But not without first sharing a passage with you from the Afterword ("An Interview with the Author").
Q: Do you think there's a connection between place and the inspiration to write?
I think land and environment are very important. ...But I don't think you have to be in a gorgeous place to write. I don't think you have to be in your heart's song. I think you just have to be where you are. In other words, if you're in Cincinnati, if you can really eat Cincinnati, know the streets and the weather, the trees, how the light looks at the end of your workday, that's what's important. Now, for me, I had a great love for Taos. ... And it was actually painful because I couldn't always be there....And yet, Taos was my passion. But once I got to live there full-time, as I do now, then I remembered...when you know a place well, it's a place. You might love it deeply, but it's a place that has good and bad things. But having this place gives you a freedom to go anyplace and appreciate and love other places. Which wasn't true for me before, because I was always fighting where I was, because I wanted to be in Taos.
Don't do that to yourself - "I am here, but I should be there." It was torture for me. Wherever you are is the place to be writing from. Don't use the excuse that you are not in the right place. There is no perfect place. Just pick up your pen, record the details of where you are."
This is exactly how I feel about Cumberland County (or, at least today it is). I'm not sure I've ever allowed myself to really "be" in another city in my adult life, because I was constantly romanticizing what it would be like to live in the place where the rest of my family shared impromptu weekday suppers, where I could drive Dad's truck on familiar backroads, where people knew my name when I checked out at the grocery store. Now that I am here full-time, though, I battle frustrations that rarely crossed my mind when I envisioned the quaint, whimsically-charming, cedar shake house I would build on Turner Farm. Sometimes I long for anonymity rather than first-name-basis Houchens encounters. I miss having opportunities to take any random skill-based class that has piqued my interest. I wish I knew more left-leaning, Kerouac-reading, hippish spirits.
Yet, even in those moments when my wandering urge is the strongest, I know, without fail, that I have a profound love for this place, a place I embrace and a place I push against daily. And, that sense of place is something for which I am grateful, something that will hopefully allow me to "be" wherever I may ultimately find myself. And, you know what? "Where I find myself" might be exactly three miles east of Marrowbone, seven miles west of Burkesville. Maybe that cedar shake house will go up next year. I honestly have no idea.
If it's not, however, at least it won't be something that I am constantly fighting against, something to which I'm comparing everything else. Having a genuine love of a particular place may help me find a home somewhere completely foreign to me, somewhere completely foreign to that fundamental place, but where I know how the light looks at the end of the workday. It is a understanding that grounds this not-really-purposive, not-really-accidental drifter, the one who dreams of writing and a cafe and freedom and finishing the dissertation and figuring out her passions of priority.
I truly wish for all of you the ability to "be" where you are. Trust me, I know it's easier said than done.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon coconut extract
- 2/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- 1 1/4 cups chilled whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon coconut extract
Whisk 1/2 cup sugar, eggs, egg yolk, and flour in medium bowl. Bring milk and coconut to simmer in medium saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add hot milk mixture to egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return to same saucepan; cook until pastry cream thickens and boils, stirring constantly, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla and coconut extracts. Transfer pastry cream to medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface to prevent formation of skin. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. Transfer filling to crust. Cover; chill overnight.
Toast coconut in heavy small skillet over medium heat until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Cool completely. Using electric mixer, beat cream, sugar, and coconut extract in medium bowl until peaks form. Spread whipped cream all over top of filling. Sprinkle evenly with toasted coconut. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Serve cold.