It is fall in the mid-Atlantic, the trees dressed in yellow and red, the sky resplendent in cerulean blue. As I cut dead flower stalks to the ground, a low drone filters into my consciousness. I decipher the sound: a combine making its way across a nearby field, harvesting corn for animal feed. Pausing in my work, I listen. I find peace in this sound, as I do in the thrum of a hummingbird’s wings or in the yipping of a fox at night. These sounds are part of the landscape I call home in southern Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
Here, fields and pastures dotted with tobacco barns roll to the horizon, bordered by hardwood forests and fingered by streams and rivers that lead to the Chesapeake Bay. You can shuck an oyster at the Oyster Festival, paddle a kayak on a quiet river, and horseback ride all in the same day. This is a place of respite sandwiched between Annapolis to the north and busy towns south.
And yet this area’s proximity to both Washington, D.C. and Baltimore leaves it vulnerable to becoming a twin cities suburb. Each year fewer fields are planted, houses replacing combines. A decade ago old timers slouching low in their trucks raised a hand in greeting when our vehicles passed. Now cars speed around me on these same roads. No doubt their occupants are traveling too fast to notice the view out their windows, a wheat field blazing gold in the setting sun.