Reading at the library in Prospect, Kentucky — September 24, 2011
My last reading—this month—in Kentucky was for another of what I call a dear audience, at the second floor library above the police station in the little outlying town of Prospect.
Years ago this was a farming community; now, it has sprouted prosperous subdivisions, green with trees and grass, strip malls, gas stations—but also a small wildlife sanctuary, in easements, and residents who still remember the value of the land.
Again, I read “Selling the Farm”. This is or at least was a crucial issue here, although the sprawl from nearby Louisville has taken almost all the open land– which makes the park behind this library doubly important. And the library itself, hosting its first reading, has a group of devoted followers, holds two books sales a year to supplement its income, and is run almost entirely by volunteers; Holly Clark, the librarian, is the gracious young woman who invited me to read (she is my beloved daughter-in-law Jessica’s cousin.) So the good word spreads.
My audience seemed to identify my story, especially with the argument between the two sisters, Miriam and Shirley, as they dispute the way their parents divided the farm where the sisters grew up. Mirian has left for what we usually think of as a larger life, as a professional singer, while her sister, Shirley, has stayed behind, married, and cared for their aging parents. Now, the farm has been divided between them, and Miriam has sold her lion’s share of the land for a development she insists will be a “village”.
I was especially pleased that one listener commented on the humor that leavens this story about heartbreak—the heartbreak that accompanies the loss of a beloved piece of land. The humor in my writing is a late gift, to me as well as to my listeners; I’ve come to realize that humor is not the other side of tragedy but provides its essential balance. We laugh as we cry when our hearts are opened.
Many people bought signed copies of Mending, New and Selected Stories, after the reading, some buying as many as four of the handsome hardcover, and I love to think of the way these copies will fan out to people I will never know.
Prospect’s mayor came, as did several city council members and library board members as well as many neighbors. They are all close neighbors of Wolf Pen Mill Farm, the 420 acre farm which I own and put years ago into conservation easements.
There’s an old grist mill on the stream, which I’m thinking of renovating, and many decisions to be made about the upkeep and the future of this precious piece of land, which I will write about in my next post.