)? What gathers us together? What pulls us apart? Springing from a twitter conversation, we started asking writers and readers what they imagine (or would like to reimagine) as the Midwest and the Midwessay. The #Midwessay is a series of reports from the Midwest (whatever that is) by and/or about Midwestern essay and essayists (whatever those are). Essay Daily will be publishing these, sorted (loosely) by state, in February 2021 and beyond. These #Midwessays will be collected here and on a separate site at a later date. If you'd like to submit a report / essay, send it our way. Details and coordinators for each state are listed here. You can also ping Ander (link at the upper right) if we don't list a coordinator yet for your state. —The Editors
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