Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, June 20, 2016

What is there to say about bald spots?

It's what our pastor mentioned yesterday in his prayer--these wet spots in the fields all around. 

To say we've had a wet spring understates the saturation. It's rained every other day for weeks, sometimes in buckets. The river has not left its banks behind, but it's been high and muddy and refuse-laden since May, higher constantly in the last month or so; and that's why the fields all around the region have bald spots, like this pair. 

Here at the edge of the flood plane, bald spots are not at all rare, so when he mentioned them in the opening prayer it caught me off guard because it seems to me they come with the territory. But then I'm not a farmer--maybe I should put it this way: I'm not the farmer. I'm not the man who plows the fields and scatters the good seed on the land, the man or woman who's worries about crop failures and going belly up. When I watch the sky's mighty turbulence, what I see is drama, not ruin. 

And, to be sure, the preacher mentioned bald spots in a context of the gloried emerald all around. "Knee high by the Fourth of July" is a measuring stick that lost its currency sometime during the Truman Administration, I think, once hybrids started racing each other out of rich Iowa soil. We've had some healthy days of heavy dampness in the last week, stifling heat people claim is so pitched you can hear corn grow. 

"There are bald spots all right," the preacher said to God, "but there's solid gold in all that emerald too," he said, or something to that effect. It was just a peculiarly Iowa way to say "count your blessings, folks." 

My father-in-law's eyesight is failing badly, but when we drive around countryside that once was his, he can't help but remark on water he sees in the fields. When what's written on the landscape determines your livelihood you pay attention, I suppose--bald spots in your family's wherewithal.

I don't remember much else about the pastor's prayer because his mention of wet spots got me wondering what exactly is in us that determines how we see the the bald spots or whether we see them at all. Why do some people have to be reminded of the bold and healthy corn that surrounds these scars? Why do only some of us look at a field and worry about what's not there?

Is worry some gene in our DNA? Is fear something we're born with? Or does it rise only in those who are somehow trained to see it? Is it ingrained in our vision or do we have to be taught? Or is it both? And how is that siblings can be so different? Same genes, same home, but day-and-night, salt-and-pepper.

How it is that some people really believe that the guns they have in the basement may someday be necessary to take on the black helicopters circling the village? How is it that some people believe we're just a decade away from Sharia law when others think such fear is plain nuts? If worry, a pox on all our houses, arises from fear, how is it some people require all kinds of help to deal with it, while others drop it like a bad habit? 

Why do some people see bald spots in the fields all around where others see only a healthy sea of green? How did FDR get away with saying what he did: "the only thing to fear is fear itself?" Was he right?

Is he always right? When should I buy a gun?

Yesterday was Father's Day. My father has been dead for a decade already, but he's very much alive in me in ways I can't count. But I don't see the world as he did. I'm not his clone, never was, as is my son not mine. 

So where do predilections come from anyway? How is it we are what we are? To what extent do we fashion ourselves after those we love or respect, or are we ourselves simply fashioned? The preacher says, in his prayer, that too often all of us only see the bald spots. He's may well be right, but why? 

I don't think I know, and I doubt anyone does. 

And why am I thinking about this now? Is anyone else who heard that prayer thinking about wet scars in the land? What is it in you that makes you you? 

I don't know. 

But like the preacher, I can't help thinking those bald spots are telling.


Del VanDenBerg said...

When I moved to NW Iowa in the mid 1960's, I was an urban boy and fascinated by the fields that surrounded Hospers. One thing that I always marveled at was the strips of land that ran through corn, bean, and grain fields. Many of the farms averaged 80 acres then, maybe a farmer would be cropping the neighbors and had 160, but lots of small farms. As I became acquainted with the farmers and families I asked about those strips that ran regularly through every field- willy nilly actually, but always in one direction toward a river area. It was simple I was told, that is where the water ran, and if cropped it would be "bald" land producing nothing and running away with the soil. Simple, smart...many of these guys working the land experienced the dirty thirties or had history that was drilled into them from forebearers.

Interestingly enough, all those long grasslands were also cut for hay and provided a "crop" for forage. Never forget watching tractors and balers sailing through those rolling fields of corn picking up the hay with fellows stacking the bales on the wagons behind; I too had that opportunity to do that as I got older. It was like rolling through an ocean of green...only it was not so romantic, it was sweat and bugs mostly.

Today that has changed it seems, I travel the same area and yup...just like they said- nodda where the water runs. I guess they made sense what they described is true today. However progress says we no better...perhaps.

Anonymous said...

"Bald spots" they can be stinkers... particularly when they show up in our late teens or early 20's.