In My Ohio

​On Leaving the River to Pursue the Thunderhead

Darren C. Demaree
​There appears to me to be a section of life (30-40 maybe) that moves at an incredible speed. If you have appropriate food and shelter, perhaps a significant other or a family, then you are able to find enough wiggle room in your life to move freely through it. Any questions or desires you might have are really only propositions to “better” your good life. You live to protect and better your world, and very little is ever threatened. If you can keep your ego in check, then that life can be (barring tragedy) warm enough to escort you into retirement. You might see a skirmish or a terrible storm off in the distance, but unless it presents itself to you, it won’t create a tide in your very direct river.
I think that is fine. This is a difficult, often crushing world, and if you find peace amidst the chaos then that is fantastic. Your later-life sentiments will be full of stories from your life now, and how beautiful it was to be old enough to be capable and young enough to be thrilled by little treasures. You will, most likely, tell stories that are similar to those of your parents, who probably were able to find a degree of the same peace you have now. A lineage of comfort and peace, free of ego or mad declarations; I can admire all of that. I can find no fault in considering those turns to be an emotional and physical blessing.
I grew up at the confluence of two families that longed for that peace, and did an excellent job of the stage dressing for that scene. There was some money or there was a little money, and the generation before mine all went to college. They used that to acquire more/better jobs, more money, and even more items to crowd the family sentiment. The whole family joined the river before I was born.
I was put in this river. I was told the river was righteous, and that if I was a good, hard-working man I could stay in it as long as I wanted to. I could have peace, a version of happiness, maybe love, so I got good and wet. All I could see around me were the formations of different cloudbanks, and though sometimes I was in the water and punished by great rains at the same time, I moved forward. Even when my parents divorced it still felt like we are all going to be okay, and by that I mean that we could essentially still do all the things we wanted to do.
That sentiment is an incredibly selfish one. I never tended to the emotional scarring of that family explosion. I never even took care of the family members involved in it. I would be okay was the only decision I made. That decision, to go down the river alone, was one of terrible consequences.
Now, with a family of my own, an hour after filling my belly and widening my stance with a large cup of good coffee, I acknowledge that the river is no place for me. I know the flashes and the bangs aren’t exactly bowling lanes in the sky, but doesn’t it sound much more intriguing to find a place to do some battle? If I exert myself in some incredible way while most of the people I love are safe and made comfortable by efforts, does that not sound like a much better sacrifice? There is a lot of fear in living up to the shape-shifting challenges of the world, and at some point I might have monsters tearing at my legs and arms, but why not think of this energy as my own storm, constant and carried past the levees of middle age?
I’m thirty-four, a poet and unsettled in actual career, but for the first time I can feel how angry some of these things have made me. Instead of closing my eyes to settle down those emotional ghosts, I want more than anything to keep finding more guerrilla tactics in the art world and in the writing world. If I am to be dry for the rest of my life, then I might as well find the miles to stretch out my skin. We never dissolve physically, but I could feel that I was one step away from my gravitas dissolving back into that river. I’ll give my heart and my things to my family, and the rest of what I have will be a damn ornery time spent sticking my arms past the lightning of the world. I wish I knew what that meant, but I was wet for so long that some of these things I’m still figuring out.