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Normally, the shrill BEEP BEEP BEEEEEP of the boyfriend's blaring-ly loud alarm clock disrupts my sleep, my wishful dreaming. I sleep most deeply in the early hours of waking, when the gray glove of morning slips its fingers through the slits of the blinds and makes light the blank, white walls. Drunk with drowsiness, I will watch his shadowy form quietly glide across the carpet and into the hall. I will listen for the gurgle and groan of pipes as water flows through and expands them, bursting through the shower head with hot vigor.

I sleep.

This morning, however, the alarm did not protest my slumber. Hans awoke before it shuddered and screamed and got ready in the quiet darkness of the apartment. I barely remember our parting.


Like always, I remain in bed, half-asleep and casually dreaming of nonsense. He will come in, creep to the bedside and kiss my forehead, my cheek. "I love you," he'll whisper quietly. He will attempt to hug my limp form, and my arm--tingly and useless--may reach up and accidentally slap into his ear. I mumble a response, something that sounds like, "Uh wuf yut oo." He'll stroke my head, petting me, smoothing my hair behind my ears and away from my face. My eyelids flicker, then close, and our last embrace leaves me with textural memories--the smoothness or stretch of his shirt, the damp warmth on my forehead from a lingering kiss.

I remember nothing from this morning, other than the mysterious feeling that I was at home, in Iowa, in my own queen-sized bed. I was lying at an angle, crossways across the sheets, feeling comfortable and drowsy and reminiscent. Home.


The wind scratched at the roof, fluttering shingles and shredding leaves from trees. That’s the backyard, I told myself. That’s the trees scratching and begging for nature to stop its breezy torment. I opened my eyes briefly, expecting to see a closet door and a black entertainment center. Reality momentarily stopped my breath; a white door and an oak dresser stood at the foot of the bed.

Not home.


I’ve had unforeseeable difficulty in adjusting to a full-time lifestyle in Indiana. I wouldn’t jump so far as to call it, “hardship,” because I am holding steady; I cook, I eat, I read, I go grocery shopping, I search for publishing jobs, I blog. My schedule is nearly identical to the one I had before I drove the eleven hours here. However, it’s harder this time.

Much harder.


For twenty-three years, I lived with my mom in a one-story dilapidated bungalow. My brother moved out six years ago and now lives an hour and a half away with his new wife. Each time he visited the house he pitied me and mom, who tried to joke about the absurdity of the collapsing ceilings, asbestos roof tiles and electrifying basement light switch we had named “Sparky.”

“You guys shouldn’t be here,” he would say. “It’s not healthy.”

Quite true, but we didn’t have other options. We were poor, like we’ve always been, and found ways to make do with closets sans the ceilings, with 200,000-mile cars and, for awhile, without running water. Despite the condition of our house and our finances, I still loved being there; it was home. It was the house I had lived in since I was six years old, a first grader obsessed with The Lion King, as well as the number of outlets each room had. Indeed, just before my family moved in, Michelle and I crept through each room, counting.

“Should we count that?” she asked, pointing at what I would later learn was the phone jack.

“I don’t think so,” I responded. “It doesn’t look like the other ones.”

We knelt on the carpet of what was to my bedroom. Our pants scraped along the shag carpet, which grew in various lengths depending on how blue, green, brown or black it was.

“Can you believe we’ll be living next door?” I asked her excitedly. I looked down at the carpet, twirling it with my fingers. I was slightly embarrassed to show her how happy I truly was.


Seventeen years later, I’m still happy to call that brown-except-for-the-two-corners-of-the-east-wall-that-we-couldn’t-reach-while-painting house home. It is where I went after each semester, where I wanted to stay when I needed a break, where I slept and woke, hosted a Halloween party, roasted hot dogs and s’mores on one surprisingly warm Thanksgiving Day and spent thousands of mornings getting ready or sleeping in or watching the sunrise from the kitchen window. There are memories; seventeen years’ worth of them—good and bad, melancholy and sappily emotional.

Despite having spent the last two years of my college career at a large state university, I never met another Iowan at Purdue. I knew dozens of people from Chicago, hordes from Indiana, of course, and a handful from California (to whom I had the pretentious honor of explaining detasseling). I met individuals from Texas, Michigan, Delaware and New Jersey. I had a roommate from Kentucky, an R.A. from Connecticut. I worked, had classes, interacted and met with people from Italy, France, India, England, Australia and Malaysia.


Not once did I ever find another person from Iowa. Not once did I see another license plate with white, rolling clouds and a blue sky, a county name scribbled across the bottom in navy.

