Sunday, September 1, 2019

Drive the Marvelous Midwest

I often hear told, (and to be quite honest, I may, perhaps, have even said, maybe just once, while standing on the brink of a cliff above the roaring waves below or from a place surrounded by the Rockies majestically rising on all sides, or with my bum on a beach watching the sunset play out over the horizon), that while the Midwest is green and beautiful when not brown or white in the off-season, it is, essentially, boring on the scenery side.

As I go about my daily life, into the house, around the house, into a school, store, down the same streets, around the same town, there is a monotony and lack of excitement that prevails. Even as I am careful about admiring the seasons' changes and the minutiae of blossom, fruit and new life, the rut can be real.

However, out on the road, just a few miles out of the city, the sky here opens up wide and lets down the mysteries of the heavens. The green of the countryside takes on a kaleidoscope of color, texture and life that are mind-blowing and of the most glorious sights to behold. Fields? Some, but between the fields, around the fields, along the sides of the road and butting up to home, barn and forest, are waves of wild-flowers; the bright purple of cone-flowers; a true purple, not the raspberry-colored city cone-flowers, the spray of cream-white of queen Anne's lace as it riots out of all boundaries and mowing procedures here in the country, the sway of the drying brown reeds and weeds against the pale green of long, long grass. Trees are not green, my artist son will tell you, trees are yellow and blue and black, with hints of the green hidden among shadows and between trunks, trees tell our eye "green" and then follow with an entire chromatic scheme that would take a palette of a thousand shades to complete in a super-complicated paint-by-number.

The sky changes every second. It is only out in the countryside that one can appreciate the spectacular show of light, cloud, and moving parts. A canvas of magnificent colors awaits at any time of day; brilliant blues, sheerest whites, greys and purples. In the early morning or late afternoon, the added thrill of a sunrise or sunset brings the world up to full-on technicolor. Even facing away from the setting or rising sun, the whole world is lit up with a different glow from behind, and depending on the weather, it can range from golden to a mysterious green hue that causes one's heart to still, wondering what is to come next. 

I miss this in the city. When I am out in the summer, I like it shady; trees are my friends. I remain under them or under other shelter as long as the heat lasts. Even in the autumn, when I seek time out-doors, it is to better see the changing leaves and breath in the fall air...which smells like leaves. But in the country, along the byways and even on the huge highways, it all changes. 

One more thing; I hate to drive. Or rather, I had a really hard time, just a few years ago, not to fall asleep at the wheel. So driving was a dreaded necessity that I indulged in as little as possible. I could make myself get from A to B, with plenty of audiobooks, snacks. stops, cold water and loud music. Oh, and singing in the car when sleep threatened to take over; off-key, but loud enough to keep us awake. I would moan and ask once more: why did we not have the simple solution of trains, as other civilized countries provided their citizens? I was wasting time, in a train, I could have been working, reading, knitting.

It is in driving across Iowa and Illinois alone, with no other preoccupation, that I have finally had a chance and a reason to look up; to find and marvel at the beauty of what is here. They say there is a feeling you can only get out west, the "big sky" feel of great, open spaces. I feel this driving through my corner of the world too. It was a sensation I missed in Europe, where roads and trees seemed to be all-pervasive and it never felt as big or as uncrowded as home. The vastness is majesty.

I have a 3-hour drive back home today. I can't wait.

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