The Other Day in the Gym
The other day at the gym, I was on the leg press machine when someone sauntered into the squat rack next to me. He nodded and smiled, before grabbing a couple 45-pound plates to load up the bar. His Iowa State t-shirt caught my eye. “Cy,” the familiar Cardinal with his caricature grimace of determination marched across the front of his t-shirt, emblazoned above with “Iowa State Cyclones.” It took me back to my days as a student there.
In between sets, I asked him when he went to Iowa State. He hadn’t, it turned out. His daughter a Veterinary Medicine student was in her third year, there.
“Why Iowa State?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Beats me. She had several scholarship offers, but…” He left his sentence unfinished and returned to the squat rack for his next set. “It is a beautiful campus, though,” he admitted, before shouldering the bar.
“I’ll sign that.” I agreed.
And it’s true. Despite being flat as a tabletop, Iowa has its own special beauty. And that was the end of our conversation. The gentleman finished his squats and moved on.
Later in the day, I was sitting at my laptop, working on the next chapter of my science fiction novel when my college years at Iowa State crept back into my head. I’m sure my conversation earlier that day in the gym was the catalyst.
The Influences of Environment
If you didn’t grow up in the Midwest, it might be difficult to fully appreciate the nuanced feelings that might lurk in the back of the mind of someone who grew up in a part of the country prone to wild swings of weather. The Great Central Plain is home to some unpredictable and occasionally violent weather. In Through the Windshield, Drive-by Lives, the environment and the weather is almost another character in the stories.
In Sinbad’s Sofa, a cat seeking shelter from a blizzard at the gas station where the author worked teaches him something about himself and the nature of human’s connection with critters. In The Last House in Town, one human’s unexpected kindness leads the author to a deeper understanding of life and other’s pain.
In Heartland, the author invites readers to confront the pull of horizons and the how the limitations of where we are can awaken the restless spirit living in all of us. And it was this latter thought I found myself focusing on, as I reflected on my conversation earlier in the day at the gym with the Dad whose daughter was attending my Alma Mater.
People who know me well also know that I’m drawn to wide open spaces, and that I am (occasionally) afflicted with an almost irresistible wander lust. How much of this has to do with the tantalizing lure of open horizons, whispering to me of new sights, sounds and scents? How much influence (if any), did growing up on the plains have on my decision to join the Corps or to spend the first 20 plus years of my adult life in the nomadic world that is the life of a professional warrior?
The influence of environment is generally an accepted concept, even if the details of how/how much influence they have. I’m convinced the wander lust that frequently calls me to head off for parts unknown is at least partially a function of growing up in a place where open horizons beckoned.
Through the Windshield
Which brings us to Through the Windshield. Day or night, whether it was a vanishing point on the horizon or the cold, distant glitter of lights in the distance on a winter’s night, the plains tend to remind you that there are other places to be. That there are other things to see and experiences to be had for those willing to stray from the familiar in pursuit of a different level of knowing.
Even though few of the stories in this anthology are true absent embellishment, they are all self-reflective, at some level. In common with many authors, the original impetus to write was for me, all about self-expression. These days, however, I seek to balance self-expression with the broader observations about humans in general and who we are stripped of the masks behind which most of us hide.
Through the Windshield, Drive-by Lives is the perfect introduction to my longer fiction. If you would like to read the stories, you can get your free copy here. If you’ve never read anything by D.B. Sayers, before, you can snag your free copy of this anthology, here.