Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Life as a back road in Iowa

Life as a back road in Iowa

As with other rural regions, Iowa is waffle-ironed by a grid of roads, with the occasional Interstate slicing through the geometry. Some of these are big roads. Some are small. A few are busy; most are not. Some tarmac. And some gravel, so in dry times and from way out you see the upthrow from distant pickup trucks, tiny like the roadrunner, dust swirls in its wake.

And some, like this, are just mud or dirt tracks, dividing square fields of corn. We didn't drive this particular one, but saw a senior couple, roundabout sunset, on ATVs (quad bikes) trundling up and down it. Invoking the emotions of envy and aspiration.

I like (rural) Iowa. It's quiet here, and things work. Yes, living in the city has lots of conveniences, and it's fun fun fun when you're young young young. But I'm not a city boy; never was. Too much going on, too many people breathing, doing things, nearby. Very nearby. A hive, but with the inevitable tang of certain decay rather than the sweet perfume of honey.

Worst of all, the city horizon is usually just there, sometimes mere feet away and made of brick. It's not how people have lived, are supposed to live; there's something diminishing, in more ways than one, when you can't see far out.

So if it's a choice, then rural living with broadband and a few places nearby that serve good food and coffee are good for me. It's more about the peace, and not being distracted by another human nearby, and the space, and seeing a place some way off that takes a while to get to. If you want to go there.

And the rural midwest of the US of A sure is friendly; people of all persuasions, demographics, clothing and vehicle seem genuine in their welcome. It's how I hoped America to be, but better. And there's that great American thing; the open road. Long and straight, disappearing over a curved horizon. You choose it, you take it; hour after hour, and you could be in Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas.

Because the rural midwest is gleefully, unashamedly, spacious and open and epic. I look on the map. It's 800 miles from here, mostly westward, to the Devils Tower in Wyoming. Only a couple of states away, with no hill or mountain ranges in between. But still 800 miles, the length and more of most European countries. And the whole time getting there, I'd still be many hundreds of miles from an ocean. Monstrously epic.

There is an openness that's unique here, giving you the urge to go on, see how far you can go, travel, move, discover, achieve.

A bit like life, and living, itself really.