Ten distances from their part of the Ozarks

Few Americans know much, if anything, about the Ozarks, where Jaya and Joshua resettle in my novel Nearly Canaan.

Here are some driving times to points from Fayetteville, Arkansas, to major cities.

~*~

  1. St. Louis: 5 hours, 20 minutes.
  2. Memphis: 4 hours, 39 minutes.
  3. Tulsa: 1 hour, 55 minutes.
  4. Dallas: 5 hours, 13 minutes.
  5. New Orleans: 9 hours, 41 minutes.
  6. Kansas City: 3 hours, 32 minutes.
  7. Nashville: 8 hours, 47 minutes.
  8. Denver: 11 hours, 53 minutes.
  9. Chicago: 9 hours, 52 minutes.
  10. New York: 12 hours, 17 minutes.

~*~

Frankly, the Ozarks is more isolated than I’d thought. I’m surprised that its center is almost as far from New Orleans as it is from Chicago or that it’s halfway between St. Louis and Dallas. Looks like a long way to anywhere, actually.

How long does it take you to get to a major destination?

Ten places I’ve lived

  1. Dayton. Inside the city limits but with a working dairy farm a half-block across the street.
  2. Bloomington. On the Indiana University campus, and later at the edge of town.
  3. Binghamton. In the ‘hood, then on a hippie farm near the New York-Pennsylvania line.
  4. The yoga ashram. Out on a yoga farm in the Pocono mountains.
  5. Fostoria. In a loft downtown, over St. Vincent’s charity store, in what was once Ohio’s Great Black Swamp.
  6. Yakima, Washington. Including three years in an orchard.
  7. Warren, Ohio. We bought a lovely arts-and-crafts bungalow in an industrial city in economic collapse.
  8. Baltimore. Downtown in the trendy Bolton Hill neighborhood and then out in suburban Owings Mills.
  9. Manchester, New Hampshire. By the Merrimack River, then atop the tallest hill.
  10. Dover, New Hampshire. A mile from downtown. The longest I’ve lived in the same house, by the way.

And one other place that never really counted.

~*~

Tell us something good or bad about someplace you’ve lived. Like maybe your favorite?

What do you know about rocks?

In my novel Nearly Canaan, their neighbor Todd is a geologist. You know, a rocks guy. The Ozarks is where he and his wife Lucy meet Joshua and Jaya.

The place is a mineral-rich geological wonder.

Here’s part of the attraction he’d have where they are in Arkansas.

~*~

  1. Lead. The major ore that was mined. Still is.
  2. Zinc. The other major ore.
  3. Vanadium. Used in metal alloys.
  4. Diamonds. Mostly of industrial grade.
  5. Barite. The main source of barium.
  6. Tripoli. Used mostly as an abrasive in polishing and buffing compounds and as a filler in a variety of products.
  7. Quartz crystal. Used in electrical products, glassmaking, and for hardness in abrasives – in addition to its popularity in metaphysical healing circles.
  8. Gypsum. Used in a number of construction products.
  9. Chalk. Its range of uses include toothpaste.
  10. Bauxite. Used in the chemical, steel, petroleum, and cement industries, it’s also the principal source of aluminum.

~*~

What do you know about rocks?

Whatever happened to apprenticeships and mentors?

The conversation turned to a current problem many face in finding the right job.

Employers seem to demand college degrees for even the most basic positions, and then expect years of experience as well for what’s lowly paid entry-level work.

How does anyone get that requisite experience in such a setup?

That’s had me thinking of bosses who see something in a candidate and hire them, regardless of the credentials, and then guide them in their development. I’ve certainly had some fine examples as well as some crucial (paid) internships.

It’s also had me reflecting on the great inventor Charles F. Kettering, who once said that if he faced a metallurgy problem and had a metallurgist and a biologist on his staff, he’d hand it to the biologist – because the biologist would be more likely to solve it.

Why? The biologist wouldn’t know all of the things that weren’t supposed to work, unlike the metallurgist.

Of course, this is not just about jobs. I’ve noticed that we need mentors in the many diverse skills of living and in the practice of our own niches within it.

These days, I’m also realizing I’m at an age where I might be expected to be fulfilling the mentoring role, not that I often feel that capable. What I am noticing, however, is the gap in the circles I travel, where individuals in their twenties and thirties are scarce. A wider look finds them scarce in general, and those I know openly admit their puzzlement about connecting in real life with their peers. Where are they, outside of the Internet?

I can name a long list of mentors in my journey to here. Some were teachers or bosses, others poets or Quakers or Mennonites, even fine arts painters or folks a generation younger than me.

Who’s filled a role of mentor in your life?

Chiseling away to release the angel

The novel that now stands as Nearly Canaan is a much, much different book than its original draft.

