Memory

The summer air is tangible, thick,  heavy on my skin. Humidity hangs visibly in the hazy air.

The wind is blowing; it never stops blowing here. There is a restlessness in this place–a constant motion and sound cutting through the trees, bowing the prairie grass gently from side to side.

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Everything seems bigger than me–the grass to my waist, the scruffy trees I climb barefoot and brown, the sky stretching out in ocean spans above the endless rolling farmland. I disappear into the cornfield, feeling smaller still with prickly stalks over my head pressing in around me.

I find a dusty bare spot in the field–a circle of dirt where the tractor turned and no seed was planted. I can smell the corn, sweet and tangy. Everything smells green here–did you know green is a smell? I can remember it–the green–the smell of green grass, green crops, green trees. Everything was green and brown and blue— the sky, the dirt, the oceans of prairie grass swaying in that humid Midwest wind.

My bare feet are brown and dusty, callused as leather and as good on gravel as any pair of shoes. You don’t need shoes here–you can climb the trees better without them–toes moving confidently against scratchy bark and branch.

I was a tomboy then. A little bit wild. Scrappy. A girl… not a wife, not a mother. A wildflower and a dreamer making plans to leave and go somewhere bigger. I did not know then how hard it might be to find a place bigger than a Midwest summer–bigger than that sky or those swaying fields of crop.

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I left. I married. I became a mother. I saw the worlds I dreamt of under apple trees and night sky.

It’s good. I’m happy. I’m proud.

But I’d give almost anything for one more day under the Missouri sun–barefoot, brown, laying in a cornfield watching the clouds roll by. I’d lay there til the stars came out. I’d watch the fireflies dance in diamond bands across the still-hot night air. I’d listen to the peepers and crickets sing their song in chorus with that ever-moving breeze. I’d hold on to the smell of green–breathing a little deeper and tucking away that Midwest magic in the pockets of my heart and soul. I’d whisper to my tomboy heart, “You’ll need these someday so hold on.”

Patience.

I’ve watched the rain fall and freeze these last few days. The sky is moody, unable to decide if it’s winter or spring. Fluffy white clouds are pushed along by chubby clouds of slate brimming with rain one minute and sleet the next. The sun breaks through now and again, threatening rebel patches of snow and inviting the timid little birds to sing. The flowers are not so brave and have yet to poke their little heads up through the cold sod.

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This world ebbs and flows in the rhythm of seasons—the hot days of summer are caught on fire by the burning leaves of fall, fall gives way to winter as the last leaves drop and tuck away beneath a wintry blanket of snow. Winter holds on forever and every year I forget spring will ever come again.

And then, just when the last shred of hope is slipping through our cold fingers, the birds come home and the snow gives way to rain and we are reminded once more that nothing in this life truly last forever—however good, however bad—this life is made up of brief, ever-changing seasons of warmth and rain, of heartache and hope.

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Life in New England teaches me patience. Through the long winters and slow advance of spring, I learn to wait. Missouri was not this way. Missouri winters yield to spring in violent cracks of thunder and electric fingers of lightning stretching from heaven to earth. The warm and cold air spin and dance in confusion knowing one must win and the battle will be fought out in violent tornadoes that ravage and forsake every bit of ground they touch.

Missouri springs are not quiet, not safe, and certainly not slow. Spring in the prairies feels as though the very land you love is trying to hurl you off of it, trying to crush and destroy you or eat you up in its loud, rumbling belly of thunder. I’m not being dramatic; I thought more than once that I would die in a Missouri spring and never see another summer.

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Sometimes, in New England, I think I will die in the winter and never see another spring—or perhaps the whole earth has died and there are no more springs to be had—now I am being dramatic.