The Beauty of Nowhere

I live kind of in the middle of nowhere. Which is a surprising fact if you’ve met me in real life. Friends have dropped their jaws and commented on my surprising nearness to agriculture. You see, I’m a city girl, tried and true: I like fancy coffee and large libraries, and the occasional shopping jaunt. But upon moving back from Bangladesh, it just so happened that my husband was offered a great job that just happened to be in the middle of nowhere. He drives on several gravel roads everyday just to get to work, which means I’ve given up on ever having a clean car. Technically I suppose we don’t live in the absolute middle of nowhere, but we are on the outskirts of a very small town. As someone who has always lived in the city (or at least in the suburbs) this is about as foreign as living in Bangladesh. It’s different in a new way. I like to say we’re ‘enjoying the experience,’ because an experience it is; there’s literally a cornfield in my backyard. A cornfield!

Most of the time, I don’t mind living in the middle of nowhere: I get to work from home, I rarely have to drive anywhere, gas and groceries are cheaper here.  But sometimes, sometimes I miss fancy coffee so much it makes my teeth ache.  Sometimes I think I might like to be the kind of woman who sits at an outdoor café with a book and a cup of coffee, just watching the world go by.  Sometimes I wish for a post office with one of those automated machines and a library whose collection wouldn’t fit in my parents' basement. I miss the air inside an art museum, how you can just about breathe in the beauty.  I crave a Sephora and an impulse nail polish purchase.

And then I jump in the car (to console myself with a cup of gas station iced coffee) or look out the window.  And I am just struck.  Struck still by the view.  The whiny voice in my head stops cold, my breathe catches, and I just stand there, staring. The views out here, the beauty of nature, the colors of the sunset, the vastness of the sky; it takes the air right out of my lungs.  I stop thinking about overpriced coffee and salespeople on commission.  And I breathe in the air as if I’m standing among priceless works of art; I have the same humbling sensation, the same whisper that creeps through my bones, the same tingle in my soul. I’m seeing, I’m surrounded, by color and brilliance and something so beautiful and strong that it passes the mundane and edges closer and closer towards sacred.

The sky reminds me of a Georgia O’Keefe painting hanging in The Art Institute in Chicago.  I don’t remember what it is called, but it’s a huge field of blue and white or white and blue depending on your perspective.  There is no horizon, it’s just sky, and it is magnificent.  Out here, the sky is so much more than just atmosphere. It dominates the landscape, it IS the landscape.  The clouds hang heavy, as if I could reach them if I only had a ladder.  In the city, clouds seem far away and less sturdy, more of a haze.  The clouds in my sky have depth and dimension.  I imagine if I had my ladder and reached up and poked one it would bounce back like a freshly baked cake.

In my backyard, just below the clouds, is a field of corn.  It’s less green than I imagine the farmer would like (we’ve been a little short on rain here), but the golden tops of the stalks remind me of wheat in Kansas.  During the day, as the light changes the same view twists into a hundred different varieties.  Sometimes the stalks are crisp and clear in the sunlight and heat. Sometimes they’re a little hazy in the wind. In the evening, they’re bathed in the pink of a country sunset.  Again, I’m reminded of a painting, or in this case a series, Claude Monet’s Haystacks.  Monet was fascinated by light, and how it changed everything, and so he painted the same subject, a haystack, in myriad lights and seasons (he did the same with water lilies).

The corn will be gone before long, and my view as I look out my back window will be completely different.  I can’t imagine it will be anymore breathtaking than the field of gold I’m currently enjoying and obsessively photographing.  But that’s the great thing about art, it’s always surprising you.