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Where Are You From?

I’m in the midst of a powerful writing project. A question ripples in me, and I pose it to you.

Where are you from?
Who are the people, places and experiences  that shape and form the amazing critter of you?

My son, Justin, answered this question in a high school writing class. The morning after he died, oh so unexpectedly, the school principal called me, asking if she could come to my house. She brought me his words–a poignant, life-giving gift. I am grateful. And, in this month of November, I am thankful.
Where are you from?
Who will appreciate your response?

Where I Am From

by Justin Bernecker, 11/1/05

I am from the sweaty track jerseys
and smelly track shoes.
Tired muscles and over worked bodies,
Hard breathing that only comes from
hard work.

I am from the sweet smelling mountain
peaks of Colorado,
the dusty windswept deserts in Arizona
to the salty shores of Alaska.

I am from the neatly cut grass in
my backyard to the hammock
hanging between two trees.
The lonely rake that stands alone
against the wall, forgotten by
those who used it last.

I am from the cold lakes that gradually
warm in the summer,
to the boats that gently rock in the
gentle breeze blowing from the south.
To the fish that play in the shadows
of the trees, and the crawfish
that make their homes under the rocks.

I am from the fruit trees spilling over
with ripe fruit calling out to
be picked by young hands
to the boys sitting, laughing on the fence
posts, watching the cotton candy clouds
float by in that endless blue sky.

I am from the wheat fields that
gently sway in the summer wind
the sweat that comes in from cutting
wood all day under a blazing sun.

I am from the “Go on, do something outside”
type of family that raised me so well.

I am from the deer spaghetti, overflowing
With rich red sauce, to the traditional wild
turkey that we eat on thanksgiving.
The wild salmon that we catch off of the
river and smoke up at the lodge for the
guests to enjoy for their dinner.

This is who I am.

Justin, Kachemak Bay, Alaska

Justin Bernecker. Kachemak Bay, Alaska, 2005.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a beautiful gift Justin left behind with these words. He certainly came by his writing skills honestly. Thank you so much for posting Pegge – it is inspirational!

    November 6, 2009
    • Thank you Bonnie! Yes, he did! When he was about eight, the 10 minute timer went off indicating he’d finished his reading time for school. He called to me (I was cooking dinner) asking, “Mom, is it okay if I read a little longer?” He’d never really discovered the power of story before living with us. And then, at our cabin, when I’d often write a short story and share it with him, he’d be my biggest fan, and we’d create from there. I loved encouraging his writing voice.

      November 7, 2009
  2. s.gourrier #

    deeply moved

    November 7, 2009
  3. machi #

    Brings me to tears!

    did Hobo see this before he wrote “I Am Alaska”?

    November 11, 2009
  4. I identify with your sentiments. I have a 14 year old son who has always been wonderfully verbal. He is a creative joy to behold!

    I am from all of the places I have visited and imagined visiting, all of the scenes I have captured on film and with pencil on drawing paper.

    I am a spiritual seeker in search of pilgrimage sites. Check out my journey at Have a wonderful day!

    November 23, 2009
    • Thank you for sharing your blog, I appreciate your writing. And, blessings in celebrating your 14 year old son, his creativity, and your own!

      December 22, 2009
  5. Kate #

    Hi Mrs. Bernecker, this is Kate McLoughlin….I am not sure if you remember me but I was at fire district 10 as an explorer. I was thinking about Justin and decided to google his name and clicked on this…I thought it was great to read his poem. I have it on my door because it always reminds me to be myself and not someone else. I hope all is well with you and Mr. Bernecker! Thanks and I hope your year is full of smiles.

    August 29, 2010
    • Kate,
      Of course I remember you–I couldn’t forget your bright smile and curious, adventurous self! I especially remember being at John & Jenna’s and all you “kids” playing. You have crossed my mind many times, and I think of you, and remember your Dad.
      I’m so glad you connected here–I’d love to keep in touch with you. Thank you too, for sharing about Justin, and his poem. Indeed–always be yourself, and hold onto yourself. I know Justin delighted in your friendship and that he looked forward to hanging out with you when we’d go to the cabin & LCFD#10. I hope you are smiling a lot these days. Are you still in Wyoming? Peace to you… Pegge

      August 30, 2010
  6. Mary Rees #

    What I hear most is that Justin really lived the life he had! Thanks for sharing. I appreciated getting to meet Justin, to hear his great voice.

    May 26, 2011
  7. Thank you Mary–he did live! Always encouraged people to play. His sense of humor still inspires me. And what a voice he was developing. I cherish his writings.

    May 26, 2011

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