I’m a native Iowan and was raised on a small family farm. Our land had been in our family for over 150 years. My father was a simple farmer. He didn’t farm to live. He lived to farm. It was all he ever wanted. Dad taught me that our land connected us to each other, to God, and to the world. As a child I loved to walk the fields and gravel roads with my hand tightly clasped inside my father’s weathered hand. Together, we surveyed our world at every season – drawing strength as we connected with the land, sensing life as the wind caressed us, and experiencing laughter, wonder and awe in the sights and sounds around us.
Winter brought a crisp silence. Beneath a glittering blanket of snow, the black soil was laden with frozen lumps and clumps of dirt and rows of broken, twisted stems – remnants of the last harvest. As the snow would fly across the field, it formed white swooping drifts with peaks and tips that curled like waves on an angry ocean. The frozen clumps appeared to be chunks of driftwood and the stems like pieces of buried ships reaching skyward, marking their place so they could be found in spring.
The wind, cold and biting, yet clear and clean, whipped around the corners of buildings, brazenly blasted between trees and shrubs and danced across the open field. The scent of burning wood from our fireplace occasionally skipped past our frosty noses – a welcome and comforting reminder of the warmth that awaited us inside the house.
Skies were sometimes a deep charcoal color interspersed with flits and slips of lighter gray and filled with moist, heavy, snow-laden clouds. At other times the sun shone with a brilliant light, bouncing off the sparkling snow. The skies were a backdrop of crisp, clear blue that surrounded us like the glass in a snow globe.
Spring meant newness of life. Baby animals -- calves, piglets, lambs, chicks, kittens and puppies -- were born and filled our world with fresh energy. Melting snow and invigorating spring rains brought buds to trees and shrubs, refreshed the deep green grass and awakened lilac bushes. Clusters of tiny purple lilac blooms released their sweet scent into the breeze and mingled with the rich heavy smell of field dirt as my father turned the earth and prepared for planting.
Fields proudly displayed the rows that had been planted with tiny seeds of corn, soybeans, oats and alfalfa. Creeks flowed full, and sometimes ran over their banks, rushed across fields and pushed broken branches and winter residue in their wake.
Summer displayed glorious growth. The seeds so carefully planted grew tall and stately. Scanning the fields was like looking at a patchwork quilt of colors, shapes and textures. Tall green corn stalks topped with bright yellow tassels proudly arched their long graceful leaves and were laden with ears of corn swaddled in soft husks with golden tufts of silk. Rows of short, shiny green bushes, heavy with fuzzy soybean pods, glistened. Golden oats gently bowed as the wind blew across them. Purple flowers popped and dotted green alfalfa fields. Yellow dandelions danced with blades of grass.
Fall bustled as we gathered our harvest. Corn and beans were eaten by monster machines that rolled through the fields, chopped the plants, digested the corn or beans and spit them into the belly of the trucks and wagons. Oats were sifted for food and the shafts were bundled into square bales for bedding for animals. Alfalfa was cut, dried and bundled for winter feed. Fields looked like a playroom floor after a toddler tipped over a bucket of tinker toys.
Leaves changed to crisp orange, red, and yellow, danced in the breeze and then drifted downward to cover the grass and rustle and crunch as we walked. By day, the air was filled with dust from the harvest. By night, the sky was clear and deep blue -- filled with a bright shining moon and zillions of stars that dotted the sky and twinkled with glee.
It was a wonderful place to grow up. Now, it is where I go when I need to find myself again. Where I walk the land, gaze across the fields and lift my eyes to heaven. Even though Dad died over 10 years ago and it is technically now mine, in my heart it will always be -- my Father’s world.