As you drive through northwest Iowa, the land flattens. Unplowed and unplanted, the fields are like the earth’s floor; the sky is a window shade–doubling as a painter’s canvas–pulled to the horizon. On this land, Iowans know that, as evening moves to dusk, you can walk off the porch, steep some tea or brew a cup of coffee, and still have time to ponder the various chapters of the sunset. No hurry. If the sky clouds up or the phone rings, the colors will be back for a rereading, the brushstrokes slightly revised, in the next day or two.
In early April, I returned to my home state just as it was sloughing off its last big snowfall. (By the end of the trip, the drifts were gone from county ditches; and, down the hill from my parent’s home, East Okoboji Lake had transformed from a rough table of pocked ice to waves and whitecaps.) The landscape reminded me of how important it is to my writing. In fact, I think we drove by a raised mound of earth, the last remnant of a farm place that I wrote of in my book: “Driving to and from [my wife’s] farm, I passed [an old home]: a first generation homestead that had taken on the color of tree trunks and, at sunrise and sunset, collected the unbroken light shooting over corn tassels.”
At Pomeroy and Pocahontas libraries, I spent a morning and afternoon reading from An Archaeology of Yearning. The Pomeroy Library was across the street from the community building, the site of my wedding reception. In the audience, I met (and re-met) folks who still recalled my wife’s, Mary’s, math homework and other childhood accomplishments. And, sitting in rows like genealogical lines from our own Genesis, Harold and Pat, Vickie, Debbie, Aunt Rose, Herb and Elaine, Steve, Mary…People, who, I suppose, we’re more beholden to than begat from.
Looking over the pictures, I think of all that gets unsaid and remember the way the field opens up again and again to the routines of both work and witnessing. There is a strength in the daily stroll that we call quiet patience. Sometimes, though, we have to put words to things. It felt good to carry a book back to this place, to let it get tilled into the rows of listeners.