Lift up your eyes and see
Windy Gusts o’er ocean corn:
Lift up your feet and soar;
Clouds stooping to harvest rain
So farmers adore.
A village swallowing cornfields—small enough that both city limits are on one sign—isn’t much of an attraction. To most of the country, the word “Iowa” elicits rednecks, recipes that call for oleo (butter?), and hillbilly farmers. The state of Iowa knows this full well; they know that it is a flyover state. What would anyone possibly find appealing about miles of corn and beans as far as the eye can see?
While visiting a remote town in Iowa this summer I didn’t expect to be surprised. It’s hard to imagine farm and prairies competing with the euphoria of metropolitan Chicago.
All I had to do was take a walk on an open, country path to see the retiring sun in its naked simplicity. The road not only stretched far ahead, but the land filled the horizon on all sides. I was in an ocean. For the first time since I was young, I was consumed by barren land.
My Great Aunt talked with us the next day for hours. Not entertained by conversation, I said nothing. She mentioned relatives from New York. Not important. She mentioned their stay. Not important.
“…and they were so relieved when they got here and they could actually look in people’s eyes.”
Eyes. That was important. The genuine affection of Iowa was more than just vegetable harvesting. Just like surveying the cornfields, it was I who was nearsighted. I was suffering from city-life myopia and the only cure was a glimpse of raw earth, intrinsically beautiful. The unobtrusive wonders don’t want to be seen—they wait. With patience, I lifted my eyes and finally saw the midwestern countryside splendor. But, as an authentic Iowan would say, “If you don’t want to see Iowa, just keep flying over it. We like it that way.”
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