Friday, July 30, 2004

JUNE 14, 2004 - CONTINUED  
There stands an old windmill. It is no longer pumping water. Nothing left for it to do but cry.

Here and there the occasional stand of cottonwoods shakes its leaves and wonders what went wrong. All the farmsteads, gone. All the farm families with them. Big fields. Bigger farms. The world turns. We turn with it or we resist and are broken. That's it, isn't it? Something is marching here and we keep up; we keep up or we're lost.

The wheatfields shake their heads No, No, No.

Ah - there is a field that looks as if it had to be in corn last year. Nothing has come up there yet. Here is another field worked to a fine, smooth consistency all the way to the road, but nothing has sprouted here either. These farmers must plant some fields, leave some fields fallow. Over here I see more bare fields, over there more fields with cornstalks showing.

Farmsteads gone in the country. In Athol and in Kensington, I see some houses that have been empty so long their curtains have given up holding on, have come undone thread by thread. Such houses reach a point where collapse is inevitable: no one could save them, even if someone wanted to. I saw the same thing in my hometown, Curlew, Iowa. There is a post office in Athol, and one in Kensington. Kensington has a school. There are grain elevators in both communities. There's a UPS delivery truck stopped on Main Street, Kensington, not far from the "Computer Doctor" store. These people are tough people. They don't give up. They won't give up. They hold on with their toenails.

To be continued....


JULY 30, 1998

Clothes and place - you don't usually think about it, but clothes and place, too, are related. We are the "parka belt" here across the upper midwest. If you fly to Florida out of Milwaukee and it is cold here, do you leave your coat out in the car in the parking lot for your return and hope you don't freeze by the time you reach it? Why would people from Florida come to Wisconsin in winter, but if they did, how would they ever prepare themselves for twenty below zero. They don't sell clothes in Florida that could prepare you for twenty below. Think about cowboy boots - you may see them here, but they're not "mandatory." The Sherpas along the Himalayas - think how they dress, and why, and the Islanders of the South Pacific, the indigenous peoples of the Amazon.

Partly, it's a matter of what the climate requires from clothes - warmth or coolness; and partly it's a matter of what's available. You have the Andes, you have llamas or vicunas and you use that wool to fashion warm clothes for yourself. Sometimes all you need is a skirt of leaves. In the Arctic, the Eskimos made wise use of the materials available in that harsh environment and they have survived on the edge of what's survivable.

There is enough rain to bead on the windshield, here, this morning, but it not enough to make the street wet. A grey sky. Cool. Another morning to enjoy.

I stop downtown for gasoline. Filling the tank reminds me of the cost of speed, the cost of distance. The cost is a choice. If I worked in the village, I could walk to work. I could take a horse and buggy - but that would exact a different kind of cost.

Out in the country, off to the north, blue sky. The shelf of clouds ends abruptly.

There is a large flock of seagulls set down in the newly sprouted field of beans. For what do they stay here? They are sea gulls. Is there easy pickin' in our fields?

Now I'm looking north. Now I see sunlight on the edge of clouds. I've got to say how much I love it. Celebrate!

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