The landscape itself is no longer a primary character, for one thing – a Garden of Eden for an Adam and Eve. It still provides a vivid background, all the same.

Changing the protagonist into a slightly older, career-driven woman and the suitor a younger man also greatly shifted the dynamic.

The narrative was still an epic, rambling investigation that eventually spanned across three volumes – Promise, Peel (as in Apple), and St. Helens in the Mix – but the momentum and message got lost along the way.

I needed to look at it the way Michelangelo looked at a big rock. And then start chisling to release the angel.

A clearer understanding of Jaya’s work in nonprofits – and of Schuwa himself – helped me cut the text by half or more, driving it along a stronger plot line.

Unlike rock, fortunately, it’s not just a matter of cut-cut-cut with no additions possible.

So the renamed Joshua – or Schuwa, as she fondly calls him – becomes equally central to the story. In fact, in the two middle sections, he’s now the principal figure.

As I’ve asked, in liberating him from his strict upbringing, has Jaya created a monster?

That alone adds more balance to the tale, countered by the rising pressures in her own stellar career.

Even though what was left was still a big book, I felt an additional touch was needed.

That’s when I returned to an earlier desire for a novel based on Wendy, Pastor Bob’s wife back in Prairie Depot. The distilled essence of that now became a fitting coda for the opus.

By the way, I still think Wendy’s an angel – of the living, breathing sort. No wonder she and Jaya so quickly bonded.

 

Have you ever lived in a desert?

In my novel Nearly Canaan, Joshua and Jaya settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined. It’s desert, for one thing, where nearly everything has to be irrigated, for another. Quite simply, it’s a lot like Yakima, in the middle of Washington state.

The city’s doubled in population since I lived there, but I’m not surprised. It’s mostly sunny.

Here are ten factoids.

~*~

  1. The name applies to the city, the county, the valley, and until recently, the Indians, too.
  2. The valley gets nearly nine inches of rain in a typical year, most of it in the winter. Almost every green thing that sprouts requires irrigation. And if that supply fails, everything goes kaput.
  3. The valley produces more than 75 percent of the hops used in American beer – and a quarter of the hops used worldwide. If you’re a beer lover, be grateful. The locale also raises a lot of barley, up in the Horse Heaven Hills.
  4. The valley has more than 70 wineries. It’s become a great place to grow varietal grapes, many of which are pressed into fermentation elsewhere. On the globe, it lines up quite well with France.
  5. The trolleys have been running for more than a hundred years. Fun trip, by the way, especially the ones that run out through the orchards.
  6. The original site of the city was renamed Union Gap, made famous by the rocker Gary Puckett.
  7. Yakima County leads the nation in apple production, with 55,000 acres of active orchards. It’s the state’s highest valued agricultural product. By the way, they’re no longer mostly Red Delicious.
  8. The average income of an apple picker is $6 a day.
  9. The Native Americans have renamed their tribe and reservation as Yakama. One letter makes a huge difference.
  10. I still miss living there, especially Mount Adams every morning.

~*~

So what’s special about where you live?

What do you know about the Ozarks?

In my novel Nearly Canaan, Joshua and Jaya leave Prairie Depot and settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined. It’s not where they promised themselves that they’d relocate, but it would have to do. At least it was hilly and wooded.

It’s hillier and more forested than I had expected.

Here are a few of the things they discovered.

~*~

  1. The Ozark Mountains, also known as the Ozarks Plateau, stretches into five states but is situated mostly in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. It’s the highest land between the Appalachian and Rocky mountains, having some peaks of more than two thousand feet elevation.
  2. Technically, there are two mountain ranges: the Boston Mountains of Arkansas and the St. Francoise Mountains in Missouri, the latter having some of the oldest rocks in the United States.
  3. The majority of the region is forested. Logging is a major industry.
  4. The plateau is laced with underground caverns. Found deep within some of them is the species of Ozark blind cave salamanders, which lives nowhere else in the world.
  5. The shoreline of the Lake of the Ozarks is longer than the coastline of California. The man-made lake covers 61,000 square miles and is a popular vacation site.
  6. The Ozarks has a distinctive culture, architecture, and dialect deriving from its backwoods heritage. Square dances were a popular social activity, as was storytelling.
  7. Historically, the Ozarks were predominantly Baptist or Methodist in faith. Today, the Assemblies of God and Baptist Bible Fellowship International have their world headquarters in the region.
  8. Big-name live musical entertainment has made Branson a major tourist magnet.
  9. Fayetteville, home to the University of Arkansas and with 77,000 population, is the third largest city in the state and is the principal metropolis in the Arkansas part of the Ozarks. It claims to defy many stereotypes about Southerners and could well be the model for Dolomite Center in my novel.
  10. Wal-Mart is headquartered in Bentonville, a short drive from Fayetteville.

~*~

What can you add to the list?