Tuesday, May 17, 2011

open grids and open windows: or how i learned to stop whining and embrace the midwest

"The people I know from outside it distill the Midwest into blank flatness, black land and fields of green fronds or five-o'clock stubble, gentle swells and declivities that make the topology a sadistic exercise in plotting quadrics, highway vistas so same and dead they drive motorists mad. Those from IN/WI/Northern IL think of their own Midwest as agronomics and commodity futures and corn-detasseling and bean-walking and seed-company caps, apple-checked Nordic types, cider and slaughter and football games with white fogbanks of breath exiting helmets."
-David Foster Wallace, from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again

Kim and I have lived together in Illinois seven years. Kim is from central IL, and so she has breathed the communities deeply from a very young age, but for me this was a significant change from the mid-Atlantic cities and suburbs that were familiar.

The first thing I had to get used to was the long stretches of flat land, surrounded by other long stretches of flat land. At first, I could view them only as an "outsider" but as time went on, I grew to embrace these communities. There was a stillness to it that spoke to me.

There are some things about Illinois I'm still not used to:
being buffetted by wind on beautiful sunny days,
being buffetted by wind on rainy days,
being buffetted by wind all winter as the snow piles up outside our front window.

But when it is time to take to the road, I roll down the windows, breathe in the air, crank up the music, and enjoy the serenity of flat grids of fields repeating against each other.

I have learned to embrace the sameness of it. It has the same effect on me that I imagine zen-gardens have on buddhist priests, where familiarity of pattern is its own reward.

At least that's what I'm keep telling myself as I pay 9.75% sales tax.

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