While on my walk with Buddy this morning I thought a bit about the term "hillbilly." I never thought of myself as such when I was a child but by many standards set forth I did fit that category. We lived on the edge of the foothills where wolves could be heard sometimes at night as well as the cries of a lynx. Both would send us scrambling towards the safety of the porch light. I spent summers barefoot with mud squished between my toes, on the run from cowboys or Indians depending on which side I was on that particular summer day. To us, life wasn't meager. It had a fullness and richness that had nothing to do with our pocketbooks and everything to do with our hearts and our minds.
Like many mothers who want more for their children my mother made sure that gifts were special. She bought things that would remind us of the possibilities, things that were completely useless in the life we knew but we understood what they represented. On my eleventh birthday I received a boxed set of Maja perfume and dusting powder. The label showed a Spanish woman in a flowing red dress with black lace mantilla (I learned that word later). I couldn't relate but I could dream. I placed them carefully on the dresser next to my gift from the previous Christmas - a hand held mirror, satin backed with matching brush and comb in faux tortoise shell.
Today, Buddy and I stopped at a meadow full of what I call buttercups, a cluster of small yellow-orange flowers. I used to bring them to my mother, pulled from the ditch along our road, and I do mean pulled as they usually came complete with roots. As Buddy rolled around in the grass among them I sat down next to him, glad to be in such good company. The thing that came to mind while sitting there among those buttercups was that hillbilly is just a state of mind, and as states of mind go it's not a bad one.
I've been back in Minnesota almost two years now living less than twenty miles from where my childhood home still stands. I'm re-learning how to live harmoniously with the land and my surroundings. They say life is a circle, that everything is concentric. Nature certainly teaches us that: the rings in trees tell their story, circles in seashells talk of the ebb and flow of time, it's in the way a bird builds its nest. It's in everything, everywhere.
As we were heading for home this morning, Buddy emerged from the ferns along the river, his mouth full of little blue forget-me-nots. We trotted home together, this Buddha-boy and me, flowers flying. It's a beautiful and mysterious thing to be alive, living within this circle.
Here is Greg Brown with "Hillbilly Girl."