When I take the train, I generally sit in the lounge car. The best thing about train travel for an ADD person like myself is the ability to move around. I am up and out of my seat as soon as the conductor takes my ticket.
When the girls and I traveled to Chicago recently, we commandeered a cafe table. Emily had packed a box of crayons and a word search book for Lola to play with on the train. It may have been intended for Lola, but the three of us each sat there with a crayon in our hand.
We were on a short leg of a cross-country train. Many of the travelers near us had boarded on the east coast. They exclaimed over and over about the endless rolling fields of corn. One man sad, “How much corn do people in Illinois eat?” I saw Emily’s face darken and her eyes narrow. He had struck a chord with my daughter. This man was obviously, sadly uninformed about what he was looking at across our beloved fields of corn. Did he really think that folks in Illinois sat down to heaping plates of corn each night?
Emily said, “I’d like to go over there and give him a lesson on how that corn feeds the world and tell him about all of the things that Illinois corn is used to make.” Oh, how I love my daughter! I smiled at her and started to laughed. She smiled, too, and shook her head over her sudden passionate defense of Illinois cornfields. We sat and talked about how much a “country kid” learns about the agriculture industry as a part of their regular curriculum. Our children visit farms and work on farms as part of the classroom experience. Elementary students have Ag Day once each week where representatives of the County Farm Bureau bring agriculture education into the classrooms. From cradle to grave, our love, care, and respect for this land is etched into our hearts.
As the train rolled along, I assessed the crops. I’m concerned about their condition, and I wished that I had one of my old man farmers around to ask for their opinion. The condition of this year’s crops would have been the main topic of conversation for Great-grandpa, Grandpa, or Dad. Now, it is just T and I who are discussing the crops without their input. In my county, crops are suffering, but stories of massive crop losses are creeping nearer and nearer. It scares me to hear of entire crops being mowed down due to a zero chance of harvest. They are being destroyed so as not to further deplete the soil and will be salvaged as livestock feed. I haven’t seen that happen in my area yet. I can’t even imagine such a thing ever happening, and I would cry to see it.
When I arrived home last night, one of the first things T asked me was how the crops looked. Were they worse here or nearer to Chicago. I reported that they seemed to be faring a little better the further we got from home, and we both frowned. “I’ve never seen it this bad,” he said, and I agreed. This is scary. The economic implications will be far-reaching.
After the bustle of dinner with all six of us around the table once again, T and I headed out for a quiet evening walk. As we rounded the corner near the front of the house, T bent over and picked something up. “My God, they’re all over!” He held out his hand to show me, and I couldn’t tell what he was holding. It looked like a tiny, black pebble. I looked more closely, and I realized that it was misshapen underdeveloped acorn. It looked oddly embryonic. My heart fell. They were all over. The oak tree was in defense mode. It can no longer support the growth of the acorns, and it is shedding its useless fruit. It felt so sad, almost as if our tree had miscarried. The eventual impact of this continued drought is impossible measure and envision at this point. The squirrels, and deer, and other small animals will go into the winter season without the bountiful harvest to fatten them up for leaner times.
T and I met for lunch today. Once again, we spent the time as a planning session for our future move. The process of relocating is daunting to say the least. There are two houses to be sold, years and years of STUFF to sort through. I’ve had several cases of cold feet. I’ve also had times when I am frustrated that we can’t simply pack up and leave.
Today as T talked and planned, I was quiet, and he asked what I was thinking about. I told him about my train ride yesterday and the joy I felt as I looked out across this beautiful land. I try to imagine myself in a different place, but it often seems unimaginable. I explained to him the peace I experienced last night as I sat alone on the patio looking out across the horizon, looking up at the full moon, and listening to the coyotes yipping somewhere beyond the back field. Who will that other woman be, the one who doesn’t live near a cornfield? T smiled and said, “You and your damn cornfields.”
Can I do it? Can I leave this place that is so much a part of who I am, contains my past, and is in the very heart of how I think and feel and view the world around me?
I hope I can, because there are moments when I am ready to plunge into the unknown. I don’t want to grow old alongside the fence row of a cornfield. I want to learn more, experience more, and continue to grow. The cornfields are my safety net. They embrace me and comfort me, but they will continue on and on…even after I am gone.