Poetry Craig Crist-Evans North of Everything

ISBN 13: 9780763620981

North of Everything

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9780763620981: North of Everything

In this gentle, poignant novel-in-verse, the acclaimed author of AMARYLLIS tells a family tale that is infused with joy, heartbreak, and hope.

Mom says
Dad's spirit lives
in every blade of grass,
in every tree, in all the ways
we learn to keep on breathing.

A new beginning and a simpler life — that's what Mom and Dad and their young son are looking for when they move north of everything, leaving the city life of Miami for a farm in Montpelier, Vermont. And that's what they find, among a hundred peaceful acres of fields and pastures hugging the banks of the Winooski River. But even as the now-rural family takes careful note of the changing seasons, they encounter their own unexpected series of beginnings and endings. Craig Crist-Evans's spare, lyrical novel will speak to anyone who has experienced change and loss, and who has faced the struggle — and found the spirit to carry on.

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About the Author:

Craig Crist-Evans published poems, articles, essays, and reviews in numerous journals. He was also the author of AMARYLLIS and MOON OVER TENNESSEE: A BOY'S CIVIL WAR JOURNAL, for which he received the International Reading Association's Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award. He also taught English and directed the Writing Center at Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania before he passed away in 2005. Craig Crist-Evans said, "NORTH OF EVERYTHING is my attempt to portray the changes one boy and his family experience -- through the shifting seasons and in their own lives -- that lead them to a humble acceptance of both beauty and loss in the world."

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Here, north of everything,

when winter’s almost done

and the sun begins to climb

above the mountains,

the old Winooski thaws.
Willows wave their pale leaves,

robins dig for worms,

and I hear the lowing cows,

voices

drifting

soft

across the fields.
Here, north of everything,

we boil sugar from the maple trees in March,

plant long rows of corn in June, watch

October mountainsides erupt in leafy fire.
Here, north of everything,

all winter long, we sit beside the wood stove,

drinking cider, rubbing hands

to warm ourselves.
Here, north of everything,

where seasons change their clothes

from red and yellow, then white to green,

where I have learned

that fall turns to winter,

and winter turns to spring.

Before I knew about the seasons,

we lived where nothing ever

seemed to change

in Florida, in Miami, where

there were buses, trains,

airports, malls, fast-food

restaurants, discotheques, and bars.
The streets were jammed

with motorcycles, trucks, and cars.
Palm trees jutted up along the sidewalks.

Just down the block, the ocean

stretched to where the sun came up.
Everything smelled like flowers.

All the time!

I only knew what snow was

from movies and picture books.
Dad worked in an office.

Mom worked at school.

Dad grew up with cows and horses,

the smells of barns and leather.
His family farmed for generations.

As far back as anyone remembers,
they worked their Pennsylvania homesteads,

then migrated westward to Ohio,
settled new farms, and fought for the Union

in the War Between the States.
His great-great-grandfather

got shot in the leg
and still came back to plow

another forty years.

I think Dad got tired

of wearing ties to work,

sitting in traffic for hours,

waiting

for a light to change.
He said good clean dirt

would make all the difference

in the world.

We bought a farm,

Dad said, his hands

in his lap, fingers

laced together.
Mom smiled

like a cat

who’d swallowed

a canary.
I sat at the dinner table,

chewing something.
There’s no way

I could tell you

what it was.

We sold our house,

packed furniture and clothes,

pots and pans, my trunk of toys,

everything in stacks and stacks of boxes,
and then I wandered

through the empty rooms,

listening

to the echo

of my footsteps,
looking out the windows

at the tile roofs,

the orange trees,

and the palms.

In Florida,

everything was flat,

but

as we headed north,

the earth began

to rise and swell.
I remember

driving up the coast:

the Atlantic Ocean to the east,

Georgia and the Carolinas,

Washington, the Chesapeake,

New York City, Boston,
then west,
through New Hampshire

and, finally,

Vermont.
Mountains big as God stood up.
Along the way,

rivers carved their names

through forests, cities,

little towns like Asheville,

Harpers Ferry, Hopkins Cove,

Bennington.
At last we drove

along the banks of the Winooski,

north on Interstate 89

to Montpelier,

the smallest state

capital in America.

Our farm:
is in Montpelier, Vermont,

almost as far as you can go

before you get to Canada.
Our farm:
fields still wet in late May,

sun low above the willow trees

that stand like tired ghosts

along the shallow, dark Winooski,

the Indian word for onion . . .

Onion River, oldest in the world.
Our farm:
a hundred acres

stretched like skin along the bank

of the Winooski.
Our farm:
an old oak tree,

a swing my dad strung up,

an old gray barn with corners

where I lie in piles of hay,

dreaming summer daydreams,

where I go to be alone,

where I hide when I am sad.
Our farm:
where my dad

said we’d start again,

this time closer

to the earth,

to the sky,

closer

to each other.

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