The birds pass through where I am from. So do the Interstate truckers. But, all prairie birds fly home again, with songs from far off lands, and so do I. Truckers, they often get bladder infections and dull their long hauling by the hum of the road.
There’s a welcome quiet to the flat lands when you’ve been exposed too long to greater heights. The same quiet I once mistook for boredom before I left. And after a few many years in the western sun, you forget the world was ever green. Not to mention, independent of our latitude and longitude, the haste of our busy lives — that demand more and more of us for less and less– rob us of these moments. Till something breaks us from our routine and freshens our eyes with the salt of the earth. The sum total of it is we forget, till we remember. And what it takes to remember are often the things we don’t plan for. Then, we come home and see it, as if for the first time.
Many of our American voices had the prairie in their blood. I hear it’s vanishing. I hope it doesn’t take the song with it. Where will all the birds go when these wet lands disappear? Old repurposed railroad tracks? Or to nest in among the junk washed into the delta of the last century? The century of progress. Or does it live on in the back of old book stores where Carl Sandburg finds a home still?
Spring makes believers of us all. You hear it in the sermon of the air.
I trust in spring. It may be the fool in me- but then, a fool I am. The world needs its fools, too. How else could we face the darker parts of life in all their certainty? That ancient pagan blood in me hails Spring above else. Even if it doesn’t come in earnest till a month or so into the baseball season. Mother earth may be confused by its recent timing, but I am not.
I think of Peter Sellers in that simple concerto – Being There and the secrets we harvest from fools wise enough to tend their garden. It’s of course easier to sing its praises when I’ve been thus removed from the winter that proceeded it. But there are many types of winter; not all of which adhere to the barometer.
There aren’t many corn fields left, you really have to get far from the city to find them. But eventually, that’s all you’ll find. When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to get where there were mountains and oceans. There was a kid. Dan P. Who’s mom worked for the airlines. He had been everywhere it seemed. Every Christmas vacation it felt like he would return with a tan just to taunt us – and we’d all take turns interrogating him. His modesty about what life was like beyond the Mississippi would annoy me.
The call of the frontier hasn’t diminished I guess. We all still head to California looking for gold. Except now, there isn’t a store run by Mormans outside of Culver, MO that manufactures wagon wheels. But it still begins with a tale of what lies beyond the endless plain. In addition to Dan and his mom who worked for United, there was Randy. Randy would pack a bus and drive to Colorado to ski. A mythical sport indeed reserved for people of higher class. He was cursed with braces at an early age to repent for being rich in cultural experience.
In Colorado, they had snow for a purpose. Our family always went east and south and were limited in our range to whatever adventure lay within two day’s drive in a wagon. And dad didn’t fly a plane he couldn’t pilot and he never learned to fly. Which meant the western range and the land of cowboys might as well have been on Mars. The Griswolds were an ominous warning to all Chicagoland families who ventured too far in the family wagon. Wall-e-world was just too far. And an albatross all its own. But those mountains and those oceans have a far reach to the wild imaginings of a land locked heart. You’d hear them call in the whistle of a west bound train at night. That Santa Fe diesel. Every night, come bed time. A dream of train smoke.
I haven’t heard a train whistle in some time. It has a different ring to it these days. They don’t come as often as they once did. But, they’re there still. If you listen for them.