The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

Guest Post: Rachael Hanel. We’ll Be The Last Ones To Let You Down.

Rachael Hanel, graveyard

Photo credit: Steve Pottenger

Thanks so much to Paige for allowing me to guest post on her fabulous blog!

If you’re like me, you are inspired by Paige’s adventurous travels. If you’re like me, you also are filled with a twinge of envy! I have a major travel bug, yet I wrote a book that is, at its very core, rooted in one place.

We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter, reflects on my years growing up in small-town Waseca, Minnesota, where my dad indeed was the local gravedigger. This background gave me a unique perspective on both life and death.

I wanted my book to evoke a deep sense of place. My own roots run deep in Waseca. My grandparents settled in Waseca County to farm the rich, fertile soil—my paternal grandparents in the northern part of the county, my maternal grandparents right in the middle. All sets of my great-grandparents lived in southern Minnesota, landing there after emigrating from countries such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, and Ireland.

To my knowledge, my maternal grandfather never flew on a plane, though he took a long car trip west to Washington state to visit relatives in the late 1960s. I don’t think my paternal grandfather was ever on a plane. My own parents were nearly 30 years old before they traveled by air.

I don’t get on a plane often—maybe twice per year. I love to get away and if I could afford it, I would travel much more often. But I would always come back.

I spent one year living in Minneapolis after high school, but otherwise I have always lived within 30 miles of where I grew up. While these circumstances were common in my parents’ or grandparents’ generations, they are becoming less common now. I know few of my peers who can say this.

I write about this tie to the land in my memoir:

“[My husband] and I sometimes talk of moving away. The beauty and cool and adventure of Lake Superior’s North Shore call us, we who have never lived anywhere else except the farm prairie. But even now, even in the preliminary stages of planning to move–stages so early we can’t even say for sure it’s going to happen–I know what I would long for if we were away. I would long for the soil. The soil in which my grandfathers worked, in which my father worked. I would miss the dirt more than anything. I feel the pull, like people afflicted with geophagy, the desire to eat earth. I don’t want to eat it, but I do want to ingest it, to have it live within me. I want dirt molecules to rise up and sink into my bones, like how it became the very being of Grandpa and Dad, so much so that they could not have done anything else and been happy. Tearing them away from the dirt would be to kill a part of them. They worked in the dirt until their last days.”

I read about Paige’s travels and think, “Yes! I want to do that!” I daydream, briefly, of what it would take to move to England or Turkey or Ireland. But in my heart, I know it’s not for me, that the place where I have always lived is what gives me my identity and ties me to the people who have come before me.

–Rachael Hanel.

Buy it locally or you can buy it here:

13 comments on “Guest Post: Rachael Hanel. We’ll Be The Last Ones To Let You Down.

  1. anglophiletoad
    April 10, 2013

    I am definitely going to try and find a copy. I too have very close connection to place and family, and my family was also one of farmers and “dirt-diggers.” Sounds like a very interesting read. Best of luck!

    • rachaelhanel
      April 11, 2013

      Thank you! If you get a copy of the book, let me know what you think!


  2. rachaelhanel
    April 10, 2013

    Reblogged this on We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down and commented:
    Thanks to the fabulous Paige for letting me explore the themes of rootedness and staying put.

  3. carolinebotwin
    April 10, 2013

    Your picture was most provocative…until I started reading.your marvelous story and connected
    “Last Ones to Let You Down”! Excellent. I am rooted in.Central California but travel because of
    that. If you are interested, see my blogs at
    I will find your book.

  4. Clanmother
    April 10, 2013

    I got goosebumps as I read this post. Brilliantly poignant. No matter how far we travel, we come home. We are tied to the earth, even though we long for the wings to carry us on the air currents that swirl above us…

  5. insearchofitall
    April 19, 2013

    Beautifully written. I am both envious of those that have roots and grateful for all the wanderings I’ve had. Roots give stability. My homes have always been built on sand. I look forward to reading more.

  6. Reblogged this on The Nice Thing About Strangers and commented:

    The last in my series of friends, instead of strangers, do check out Rachael Hanel’s lovely memoir!

  7. rachaelhanel
    May 15, 2015

    Thanks so much for the replay, Paige!

  8. Pingback: Interview with Rachael Hanel | The Nice Thing About Strangers

  9. Pingback: From rejection slips to a book: Part II of my interview with Paige Erickson | We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down

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