All My Yesterdays

My yesterdays are all stacked up in piles. I have the yesterdays of high school, where I dreamed of moving away to the city. There are yesterdays of college and post-college where I worked nonstop to pay off debt and start a career. Then yesterdays of my 30s, which are interspersed with strange hiccups that sometimes look like they don’t belong to me.

These yesterday piles are so messy and I fail at organizing them. How would I do it? Successes, regrets, good things, bad. No way makes sense. And unlike my my tangible accumulations I can’t use the Marie Kondo method on yesterdays, so my yesterday stacks keep growing.

Recently I was visiting my parents, who still live in the same small town in Iowa where I grew up. My Iowa routine is simple – visit with Mom and Dad, shop at Hy-Vee, and go for a daily run around the area.

My two-footed routes almost always include an abandoned railroad bed that my dad singlehandedly converted into a walking path. Separated from cars, the path sidles the outskirts of town until drawing me into the nearby farmland and gravel roads.

While taking the path one day I unexpectedly intersected with my mom, and we walked home together. The following day, my dad invited me to go out along the trail with him, until we ultimately split so that he could do his run and I mine.

These unplanned moments spent walking in my hometown with my parents over a trail my dad worked and cared for spun all my yesterdays together. The past and the present stacked up inside me, and joy poured out.

I felt unified with family and space, perfectly placed in time. Were my yesterdays supposed to add up to something more than people and feet padding over an anonymous trail in the country? I had always imagined they would, but my emotions so happily startled me that I didn’t think to care.

I have always craved the smell of dirt and the feel of my body breathing in and out as it steps over the earth. Iowa will always course through me in some way, no matter where I go. This is how I was made, it is what my parents passed on to me. This is who I am.

My yesterday piles have since toppled over. They’re messy again, vexing me.

Before they tumbled, though, I extracted those footsteps on the path. I clasped them tight and hold them still. I need those yesterdays to keep going.

8 comments

  1. I grew up in Iowa, mostly in Ames, and still visit the region every year to see my family around the holidays. Your words and photos reminded me of a place I still think of as “home” although I haven’t lived there in over a decade and realistically may never live there again. Thanks for writing, I really felt this one.

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  2. I spent my youth in Iowa just south east of you in Marshalltown. Haven’t lived there since 1983 but I still have a sense of home there. None of my immediate family is there so seldom visit but it is an anchoring point for me. It is where I started riding bicycle beyond to bicycle of my youth. One special memory was a ride from Marshalltown to Eldora and Pine Lake, a group of 6 of us took off on my first point to point ride which opened up a whole new world to me. The freedom to be able to ride to distance locals under by my own power. The rolling country blacktop roads with minimal traffic still draw me. I’d love to bring my wife back to Iowa to ride some of those roads on our tandem. Maybe some day we will visit and make that trek to Pine Lake again. Thank you Mary, love your writing and the familiarity or much of much of it, and when not, we can share in your adventures.

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    1. I know your area pretty well. I haven’t been to Pine Lake in years, but my dad loved running in that area in the days when he was more able to drive to a run start. I hope you are able to go back and revisit the area some time, and thank you so much for your comments, Paul.

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