Written by Bryna R. Campbell
I. In culture, the rural conjures ideas of early settlers and settlements, and with it a sense of stability, foundations, home. Such an image is particularly comforting in periods when the world is rapidly changing. Thus the rural is often infused with a sense of nostalgia. Farmers in overalls. Sunsets. Porch swings. My grandma’s laugh. My grandpa’s rumbling, mumbling, drawl. Then again, there are other times when these same myths of the rural are invoked to contrast progress. From the center of the city, the people look out to country and point anxiously, shouting “hicks!” They point in every direction from the bustling streets, and say “backwards!” Stability blurs the line with recalcitrance in such narratives. Instead of home, the rural represents looking back. In all of these frameworks, whether positive or negative, the notion of the rural is cast as fictive symbol, not reality. Nothing of the living breathing space of the rural resides in these ideas.
II. We know that such a notion of the rural is reductive. We know it to be a place that is thoroughly un-settled. In this blog I imagine us interrogating the space between the fiction of stability and the realities that make the space dynamic. Small farms that have come to symbolize stability in American culture have been displaced by corporate farming. Rural communities struggle to keep apace with new technologies. Yet also -running counter to these ideas – just look at how adaptive farmers and ranchers are within the 21st century.
III. “Un/Settled” is a state of being. Mine, yours, others who grew up and left the rural or who, conversely, want to leave the city to experience what they understand of the rural more deeply. “Un/Settled” expresses the constant push, then pull, to and from quiet places. It speaks to the stupid messed up mixture of longing for a place I’ve left, and the satisfaction of having chosen to leave. I imagine this blog to be open ended so as to allow us to explore, muse, create content on the notion of rural identity. A place for conversations. I can see this blog developing, piece by piece, into an eclectic archive that begins to address the rural’s complexities.
IV. I am unsettled. I have been unsettled for a while. I don’t like to talk about being unsettled because I have been conditioned to believed that life is a process of becoming ever more settled. I have been conditioned to believe that I will someday find the place, and the career, and the family, and all that, and I will just reach a point of happy stasis. But I will never be in stasis. I don’t want to be in stasis. Part of why I will never be in stasis comes from my roots in the midwest, that place that is ever changing. I look back to see my home, but my home has changed. I look back to find grounding, and but the ground has changed.
V. “Un/Settled” is state of mind. But you knew that. You already felt it. You are unsettled too.