Plain Jane

Someone once told me angels sang in heaven. The tall man with the black book clasped to his chest greeted us every Sunday. He talked of judgment and error and sin. He talked of angels. I sang in the choir but no one told me I was an angel. They informed me that I was plain as Jane, whoever she was. I imagined someone windswept with a rugged and ruddy face; someone that lived in the grasses and rolling hills of the Dakotas, where pines give way to prairie. I imagined she had short hair and wore a worn felt hat, cowboy like and a long duster coat. Or maybe she had one long single braid down her back, not thick and blond but thin and mousy brown, dusty. Her brow was sweaty and caked with dirt. She rode most often on horses but sometimes in pickup trucks. This, I thought, was not so bad. I looked forward to being like this plain Jane.

There are other things I was told. To work hard, study often but not to ask too many questions: to be quiet; to do as I’m told; to not complain; to be nice. Just be nice please and smile. Is that so hard? Is that really so hard? I went looking for plain Jane. I thought naturally she would be somewhere west of here. First I rode my bike out from my suburb, off into the verdant hills and forested valleys, out to the small ponds and open lakes, past the last shopping mall and overpass, into the place of my wild heart. I looked along the edges of ponds where herons roosted, and black birds sang. I lay in the grasses and stared at the sky, watched clouds drift until I could go home again.

I got older and still they said I was like Jane, not beautiful or exceptionally bright. I was encouraged to get training of some sort. Expectations of marriage were low. Oh how I wished to be light and fragrant. I wished to be citrus. I desired deliciousness. I desired embellishment even as I searched for plain Jane. I rode my bike everywhere. I was unremarkable, ordinary, basic, plain and simple. I hardly talked. I took an interest test that recommended merchant marine or artist or the building trades as future employment. Then they realized I was female so x ray technician was recommended. I bought a train ticket and went west.

Under moonlight I crossed the Dakota plains. Still I spied angels everywhere, even here on the train. Blond and beautiful – with full red lips, the kind that spilled laughter all about themselves, golden peels of succulent mirth, the kind eager young men would founder upon and enslave themselves for. I watched. Jane, Jane, Jane I thought – where are you? As if she might gallop past me on her horse; whipping up a frenzy of grit and grime, thundering across the prairie like she owned the place, as if she could stop the train like some Wild West robber and steal everything, even all that sweetness the angels spilt on themselves. Maybe she’d spy me through that window and pull her hat off her head, whoop and holler, wave for me to come on out. Come on out she’d holler. Come on out. It ain’t so bad out here. Not bad at all. What are you waiting for?

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78 Comments Add yours

  1. The Rider says:

    I am the short man with the Black Book clasped every Sunday. I am sorry if a colleague told you wrong- you are not plain Jane, you are very special, as Psalm 139 tells us- wonderfully made. You were made to fly on eagle’s wings- Isaiah 41:31! You were made to be more than a conqueror- Romans 8:37. So fly on eagle’s wings…

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thanks so very much for your comments. I have had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful pastors – some that helped me in hard times growing up ………..

  2. I have started to discover that there is just so much beauty in the ordinary. I hope you have found much joy in your life and will continue to do so. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!
    Blessings,
    -Jen
    http://thelilyandthemarrow.wordpress.com/

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thanks!

  3. tinabrenee says:

    Your writing is absolutely charming and for what it’s worth, “Plain Jane” sounds like an awfully interesting person! I really enjoyed this.

    1. Life Along The River says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this – thanks so very much for reading !

  4. Beautiful writing. It sweeps you up and along like a particularly moving piece of music.

    Forget the Dakotas. Colorado rocks and Oregon rolls.

    1. PS: Love the wild ginger header. It’s a subtle, unassuming plant with a secret treasure that can only be enjoyed when you dig a little deeper. Wink, wink.

      1. Life Along The River says:

        Indeed! It is one of my favorite plants esp when you can find it blooming

    2. Life Along The River says:

      Thanks!

