Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Like a Rolling Stone

by Shannon Baker
I’m adaptable. Until I went to high school, I’d never lived in the same place for more than two and a half years.  My father worked for a big retailer and we moved every two or three years as he climbed up the corporate ladder. We grew up like Army brats, until my mother had enough and forced us all back to my parents’ hometown in western Nebraska. When I graduated from college (Go Big Red) I’d lived in Lincoln, NE for the longest I’d lived anywhere.

I marvel at people who still live in the town they in which they grew up. Or live in the same house for twenty years. I have friends whose children graduated from the same high school where they marched to Pomp and Circumstance. That kind of continuity seems like a fantasy to me.

Then I got married and moved to the Nebraska Sandhills. I had a couple of kids and put down roots enough to feed me for twenty years. I even lived in the same house for fifteen of those. When I left, I didn’t take much with me.

Since then, I’ve been light on my feet. I moved from Nebraska to Colorado, from big family house to apartment to townhouse. Then from Colorado to Flagstaff, AZ, a rental house and then a small cabin. And now, whew, I’m back up on the Front Range and loving it. But we have a house in Tucson, too, and I hope to bounce back and forth with some regularity.  (The pic is Mt. Humphreys just outside of Flagstaff and the ski area I used as inspiration for Tainted Mountain.)

Modern communication makes accumulating friends in all these places fairly easy. I can email, text, catch up on Facebook and call friends several hundred miles away with as much frequency as when we lived in the same town. It’s a little harder to share a bottle of wine at happy hour, though. 

Each place brings challenges and new experiences. As a child, that first day of school could be intimidating but soon I’d have a whole posse of friends. Now, it’s an adventure to find a new dentist, figure out the best grocery store, and learn the walking paths and routes around town. While I have been known to pull into a random parking lot and yell obscenities because I’ve been lost for the last half hour and keep going the wrong way on one way streets, for the most part, I love discovering my new digs.

Is it any wonder that without giving it much thought, I’ve ended up taking Nora Abbott, the main character in the (duh) Nora Abbott Mystery Series, all over the west? She seems to have the same transient spirit I do. The first book is set in Flagstaff and book 2, Broken Trust, is in Boulder. (You see a trend?) Book 3 takes her back south to Moab, UT. (The pic is in Canyonlands, where Nora will find trouble in Book 3.)  I’ve got ideas for her doing time in Nebraska and Wyoming and maybe even Tucson.

As a reader, I’m drawn to books with a strong sense of place. I love the way writers set me down in bustling London or in the middle of a nor’ easter in Maine, or on a sweltering New Orleans veranda.  For now, I’m keeping Nora in the west. It is a landscape I know and love. But I don’t see her gathering any moss in the near future.

What are some of your favorite settings in books you’ve read? Where would you like to read about?


Keith Raffel said...

Shannon, I live 8 doors from where I did in high school. My kids go to that same high school. My best friend from 4th grade lives three blocks away. And yet, there's plenty to write about here in my hometown of Palo Alto, the heart of Silicon Valley. Why don't you keep on wandering and I'll stay staid? Whatever works.

Shannon Baker said...

If you have to pick a place to stay, you could do a lot worse than Palo Alto! It beats the hell out of Nebraska.

Catriona McPherson said...

My parents still sleep in the room where I was born. Does that count?

Shannon Baker said...

I believe if the miles were counted, you've moved more of them than I have, Catriona.