-Sir Frederick Browning (1869-1965)
Driving through the American heartland.
Farmhouses dot the landscaped like Gingerbread houses, generously bedecked with lighted confections and white fluff piped in mounds and dusted along rooflines and the boughs of feathery green trees and bare Cottonwoods standing stalwart in frozen fields forgotten to the frigid temperatures.
I grew up in a landscape not so different from this one. So, on the long way home the familiarity of the bare trees with their arms stretched high, the way the sun sets in fields of barley and winter wheat, the long stretches of highway through a great expanse of land and dirt and groves of cedars that conceal small houses and barns and families who are still the pioneers on these lonely hills all seem to serenade me on my strange parade.
Just driving through, it becomes clear why this is called the “Heartland.” When you are out here in the wind and the quiet, you become very aware of your pulse and your thoughts. Patty Griffin is quite persuasive in the glittering, winter Sunflower fields. I wonder if it is only in these barren landscapes, without the distractions of suburban life that one would ever be able to find oneself. And even as the words pass my lips, I know how silly it is to say such a thing, as if living in the middle of no where is simple and all one would have to do all day is sit around and “find oneself,” but the idea of being left to stand in a seasonal field of dirt and snow and emerging philosophy is appealing; the mall and the grocery store and the neighbors being so far away it requires forethought and strategy to leave the confines of the bubble.
Sometimes, I think it would be the ideal existence: baking bread, and tilling the garden, and examining my principles. There are more churches per square mile than houses, and perhaps that is because one can hear God more clearly without all of the blinking lights and voices in the street competing for attention.
Other times, I think it all sounds very Amish and like a lot of work and that I would go absolutely batty if I were left to my thoughts with no distractions, no interruptions. And wasn’t it me just complaining about the pungent janitorial aroma of my life and justifying out loud all of the reasons why I require Maids who are Merry to relieve the chronic domesticity?
I am home now. Home in the sense that I am where my Mom and Dad and brother and sister and all of my childhood memories live.
I am, as my sister once said, Knee Deep In Lilies…Not a bad way to spend an afternoon. I’ll have to explain that some day, but today, there are nieces to kiss and nephews to wrestle and imaginary games to be played…and a very special 10 year old--my 10 year old--who is turning Eleven.
Happy New Year.