Some may have felt isolated; I embraced it. “Oh HA.ha,” I would dryly coo when hearing another joke about the abundance of corn and cows, but the lack of electricity and Internet. “Is it like heaven?” someone would ask, referencing Field of Dreams. I would deliberately and directly skip what they sought, telling them that “I’ve actually been to Dyersville. It’s pretty cool.” The questioner would then ask me about the set, the size, the people. “What’s it like?”

What is it like?



I would tell them about the fields, the endless fields that, unlike Indiana and Illinois, roll with hills and definition and terraces. I would tell them about how endless the sky seems when you are atop a bluff, watching the Missouri sweep beneath you at a fast, murky pace. I would tell them that the sun, a golden glow, deepens the yellows and reds and oranges of the crops, basking them with a light that changes by the minute, by the hour, by the season. In winter, a dusty white blankets millions of acres of land, untouched and virginal. Ice coats the fences, teasing us with small icicles and frozen wonders. In the spring, the roads are paved with dirt from the fields, from the farmers desperate to get an early start. In the spring, there are promises of a successful season and a high cost per bushel as each green sprout pushes it way through the dark, rich earth and into life. And, in the summer, hills are lush and vivid, emerald with corn that towers above the heads of those who walk the rows.


I would tell them that there is always something to discover—that there is always an unexplored barn, a forgotten schoolhouse, an abandoned quarry, a haunted house. I would tell them that, in the evening, just before the sun levels with the horizon, that the orange glow makes everything, even the smallest or most appalling things, seem beautiful and warm and intriguing.


I would tell them that the grass is soft beneath my feet, that it tickles my toes and massages my soles. I would tell them that, in the early hours of morning, dew paints each individual blade, causing backyards and front yards and fields to sparkle and shine. I would tell them about the humid summers, the frigid winters, how the temperature can span from ten below zero to one hundred and ten within the same reason.


I would tell them that I love it; that perhaps, in the balance between dreamy skies and evening radiance, that there may be a sort of heaven here.


Iowa is the only place where I’ve found highly-sought, highly-photographed solitary trees. Iowa is the only place where I can hop a fence and stroll through the fields, enjoying a solitary, reflectively loving moment that I am sure my Californian friends feel on their own ground 1,600 miles away. I respect that they—along with the dozens of others who have questioned “Why Iowa?”—do not understand that I see more than crops, animals, boots, barns and farms.

I see home.


I see childhoods and memories, former railroads and homes over a century and a half old. I walk the Pioneer Trail, frequent the Lewis & Clark Monument, drive over Union Pacific tracks and wrap myself in history and restoration and development. I breathe dusty, husky air that stifles the lungs in summer, but refreshes the nose with a cold crispness in winter. I see sunshine and sunsets, deer in my backyard, foxtails along the fence line. I see an endless potential for growth and rebirth, a season of rotations and tillings and harvests that seem to accelerate and age as quickly as I do.

It’s the only place where I have witnessed that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

What is it like?

............................................ Look.


8 comments:

  1. thanks for visiting my blog! i love your pictures and space here!!

    allister bee blog

    ReplyDelete
  2. Awe, I can totally relate to the feeling of not being "home". I moved from Argentina to California about 8 months ago and I have adapted ok, but there are still things I miss. As for the concept of "home", I realized that my mom was my home, not my house, ha. I'm trying to build a new home, though; so far so good.

    All the best vibes! And thanks for your comment! I'm obsessed with cutting pictures of clothes I see in magazines; I have tons of them, haha.

    Miki.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I just found your blog!
    I love your pictures! They are great!

    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you so much for the comment you left on my blog. It means so much to me.

    You are an amazing photographer. These shots are amazing and I am thoroughly jealous. I'm definitely going to follow you. Your pictures are so inspiring.

    Bridget

    ReplyDelete
  5. all of these images are so beautiful girl. and i'm totally the same. hubs wakes up WAY to early for me, and the sound of his alarm is the worst ever. and to make it worse, he always pushes snooze so i have to hear it a few more times. i guess it's worth it to get a few more snuggles in before he leaves me!
    xo TJ

    ReplyDelete
  6. You explained corn detasseling to someone? Did it go like this?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aC_si_6xVzU&t=9m12s
    (continued in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZ4r3Up5IA0&feature=related )

    ReplyDelete
  7. your comment led me to your blog and i'm in love! your photographs are beautiful and your words are eloquent. i'll be back to visit often!

    ReplyDelete
  8. gorgeous photos!

    x

    www.devious-studios.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete

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