Thursday, April 8, 2021

The #Midwessay: Kris Harrington, Getting Up That Hill

There's one story that I keep returning to, over and over, writing and rewriting, turning it and tilting it this way and that so I can examine it from every possible angle. It's this story of growing up in Vandalia, Ohio, the "Crossroads of America". 
     I’m always at those crossroads, figuratively and literally. I’ve been there all my life. Sometimes it consumes me. Sometimes it plagues me. I’m there physically, psychologically, emotionally. My history is there. It’s where I’m most comfortable. 
     The crossroads are where East meets West and North meets South. It’s where Route 40 crosses Route 25 and where I-70 crosses I-75. If I did dare to leave, which direction should I go? Which path should I choose? Or, is the ideal path to stay put? Should I continue to live at the Crossroads, facing every direction but moving in no direction at all? What good is a crossroad if you don’t choose a path?
     All of the Ohio essayists seem to share this strange sense of wanting to leave or, for those who did leave, wanting to return. What is it about this place that makes people want to escape but then, draws them back? Read this weeks' essays to find out.
     Ohioans: We'd love to have more essays in conversation with the #Midwessay. Email your take on the subject to and I'll get your words turned in to the Powers-That-Be. —Beeda Speis, Ohio Coordinator


Getting Up That Hill

Kris Harrington


Mid-February and we are iced in here in Youngstown, Ohio, where deindustrialization has chipped away at our city since the late 1970s. We pride ourselves on self-reliance and grit because we cannot count on anyone in charge to fix things for us. Voices are salty and course. Beer is cold and cheap. Hearts are shielded and big. Yesterday, a friend who lives at the top of a hill on the northside near the freeway told me the story of why he has hung onto a pair of hand-me-down golf cleats for the past couple of decades. Although he is not a golfer himself, he keeps the cleats by his front door, just in case. If a car gets stuck on the street hill outside his home, as is common in these Ohio winters, the cleats will keep him clawed into the road ice, and he can help give a push to get the driver back on their way home. That everything might be useful, that people should be useful, undergirds how we live here in this place where industry used to be, where those of us who are still here are managing to get by. With a little help, we can get up that hill.  

Kris Harrington writes place-infused creative non-fiction about her lifetime home, Youngstown, Ohio. A lecturer for Kent State University, Kris’s work has appeared in Dictionary of Literary Biography, The Sun, Jenny, River and South Review, Steel House Review, Raw Data, Science-Based Vulnerability: Scientists and Poets Resist, among others. She has also been a featured reader at local art events including YSU’s Summer Festival of the Arts, Slice of Life, Women Artists: A Celebration, and Phaeton. She coordinated and directed The Strand Project, a full-length theatrical production of original dramatic monologues, that played to sold out houses each night of its three-year run. 

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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