This season in Iowa takes my breath away with glowing trees, crops turning from vibrant green to yellow, gold and brown — the air is clear of summer’s humidity and blue sky and sunshine are deeply appreciated.
We call it autumn, or fall — but it also is change. Many of us resist changes. Learning a new way of doing a task, even though it may be more efficient, can be bothersome. Watching our children transform, grow up, move away — is a bittersweet, albeit welcome, change.
I picked the topic “change” to introduce myself as the newest member of The Ledger’s newsroom. Life’s journey brings us changes just as nature brings us seasons. Even in embracing the next cycle, I also can resist changes out of fear and doubt — it doesn’t do any good.
I arrived in the Midwest 19 years ago, after 13 years as an Army wife with nine moves around the U.S. I like to think those years taught me flexibility. I definitely learned to find and appreciate something about each community.
Going way back, I was born and raised near San Diego, then attended college and lived nearly 10 years in San Francisco. There, I met and fell in love with a Keokuk, Iowa, native.
When he wanted to hang up his Army helicopter wings after Desert Storm, he chose to return to school in Iowa. We landed in Grand Mound (pop. 600) where our daughter and son, dog Jack, and eventually a succession of rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs and cats, enjoyed a five-year stay in an older home complete with a white picket fence.
When we moved near Keokuk, I took a big leap and applied for an open job at its newspaper, The Daily Gate City. I was already past 40, in a new town, didn’t know anyone – and yet my married last name was known.
I carried a bit of a chip on my shoulder; I wanted to be known for myself, my abilities, not my spouse’s. I had a lot to learn. My fellow co-workers and supervisors were patient and generous, yet held the bar high for solid, community reporting. I made friends; I made enemies, and sometimes made peace.
I enjoyed the always-different sequence of my days and work: I crawled on kindergarten room floors, waded in Mississippi River flood waters, shot aerial photos from a Cessna and interviewed local, state and national political candidates.
My 29-year marriage ended in Keokuk. I took my four years experience of teaching remedial writing at Southeastern Community College (while working at the newspaper), moved to Fairfield and enrolled in Iowa’s inaugural teachers’ fast-track master’s program at Maharishi University of Management. With a semester of classes under my belt and a new intern Iowa teaching license, I was hired to teach high school English classes in Seymour, Iowa.
In August 2010, I moved from Fairfield to Centerville. I taught grades 9-12 in neighboring Seymour last school year. I realized it was not what I am good at ... so two months ago, I returned to Fairfield for its Iowa small-town atmosphere, its diversity of arts, performances and people ... and oh, yes — restaurants!
So, I’ve come full circle in finding where I belong. I hope to meet more community members, residents and visitors.
Be patient; for a reporter, I sometimes have a flighty memory for names. Tell me your name again.
And speaking of names, no I’m not related to Tracy Vance, director of the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce, though we both have worked in Keokuk during overlapping times.
Diane Vance is a Ledger staff writer.