Saturday, December 08, 2007

Archetypal Indiana

I never lived with a red barn or a basketball hoop, but when I think of one single thing that would characterize Indiana, this photo called out to me. My Indiana is about being grounded--quite literally since much of the state still is covered in cornfields and soybean fields and tractor supply stores. As in Caithness, my other home, these vestiges of rural life and the groundedness I associate with them are disappearing. My sister searched long and hard to find enough land for herself, her family, and her horses and cats and dogs still close enough to transport and shopping. These 8 acres and the house and barn are available because no one could afford the entire parcel. The rest of what was once a single family farm has been sold or rented to a farmer caught in the "get larger or go under" dilemma.

I had to go to Caithness to learn to fully appreciate the beauty of a cornfield. Watching a vintage ploughing match where the rich dark loamy earth is turned with a precision that is both science and art helped me appreciate the carefully crafted rows of corn. Likewise, I had to go to Thailand to see a rice paddy to appreciate the homesickness for that luscious green in a poem I read many years ago by a displaced Vietnamese. Groundedness is not unique to Indiana or to a rural life style, but hard work, continual problem solving, and knowing that success or failure may elude you despite your best efforts and keeping on anyway are traits well rooted in the lifestyle of red barns with basketball hoops and foul lines defined by a cornfield.

My sense of Indiana and of that particular groundedness most likely comes from Sunday drives in the country when driving was recreational and moved at a speed that allowed time enough to read Burma Shave limericks on roadside signs stationed one line per sign. Perhaps the Caithness roads reminded me of those Sunday country drives of my childhood. I miss the Burma Shave signs and the escaped daylillies in their unhybridized orange that ran riot on the roadside, but the gift of those backseat rambles gave me a love of exploring and a faith in the beauty of things that has survived to see the return of the idea of wildflowers along highways.

On this trip back, my sister, brother and I have been looking over old photo albums and tape recording reminisces. Among the discoveries are not just details such as the name of the person in a certain photo or which house is in the background or even the differences among the three of us in our perceptions but an awareness of the unexpected outcomes of gifts that may not seem important at the time. The photo album is a hodge podge of photos and cards and clips from newspapers that make very little sense, but it is a gift nonetheless because it allows us to discover and celebrate a common resourcefulness, a resilience of spirit that defied the odds and brought us safely to a table together at Thanksgiving in a house in the country with a red barn and a basketball hoop.

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At 2:28 PM, Blogger scorrie said...

scorrie has read you // great as usual // looking at snow right now // scorrie //

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Hayden said...

good photo choice.

the green of rice fields is heart-wrenchingly beautiful, isn't it?

Out here it would be the "golden hills" (translate, brown dead-grass from no water!)

At 4:04 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Thanks, Hayden. The first time I walked along the barn, I knew I wanted to catch this aspect. It took several days of waiting for the light to be right and the time to be right and then hoping my fingers would see me right., so I am glad you like it.
Yes, the green of rice fields is amazing--greener than new spring grass and yet lighter.
As I have learned to love the moors, I have come to appreciate the gold in golden hills, but I know what you mean about dead grasses and rushes and such--a bit harder to find the poetry in them.

At 7:40 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

I'm hungry for "lush" these days. Lush, green, fecund.

what happened with the horses? Is everything ok?

At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great reading


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