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Emerald Blog: Brick Ranch Redux

The Emerald Blog :: Writing Inspired by Ireland

Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland. Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.


From Suzanne Strempek Shea

Kim MacQueen MFA ’18 drafted “Brick Ranch Redux” during the 2017 Summer Writing Seminar on this prompt:

Your Backyard:
Is your backyard a refuge or unwanted work? Do you not have one and wish you did? If you don’t have one, imagine it. If you have one that’s lacking, remake it in your mind. Who’s on either side, and past it? Give a description or create a scene there. What awaits you there when you return home?


Brick Ranch Redux

by Kim MacQueen

When we first moved to Vermont from Florida in 2012, we left a house we’d bought at the height of the boom, one mortgaged to the hilt. The day after we closed on the house in 2007, something crazy happened with the markets in Europe and everything started to slide downhill in the financial world. Our house lost $60,000 worth of value in about a week.

It was a brick ranch on an acre of land surrounded by pine trees 50 feet tall. We were right downtown, only a mile from the state capitol. But I could go to a corner of my backyard, sneak around behind some cabbage palms, and be totally alone if I wanted to. Florida has palmetto bugs the size of small cats and it always seemed to be 100 degrees out, so I only did it once or twice, but I knew it was an always option. We owned the place. That land was ours.  

When we moved to Vermont, we rented our Florida house to another family. Buying one in Vermont was out of the question. We had no down payment. I had no job. We were in the rental market again in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country.

I didn’t work full-time anymore. We didn’t own land anymore. I hadn’t realized that was so important to me until then. My anxiety and depression shot up to Level 10 and stayed there for the next three years.

Finally, I got a job and found a house to buy. Another brick ranch. It was laid out a lot like the one in Florida. The first time I saw it, I stood at the front door looking through the living room and sunroom, out the sliding glass doors to the backyard, to the flower gardens and the lawn. In my mind’s eye, saw myself there, sitting cross-legged in the grass.

I told my Michaela, my real estate agent we’d take it.

“Don’t you want to see the rest of the inside?” she said.

I didn’t need to.

Now whenever I get anxious and depressed, I think about myself sitting cross-legged in the garden. Sometimes I even go out and sit there to remind myself that I’m home.


About the Writer

Kim MacQueen is a writer, editor, and publisher based in Burlington, Vermont. She is the author of the novels Out, Out: A Novel of Women and Apes and People Who Hate America. She earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Bay Path University in 2018.


Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact sshea@baypath.edu for full information.

We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. We also accept submissions of longer nonfiction works (up to 5,000 words), poetry or photography for the Fall 2020 issue of Multiplicity Magazine: At Work. Magazine submissions close on September 25, 2020. More details here.