Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving in Illinois




The sun up, breakfast consumed, and unbridled gluttony still a distant prospect, it was time for a walk. Out the front door, past the ten feet of crabby lawn, and to the street. From my left flew a sarcastic breeze, biting with impending winter chill. I turned my back to its mockery, away from the vineyard of homes, and gazed over the hundreds of acres of hazy corn stubble past the end of the street. Two juncos twittered through the brown, wind-tattered goldenrod, a haggard frontline to the defeated army of corn. Those weedy goldenrods provided the only buffer between the two clone armies. I turned aside to the noticeably new sidewalk that tunneled through the development.
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The breeze battled and blew. The same clammy gust stung my cheek and drove a granola bar wrapper across the walkway. Trees absent, the breeze resorted to rustling through a plastic white fence that pathetically enclosed a couple hundred square feet of continuously beheaded yellow weeds. The sterile polymer squealed in response to the blowing assault.
            
It reeked of the American Dream.
            
Aisle upon aisle stood silently, each box containing some self-contained story. Then, an opening, an incongruity—an oddly angular pond, its waters lapping northward under the breeze’s breath. The concrete ribbon wrapped around it. Dim glassy eyes gazed unblinkingly, disapproving of the pond’s encroachment to human society. The pond fostered stubborn insurgents—Solidago and Salix, and those obnoxious fecal machines known as Canada Geese.
            
In the recess of the pond, a sunlit ripple contradicted the wind’s will. I lifted my binoculars to identify the perpetrator—a stubby Pied-billed Grebe, fluffed against the morning cold. He possessed uncontested dominion of the pond, therefore making him the king of the American Dream. He swam against the breeze, patrolling the pond that so odiously invaded the human farm.
            
Shaming the wind roared the restless interstate. Viewed from space, it runs tangent to the pond. Cars and trucks screamed headlong down the cement lanes, flying to family dinners or to restock grocers. Just yesterday I had contributed to the madness. What souls had I pancaked, what peace had I shattered?
            
My thoughts were interrupted by a chortled cough to my right. Red-bellied Woodpeckers are the chain smokers of the avian kingdom. This depauperate carpenter hitched his way up the trunk of the only tree in sight, the cottonwood that stood in defiance beside the highway. He coughed again and then rode an invisible roller coaster southward over the freeway and probably toward nobler trees.
            
I left the pond and walked to the road. Walked and walked, past the yapping shelties, past hundreds of houses, out to the corn. Here, the breeze, uninhibited by human creations, buffeted my cheeks with frigid jabs. Acre upon acre of stubble stretched to the horizon, inviting an endless voyage through the yellow sea. Pattering petrels guard the liquid ocean; swirling larks steward the cornfields. Dozens of doves waddled the worn earth, poking for golden pearls. A kestrel flapped overhead against the wind, his headway was comparable to that of the windblown granola bar wrapper.
           
I needed tea for my chapped cheeks and conversation for my chilled soul. Before turning, I gazed one last time over the fields, picturing them as prairies, clothed with Big Bluestem instead of Zhea mays. In several generations, some audacious child may venture to the balcony of his box and survey this same landscape. Perhaps he will wonder what the cornfields looked like before the triumph of the box  battalions.

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