I was in my hometown the past few days—getting to see people I love, do things I enjoy, visit places I cherish.
I spent time with my parents and my young adult grandson, I attended a writer’s workshop and concert at Carl Sandburg’s birthplace, and I visited two libraries that helped in many ways to nurture my interests and provide resources as I completed my late-in-life college degree.
It’s funny how such things, which appear small on first glance, can be so large when viewed through a stronger lens.
My parents, as do I, continue to grow older – no brilliant observation, but one that grows clearer over time. Our time together, because of this, becomes more precious with each visit.
My grandson, once in our lives day in and day out, has grown up and no longer lives in the same community in which we do. It’s a joy to get to know the older him as he discovers who he is and where his life will take him.
The Sandburg Days writer’s workshop, an annual affair for me for a number of years, has become with distance a rare treat. Yet each time I attend, regardless of presenting author, I grow myself as a writer – and remember with renewed clarity how much and why I love what I do – putting words on paper.
Something that I find most encouraging about Galesburg’s event in honor of its hometown poet is the way the “Festival for the Mind” celebrates a diversity of arts, from poetry to photography, from encouraging budding writers to showcasing gifted musicians. It’s a special treat when one of those musicians happens to be a high school classmate come back to the ‘Burg to play a few tunes.
I can’t remember a time I didn’t love books or libraries – from the first ones my mother read to me as a small child, to the ones I chose from book order forms in elementary school, to the diversity of genres I’ve savored as an adult.
One thing is certain. No matter what community I called home through the years, one place always made it so – the library. And, of all the libraries I’ve visited in the past six decades, two stand out above all others – the Galesburg Public Library and Seymour Library at Knox College.
At tables in the corners each of these repositories, I took sanctuary so I could study in tranquility. In the stacks I found books about subjects I was assigned and those I enjoyed. I savored and used as reference volumes about regional topics, looked with longing at names of people from West Central Illinois who worked with words – Carl Sandburg, Earnest Elmo Calkins, John E. Hallwas, Martin Litvin and more.
As I did, I often mused, “Someday, perhaps, my name will be found upon these shelves.”
Though it still doesn’t appear as author, today I delivered to the archives at each library a volume I had the privilege to see even before it was a book – “Abraham Lincoln Traveled this Way: The America Lincoln Knew“ with photographs by McLean County’s Robert Shaw and narrative by Lincoln scholar Michael Burlingame.
Way in the back, on a line that credits those who helped to edit the copy, you’ll find this name: Ann Tracy Mueller.
It’s a little thing – that string of 15 letters and two spaces – but gigantic to a former Galesburg resident who hoped for a half-century to add, if even a little, to the literary tradition of her hometown.
In a way, perhaps, I have.
© Ann Tracy Mueller 2013