It’s Wednesday here, and when the sun comes up its crepuscular rays lance the stubborn cloud and trace pastels over land so flat and featureless that to follow the light down any road, in any direction, is to find only more and more and more of a world that is inexorably the same. We can call it beautiful though—this lazy play among the groggy hours—just as you are prone to do, seeing the same early light come to fall among the mountains and oceans and prehistoric forests that perhaps you call home. “How nice,” we say here, and then returning to our work in the corn and soy and parking lot fields of Eastern Nebraska, go about our day.
When humans were first humans on the grass plains of Africa, they enjoyed a bareness of land similar to ours here. Today there’s still a very old comfort to be had in waking up among the austerity of grass. We remember. Falling asleep with no trees to interrupt the stars. Moving easily in great bands across the open plain. Standing on hind legs, peeking above the seed heads, spying the lion a mile before she’d crept near enough to draw blood.
Driving to work on Wednesday morning I see—at thirty miles an hour—a few dozen Canada geese trimming a lake that was once the water hazard of a golf course, but is now—following certain economic declines—only a lake. Down Ames Avenue I pass Phil’s Foodway, Jim’s Rib Haven, Doc’s Lounge, YoungBlood’s Barber Shop, Mid-K Beauty Supply, and the rough-hewn faces of churches I will admire but never enter. Although I love these places, and love the fact that humanity has traveled halfway around the globe just to clean the floors and stock the shelves of B.J.’s Gas and Beer, I am lonely for the grass.
At the community college where I work, I leave my car and pass the flowering landscape of a manicured late summer. Just like yesterday, everything has changed. If only we lived long enough to know the difference.