Saturday, February 18, 2012

Iowa by car, pt. 6

My drive around southeastern Iowa concludes

Whatever will you do there, she had asked, but she shouldn't have worried.

It was a cold outside and there were fellows sitting around the antique shop, talking.  I picked up a box of arrowheads.  “They came from Bob Morris’ place,” one of the fellows said.  Someone else nodded agreement.  “See a lot of ‘em around here.”

When spring rains wash down the creeks and ditches, and farmers plow their fields, they find arrowheads and stone tools.  We Americans live in a land not much more than two centuries away from the stone age and so these things are all around us.  Digging for artifacts can be controversial business, but surface finds on private land pose no problem.  I grew up in country like this and knew that most of the farmers picked up arrowheads and had some in a cigar box or Mason jar in the tool shed and eventually gave them to the grandkids.  I had come by some that way, myself.  I bought the box.  Later, I bought a polished stone axehead.  “They found that down by Agency.”  None of it cost much.

                                                               *  *  *

Even in the bleakness of late winter, it was beautiful.  In the folds of a hill I saw an ice-covered pond.  I could see it from the road, surrounded by bare trees.  In the summer it would be hidden by the leaves, a magic place for a child, a place where spirits might live.

In the low morning fog of my first day the trees and buildings had suggested little Russian villages, their round-domes silos changed into Orthodox churches, but in the early afternoon of a cloudless day, in the bright winter light and transparent air everything is exactly what it is and fantasy is impossible.  But then evening comes  and in the hazy arctic light the disk of the sun dissolves into bands of reds and vermillions and magentas and sets as though it were going to be gone from the world for a very long time.

I wasn’t at all bored when I was in Iowa.  How could I have been bored in such a wonderful place?

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