My next book, And So We Dream, takes place in the summer of 1970 in a small Midwestern town, much like the one where I was born and raised — Carlinville, Illinois. So on a recent trip back there, I paid close attention to the sounds, scents, colors, and feel of summertime. The train whistle, the low hum of lawnmowers, the warbling of robins. The scents of freshly-cut grass, strawberries from the local orchard, and flowering bushes that perfume the humid air. The colors of summer — shades of green and blue.
My visit was in June, one of my favorite times of year back there. Everything is green and lush, and flowers grow in abundance — masses of wild honeysuckle, cornflowers alongside country roads, shady green meadows dotted with wildflowers.
Though it is now fifty years later from the action in the story, much of the town and countryside remain the same. Long stretches of country roads —
including a few parts of historical Old Route 66, just outside of town.
Tree-lined streets with beautiful old homes,
and small-town charm woven throughout.
Other places show the passage of time: the old wooden bridges that can still be found out in the country,
an abandoned farm house,
peaceful old cemeteries with tombstones leaning this way and that.
There’s a sense of sky and openness that impresses with its beauty and grandeur. The sky dominates the landscape with every-changing drama
and stunning sunsets that are commonplace.
In my new book, a young boy remembers how they found pictures in the clouds, and I found myself doing the same: A lotus cloud! The profile of a lady? a Roman emperor? a marble bust? it shifts before I can decide.
A low line of clouds and trees that seemed to march on together in the same formation.
Storm clouds and rain over a farm in the distance, an illuminated puff over the grain elevator.
Though I left the Midwest many years ago, those formative years in small-town Illinois form the core of who I am. I am grateful to have been raised in such a specific place, so quintessentially American — though I imagine everyone feels something similar.
Wherever we end up, our hometown forms a part of us that no other place can fill.
(And So We Dream will be available later this summer.)