A Midwestern Love Letter

January 19, 2018

It was December, and we were in Florida. I mused in the cheerful sunshine while my daughter and husband giggled and dug their hands into the warm sand nearby. My brother-in-law said, “Why don’t you move here?”

He seemed startled when I said that while I thoroughly enjoy visiting Florida, I prefer living in Illinois. He mentioned boring cornfields. I told him I actually like cornfields. Then we talked about something else.

But I’ve been thinking about what I’d say if I had more time to explain. I love Illinois for much more than just the cornfields.

I love snow. As I write, snow is softly falling outside the window, dusting each tree branch with a delicate coating of white. I love how newly fallen—and falling—snow absorbs noise and quiets the landscape. I love how fresh the snowy winter air feels when I inhale. I love how my spirits soar with the brightness of sunshine on snowy fields.

I love early spring. I love how suddenly, on a day in March, gray skies will give way to brilliant sunlight. A red-winged blackbird will trill from high in a tree, and if I could take the time to watch long enough, I know I could actually see the buds swelling on my redbud trees. Daylight will linger longer, and I can faintly detect the aromas of damp soil and recently-awakened skunks.

I love late spring. In May it will be warm enough to sleep with open windows, which means I’ll hear killdeer and tractors as I fall asleep. The raucous racket of birdsong will awaken me in the morning. I love open windows, owl calls, and the smell of freshly-mowed grass. I love how quickly the trees change from the soft green of just budding to the deep green of leafing out.

I love cornfields in summer. I love watching the fields for the first signs of tassels. I love walking a quiet road along a cornfield, enveloped in the warm, humid air and inhaling the heady, buttery scent of corn pollen. I love the way the corn stalks rustle quietly as the breeze rises and falls.

I love how the blue of the sky deepens in September and October. I love the way just-harvested fields glow as the sun drops in the west, and how dust from harvest makes for glorious sunsets. I love how the sound of combines and tractors drifts across the fields. I love how the intense yellow leaves of maple trees can make it seem sunny during a walk in the woods on a cloudy fall day.

While many speak derisively of the seemingly-endless cornfields of our state, I don’t find them boring. To me, they are peaceful. They prompt me to look for nuance: a line of trees, a grassy waterway, an interesting old barn. They give me time to think as I drive. I love the landscape of Illinois.

I’m not saying I love everything about living here. I struggle with extreme cold, with gloomy late fall and winter days, and with ultra-humid weather that makes it feel difficult to breathe without gills. But overall, I love it here.

Besides, living in the Midwest makes beaches in Florida, canyons in Arizona, and mountains in Colorado even more exhilarating when it’s time to do some traveling.