Tag Archive for: scenes

The Places We Go

By Barbara J Eikmeier

One of my favorite things about reading is “going to new places” when the setting in the story takes me away. Sometimes I unintentionally read several books set in similar places, such as WW2 Europe. Or, I end up reading books where the setting is either not well developed or not important to the story. Recent book choices have taken me far away to unique environments. For example,  Lucy Foley places her creepy stories in creepy places like remote Irish islands or desolate lodges in the Scottish Highlands. David Baldacci put his newest FBI superstar in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The unusual settings made for interesting reading.

This past summer I hit a “great setting” jackpot with three books in a row with settings that quickly took me into the story and kept me there for the duration.

Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate (2022) is the tragic tale of orphans under the care of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in the 1930s. The story alternates between present day South Carolina and in the past near Memphis, TN. The protagonist in the past lived with her family on the Arcadia, a shanty river boat.

As I read Wingate’s words I felt the sun and heard the sparrows sing and saw the “fat bass” jump out of the water. She paints a picture of white pelicans flying over, headed north, indicating that summer has just begun. Later in the orphanage May gets her hands on a copy of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn which makes her long for her home on the river.

The story isn’t about the river so much as it is the people who lived on that shanty boat, but the setting of the river is so beautifully developed that it has stayed with me long past the horror of the orphanage and the final pages of the novel.

One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker (2019) is set in the shadow of the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming in 1878. This book captivated me at page one. My mother lived until age 14 on a homestead in Wyoming so novels set there pique my interest. Twenty miles from town is not hard to imagine if you’ve ever driven across the Wyoming plains.

The story meanders along and although there are some great climatic moments it is the way the young couple work in harmony in the every day setting of their homestead just to survive that kept me reading. Young Beaulah, ‘a little light in the head’ is fascinated with all aspects of nature and I never tired of her teaching Clyde to notice the neat rows of seeds in a pod, or the shimmer on a bug’s wings or how the river sounds and the grass swishes.

I said to my sister-in-law, who loaned me the book, “That story isn’t in a hurry to get anywhere, and surprisingly, it doesn’t bother me. I sort of don’t want it to end.” Rich in sensory detail I now want to visit the Big Horn Mountains myself.

Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls (2023) is set in the hollers of Virginia in the 1920s. Walls masterful storytelling places young Sallie Kincaid in charge of collecting rent from residents of the county, most of whom live up in the hollers. The story touches on many social topics, is filled with rich characters and plenty of tragedy all placed in a specific setting in rural Claiborne County of Virginia..  The setting is so well described that when the bootleggers turn their headlights off and move through the county under moonlit it’s as if we can see as well as the drivers.

I read every night before going to sleep. It often takes me 2-3 weeks to finish an average length novel but I flew through these books and I’m hoping the next one I pick up will have just as rich a setting as these past three.

Barbara J. Eikmeier is a quilter, writer, student of quilt history, and lover of small-town America. Raised on a dairy farm in California, she enjoys placing her characters in rural communities.

Designated Parking

By Barbara J Eikmeier

It’s back-to-school-time which means it’s time to paint the high school parking lot AGAIN. An annual tradition at our local high school, it’s a senior privilege.

My children didn’t attend this school, so I’m strictly an observer of the annual changing of the guard in the school parking lot – a local citizen enjoying the show.

I notice the transition while exercising on the school track. It starts on a weekend. Dad’s and daughters, small groups of teen boys, and threesomes of giggling girls in short shorts and tank tops descend upon the asphalt. They arrive with rolls of blue masking tape, cans of paint, and rollers with long handles. They mask frames and roll the first color of paint. As the days go by the art emerges as the rising seniors personalize their private parking spots.

Designated parking spots are everywhere. CEOs and company presidents have them. On military posts the Solider of the Month has one. I once saw one near the door in a JC Penney’s parking lot for “Mother to be”. But aside from a formal sign, they aren’t decorated.

I’m not sure how the seniors get the privilege but in my mind it’s a fundraiser – auctioned to the highest bidder, the money deposited to the Grad Night fund.

What I haven’t sorted out is why the seniors choose their particular spots. Oh sure, those coveted places near the entrance to the school make sense. A senior can push the snooze button every morning then whip into his prime parking spot and still be in his seat before the tardy bell rings. It’s a rational that I would use myself, given the chance. But what puzzles me are the random spots in the middle of the parking lot. Or those on the outer edges furthest from the door. Why there?

Google Earth image


A day or two before school resumes the parking lot painting wraps up. The masking tape is peeled away leaving a sharp outline well within the official white lines.

The colors are vibrant: Hot pink, sunny yellow, Black and Red, Go Lions!  The themes are as varied as the students themselves. Football player’s numbers in bold block letters, favorite car brands, pop culture icons such as Pokemon and, new this year, Hi Barbie, and of course “Class of 2024” everywhere. The trending themes, popular colors, and school pride splashes across the parking lot in a sort of “controlled graffiti”.

I never actually see the students – they’re in class when I do my laps on their track, but I sure enjoy the way they share their passions with the world in the form of a decorated parking spot.

As the months pass the vibrant colors will soften until the week after graduation when the parking spots will be painted over with black paint, the dark rectangles creating a clean canvas for the next batch of rising seniors.

Does your community have a quirky annual tradition that amuses you?

Barbara J. Eikmeier is a quilter, writer, student of quilt history, and lover of small-town America. Raised on a dairy farm in California, she enjoys placing her characters in rural communities.