I have always enjoyed the game of darts, though believe me, I’m not good at it. An old hand at the game gave me an interesting piece of advice a long time ago which proved to be somewhat helpful. He said that if you want to hit a bullseye, don’t aim at the bullseye. It’s too small, and nobody can hit that. Aim for the center of the next larger ring surrounding the bullseye. It’s easier to hit the middle of something bigger. I know, you are already sputtering with objections that this makes no sense, and it’s all the same thing in the end, just described in different terms. But it’s not.
I live in my own little bullseye of land. Eighteen acres, which for people living on postage-stamp yards in cities and suburbs sounds like a lot. But in the scheme of things, it is not a lot, and the longer I live here, the more I realize this. I have seen this picture that people post on Facebook and elsewhere that shows our whole galaxy spinning away in its immensity. There’s a small arrow pointing to, well, to nothing that you can see, really, and a message below it that reads, ‘You Are Here.’ The idea is that people with strong opinions about every little thing, who are convinced that those opinions matter, might want to put their lives in perspective.
But imagine that the arrow in the picture is a dart, and it is headed to me. It courses through all those stars to our solar system, down to Earth, to North America, to the United States, to eastern Missouri, to Jefferson County, to my patch of land, my own little bullseye. Will the arrow hit me? Is that where I am?
When I write about the seasons, and about climate, I always describe things here in the Great American Midwest. But the Midwest is a huge area, and includes much climatic variation. There is a lot of snow just to the north and west of here, but we have seen none yet this year.
When I run in the morning and the sky is clear, I can’t help but look at the stars all around. Here in late autumn Orion has shifted far to the east, while the Big Dipper still spins in its same basic place overhead. My heart leaps up and out of me, to the stars and beyond. I feel I am part of the universe, mere stardust.
So between child of the stars and American Midwesterner, one of my main concerns has always been to ask where am I? Am I here in High Ridge, Missouri, or am I at the center of something larger? And if it’s something larger, how much larger? And to me, the question is not so much how much larger do I go, but where can I feel that I am the center of something?
If your feelings are important, if your opinions have worth, if your thoughts matter, if your efforts produce something, if your relationships enrich those around you, it is all because you are grounded in something, and finding that something is maybe the greatest goal of life.
I’ll say one thing: this spot of land, for all the work it entails, is the only place I have ever lived that feels like home to me, that feels like it could contain some part of my identity, if only I keep looking for it. It is my own little bullseye, and I am always working to perfect my aim.