  5. jensine says:

    just a HUG from one plain jane to another

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thanks !!!

  6. patrickreid1 says:

    Far from plain! Really entertaining!

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thanks – I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  7. Don Ostertag says:

    You have a talent that is far from ‘plain’. It is a talent to put one’s thoughts into interesting writing. It is twiced blest when they are thoughts such as yours. Count me as a fan.

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thank you!

  8. wetheangels says:

    You have an exceptional talent! Forget about Jane! You are more special than the “angels” 🙂

    1. Life Along The River says:

      wow thank you!

  9. themodernidiot says:

    last time I checked the bible didn’t have pictures in it, so I’d say ‘plain’ was subjective 😉

  10. bdh63 says:

    Don’t we all suspect we are plain Jane? We are like snowflakes, each individual and special, but in a storm we all seem the same. We all fall and swirl up again on the wind.

  11. segmation says:

    So did Jane come on out? I bet she did and found out that all is well!

    1. Life Along The River says:

      she did and has been having a great time!

  12. This is incredible! I wish I could write like you.

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thank you!!

  13. I would like to thank for writing such a beautiful post.Really beautiful writing, good job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Life Along The River says:

      thank you!! I’m overwhelmed by all the wonderful, kind comments !

  14. pezcita says:

    Beautiful, dreamy, perfect! It’s like an addendum to the Icarus Deception that’s specifically designed for girls.

  15. Kathleen R says:

    Go West! Where the air is clean. Gorgeous. I always felt better when driving home from the east. Once I reached the Dakotas I relaxed. The open prairie, the mountains beckoning….this is true beauty…this is where we find our beauty.

  16. tauromaja says:

    There is a secret in life: everyone is searching for a destination. And every destination is different and got to differently. I think you are secretly a cowgirl. I think this is you.

    1. Life Along The River says:

      well thank you! I am now an Imani Coppola fan ! Yeah and probably a wannabe cowgirl

      1. tauromaja says:

        Not a problem! I have an eye for musical nuggets. Glad you liked it!

  17. vuejamie says:

    I admire the flow of language. Just lovely.

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thanks!

  18. In cyberspace, anyone who can write like this and affect others as you can, IS a great and most wondrous angel, blonde and beautiful, with full red lips.

    ~Manfred
    http://knightsfeather.wordpress.com/

  19. Whoredinary says:

    This is beautiful prose. You are an amazing writer. You will find her. She is there. ❤

  20. “plain Jane” is different than “Plain Jane.” Jane can be plain which is different than being a Plain Jane, a name that describes your essence. Either perception can be mistakenly similer. You draw on a sense of sorrowful searching for a similar companion, as if another Plain Jane will make you any prettier. What you are really saying is “I need is companionship to lift my self esteem.” Logically, if everyone is “hott” despite the Plain Jane, that makes PJ unique and origional:) Therein lies PJ’s own beauty and joy. BE SURE OF YOURSELF.
    I will say this, your writing is elequant and free like a healthy buck prancing in wild pastures.

  21. Beautiful writing. Being able to write like that about how people made you feel about yourself is–what else?–the absolute best revenge.

  22. Your writting is amazing and very vivid. I could picture everything. Keep uo the good work.

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thanks for the encouragement

  23. Jane says:

    This is beautifully written. And I agree with the poster above who says there real beauty in the ordinary.

    I remember taking a creative writing class in college. We had to write a collection of short stories for a final project, and workshop them in class. I wrote about a character (based on me but they didn’t know that) from childhood to adulthood. One of the members of the class had a comment that I will never forget. He said, she was so interesting as a kid, but she became so ordinary. I was hurt by the remark, but tried not to show it. You or your character handled it better than me…

    Another Plain Jane

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thanks!

