In 2002, after 21 years of wandering aimlessly throughout life in such big city venues as Chicago, Orlando, Atlanta, etc., I decided to retire myself back to the cozy confines known as the Green Hills of Missouri to find love and happiness (or so the John Mellencamp song reminds us very vividly).
The Great Midwest has always held a strange, almost ethereal quality to me; from the quaint and personable charms of its residents who are always ready to welcome a stranger with open arms, to the lush and fertile outdoors that beckon from many a back door. Time never rushes by. Instead, we are greeted every morning to a symphony of birds as we breathe in God’s wonderful, unspoiled air. At night, after the workday is done, we greet and meet each other on friendly doorsteps as our kids play around our feet. There is no need to feel afraid or insecure, unlike most residents of larger burbs who have an incessant need to chain their doors against the evils of the world. One may ask, is this living or merely existing?
As fairy tales go, once upon a time I swore that I would never set foot back into northern Missouri again except to visit my mom; I thought this was one of the most backwards, inhospitable (as in the weather) regions that I had ever lived in. My thoughts patterns formed one negative after another, further reinforcing my desire to just split ASAP. My idea of a happening town was Los Angeles, CA, where I spent my early formative years; only after being uprooted and flung more than 1700 miles to Missouri did I realize that there was actually another world out there…a world with no smog, no traffic, no 24 hour convenience stores. Whoa. I felt like Keanu Reeves, caught up in a simulated Matrix-like world from whence there was no escape (you could tell how much I thought of Missouri at that time).
But gradually, just like in the fairy tales of old, this young man found himself changing into a better person because of his surroundings. I found that there was more time to relax and smell the proverbial roses; fishing became an able-bodied sport for me and gave me hours to gain patience and wisdom (even though now people STILL think I need more, especially my beautiful wife); most of all, this area gave me an outlet to express myself in the written word. It was here that I was able to put pen on paper and flesh out ideas into chapters, and chapters into full-blown stories. This gave me the self-confidence I needed to strive for bigger and better things as an adult, because deep inside, I knew that if I could make my characters come to life, I could also make myself come to life.
After many stumbles, pratfalls and boulders in my path, I was able to accomplish just that. But not by myself; I will speak more on that in a future column.
So now, as an adult, my life has come full circle. I am back to this area that I truly love and cherish, and this IS my earthly home until our Lord takes me to my heavenly home. I am blessed with health, love, life and the happiness that I was so desperately seeking. I have a wonderful church family at Trinity UMC in Brookfield, and my wife Jeannie and I are in our new home in Marceline. Life is not only good; it is surreal.
There are many lessons in life as we live it; perhaps the biggest one of all is to learn to never take things for granted. What we have here in northern Missouri and ALL of its surroundings is so very special. It is exactly what Walt Disney himself alluded to all those years ago…there IS a magic here. It is the magic of simple, small town living. It is the magic of imagination when kids are playing by themselves having a great time, without the need for video games and television cluttering their minds with junk. It is the magic of knowing your friends and neighbors will be there for you at all times, no matter the circumstances. It is the magic of stepping outside and surveying the beauty that God has created all around us. It is the magic of driving down Main Street USA in Marceline and having memories cascade in my mind of visiting Disneyland as a small child in the late 1960’s; the awe and vivid beauty of gaily-colored storefronts as they assaulted the minds-eye will never be forgotten. And to think that it all started in this area should make one appreciate our idyllic lifestyles even more.
Sure, we have our problems. Slow business growth, declining populations, technologies that lag behind the rest of the country…the list could go on and on. But what we do have is each other; that tight-knit bond that goes far beyond what big city living has to offer. It’s called peace, joy, happiness, contentment…and most of all, a true love for our neighbors and friends.
That, my friends, is well worth 21 years of wandering. Just so I could find my way once again.
It’s GOOD to be home.
Richard Davis is a resident of Marceline and serves as Vice-President of the Marceline Area Chamber of Commerce. His column appears monthly in the Linn County Leader.