A Sunday Drive on County Road 4
Sunday was a lovely day to drive to down State Road 4 to North Liberty, Indiana to reflect and finish my final draft of my place essay. Here is the latter part of the essay, since it reflected on the day and of my experiences: Seven years later, on a late Sunday morning, Steve and I again took to the countryside to remember. Above us, streaks of white cotton-clouds marked the azure sky. The late winter sun warms the earth to a balmy 34 degrees and the rays are bright enough to warrant a pair of sunglasses, so I pull a purple pair out of my purse. We stop to gas up Kumi (Toyota Hybrid) and hit the grocery store for snacks to retrace the steps—or the wheels, more accurately--and we were on our way. I am excited and a little apprehensive. Perhaps the landscape will be altered. Perhaps memories will overwhelm me. Perhaps I will have forgotten. We turn right onto Kern Road. We look at the white house on the right hand side corner with a red bar and woods to its left. A horse named Hoofie used to frolic in those woods, sporting a sharp red horse blanket in the wintertime. Now the woods are silent. We pass the Centre Township Branch Library on the left. We wave, although there is no one there on Sunday. The library is silent. We travel on U.S. 31 south and turn right at the stoplight. Newton Park is to our left. Next to the park is a housing development with a few more pricy homes than I once remembered. The familiar green sign to the right informs us that North Liberty is eight miles away and LaPorte, Indiana is twenty-five miles away. We notice the barren woods adorning both sides of the road; we notice horses, ponds, and wild grasses; we notice an adorable black cat sitting up in the amber field. I could not resist. We pulled over in efforts to capture the contrast of the cat in the field. However, the elusive cat disappeared. I went back into the car, we found a side road, and turned around. We looked to our left, and the cat was sitting up again, almost as a taunt. I took this as a dare. We turned around again and attempted to again capture a photograph of the cat. Again, when we slowed down, the cat disappeared, much like a flashback, a memory surfacing for a moment, and then disappeared, hoping that the memory will stay. We continue on our drive to town and observe the cow commune, in hopes to say hello. It is different. The white, two–story, Victorian house remains. But the cows are missing. A dingy brown field remains. We stop and I step out of the car. A dog’s sporadic bark interrupts the overwhelming void. The cows that are no longer overshadow the landscape with silence, and after snapping a few photographs of the countryside, I silently step back into the car. We continue our travels. The familiar wooden sign of Potato Creek State Park comforts me and soon after a charming sign with snowflakes greets us with “A Winter Welcome to North Liberty.” Steve and I look all five ways on the corner of 23 and 4. When it is all clear, we drive across and pass the old North Liberty Branch with the one designated parking spot, replaced by a consignment store called “The Treasure Box”. The St. Joseph County Public Library Plate is still affixed to the red brick building and I recall parking in the 1st Source Bank lot (thanks to the generosity of the staff), sauntering up the little ramp with the charming white railings to the entrance of the door, rushing to the wall to disable the alarm and pray that I remembered the bypass code. There was one key for the front door, one key for the bookdrop, and one key for the post office, just like Mayberry. Outside, there was one parking spot, one stand-up computer, one cramped area in the corner for two desks, one closet for a break room, and one meeting room that held fifteen people “legally”. There was also one ghost confirmed by three people, including myself. I witnessed Esmerelda out of the peripheral vision of my left eye directly across from me in the children’s non-fiction section, which was always out of order. We also had one chipmunk (Alvin) trapped in the library for several days, nibbling on my plants rather than the peanut butter from the trap loaned from the Humane Society. Eventually, my assistant opened the emergency door and the smallest library resident moved out, leaving gaping holes in the foliage that sustained it. Transcendence can be defined as “the state of excelling or surpassing or going beyond usual limits”. As the library chipmunk surpassed its limits, so did I, just through sheer experience. Inside the branch, there was conflict at first and then comfort with the community. Not only did I have to contend with change, so did my patrons. Collaboratively through communication and trust-building we transcended from stranger to friend, and I am proud to have a part in the construction and design of the new facility. When I arrived, I was lonely and lost, only to find confidence, experiencing additional responsibilities, and forming new friendships in the community. Steve and I passed the old library, drove by the charming post office with red brick, Dogwood Designs, the gas station, the Yum-Yum Shop, and finally turned into the parking lot of the new North Liberty Branch, which was bright and charming, with the electronic sign in the front and adorned with a front porch. We sat there and gazed at the library for awhile, remembered the years of transcendence, and then turned out of the deserted parking lot, and after driving around on 23 for a bit, turned around, and headed home.