Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On a Chilled Iowa Night

The midnight sky was normally inky-black, but the iridescent glow of a perfectly circular white orb cast a brilliant glow across the landscape. The fog that was rolling in across my grandfathers eastern fields lit up as if comprised of neon gas let loose from a thousand beer signs from a hundred taverns and allowed to float free of the cigarette smoke and cheap liquor that swirled about the wooden floors and pool table legs and starched blue jeans and well-worn leather boots.

A cold, wintery breeze had been tormenting the spring buds of the oak trees across the lane all afternoon, and the chill of the April air turned the dew to frost that crunched under foot and glittered like shards of glass in the lunar glow. The stillness of the atmosphere was heavy, the absence of any metropolitan din or vibration notable as all the senses sought to absorb the night.

A yipping chorus of coyotes offered eery counterpoint to the somber silence of the evening. The council of vagrants burst forth in sporadic cacophony, welling up then falling silent again in the not-too-far-off distance.

I stood for a moment and soaked in the brilliance of the panorama that the full moon offered. On any other night the natural spectacle would be entirely heavenward, the cosmos resplendent with not only the predominant stars and systems that can be viewed from any vantage, but the entirety of the sky ablaze in pinhole wonder. The Milky Way strewn across the heavens in an inconsumably massive swath of sparkling light. Even the lesser constellations shine boldly for identification in the crisp Iowa sky, but when the moon steps from behind it's terrestrial veil and adorns the land with its full milky-white presence, all other celestial bodies are forgotten and the craned necks fall back to earth, allowing humble human minds to marvel at the wonders of our own surroundings in an excitingly fresh view.

This rural corner of Iowa, nestled quietly between two rivers in the south and east, is completely mundane and unspectacular in it's geography, topography, and its history. But to one mundane and unspectacular soul that grew up rambling along the gravel roads and loathing the mundane and unspectacular existence that came with hailing from this river valley, "Southeast Iowa" is synonymous with "Mecca". Every four to six weeks, a penitential pilgrimage to this hallowed ground is necessary to cleanse the soul of metropolitan tension and the complexities of corporate bureaucracy. The ritual is complete when a healthy dose of gravel grit is reintroduced into the airways, filling lungs with dust that always smells like summer. The journey is success when machinery grease, pork roast, and Brylcreem are each reintroduced, each an old friend and fast memory.

I am certain that the significance of this journey is lost on most. A milquetoast region of a fly-over state that is barely worth mentioning. That is exactly why the region is such a valuable commodity for many who once took up residence in those small towns and vast fields. The cherished status is derived from the simplicity. That simplicity is exactly what is necessary for my peace of mind.


1 comment:

  1. I know this feeling well. Just about every time I take the train to Galesburg, or drive home via 55, my shoulders slowly relax as the Chicago skyline and suburban landscape disappear behind me. I love it. I'm glad you had a great visit home, Chris.