  24. swilliams115 says:

    “A woman whose smile is open and whose expression is glad has a kind of beauty no matter what she wears.” – Anne Roiphe.
    With that in mind, the depth of your writing suggests that you are indeed an extremely beautiful person – beauty is only skin deep afterall but is equally in the eye of the beholder… don’t compare yourself to anyone else, but look in the mirror and consider all that you have to offer which goes beyond appearance. There is no-one else like you – you are completely unique – so celebrate that and be thankful x

  25. swilliams115 says:

    Reblogged this on pozitiveblog and commented:
    Beautiful and eloquent piece of writing. I think the writer is exceptionally beautiful – what do you think?

  26. lovely blog, all our journeys are similar… wonderful writing… Barbara x

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thanks!

    2. Life Along The River says:
  27. demgreeneyes says:

    This. This so much. It was like the best drink of cold water I’ve ever had.

    1. Life Along The River says:

      wow – thanks!

  28. What they said.

    Gorgeous writing.

    Never ever ever let others tell you who you are. You know better!

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thank you!

  29. Beauty is not just external as I feel under the “plastic” society has programmed us to believe is beautiful only goes so far as a beautiful soul is what defines true beauty. A beautiful tail told of feeling like “Plain Jane” when all the words and emotions conveyed a passion beyond any measure. From a Plain Jane . I was lost in the words and visions captivateing .

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thanks!

  30. A wonderful story of the search for an ideal of self. I recently published a short story collection on Amazon and would love to hear your thoughts on it, writer to writer. It’s free this weekend, if you are interested. If you do pick it up, let me know (my blog has my email) and maybe you could discuss it with me.

    Sincerely,
    Julien Haller

  31. franhunne4u says:

    I was disappointed because I really wanted to read MORE about the narrator and her (presumably) life long “friend” Jane. 😉 Loved what you said about the “plain” girl.
    (I am treating this “I” as a fictional character here.)
    Reminds me of the “My Antonia”-heroine – more modern – but the kind of American woman, who is a heroine in everyday life. Not a drama queen. A real woman who has got a grip on her real life. Angels are boring.

    1. Life Along The River says:

      “My Antonia” is one of my very favorite heroines- thank you

  32. Jon Shields says:

    A very personal and vivid tale describing a journey that many (most? all?) of us go through in one form or another. In this case, a beautifully illustrated and poetic account of what it felt like to be on that journey.

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thanks Mr. Shields – you’re too kind!

  33. moral870 says:

    Magnificent. Flows beautifully and I really got caught up in the imagery. Your protagonist sounds like a true heroine, an underdog who people underestimate, but don’t know the wonderful thoughts going on inside her head and the creativeness she possesses. Looking forward to reading more!

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thank you!

  34. Corrisa says:

    Blond and beautiful – with full red lips, the kind that spilled laughter all about themselves, golden peels of succulent mirth, the kind eager young men would founder upon and enslave themselves for. I watched. Jane, Jane, Jane I thought – where are you? As if she might gallop past me on her horse; whipping up a frenzy of grit and grime, thundering across the prairie like she owned the place, as if she could stop the train like some Wild West robber and steal everything, even all that sweetness the angels spilt on themselves.

    These are not the words of a plain Jane. Far from it. Your writing is stellar. 🙂

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thank you very very much for the kind words.

  35. limseemin says:

    I am as plain as you but i think this is me!
    limseemin.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/its-me/

  36. rare2ph says:

    I was told the same thing. And that I should wear makeup and jewelry and try to make myself look pretty. I say Screw You! I’m Happy the way I am. It works for me, even if it doesn’t for them.

    1. Life Along The River says:

      Thanks!

  37. Along A Path says:

    When does the “Plain Jane” novel come out? I can’t wait to read about her adventures in the next chapter.

  38. Merkx94 says:

    I loved this. It was so beautifully written.

  39. slynn21 says:

    Beautiful piece!

  40. cjslattery says:

    You are a beautiful writer!

  41. Whimsy Leigh says:

    great piece, really well written, love the strong voice you have.

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