So, here’s my take on what it’s like to stand in the middle of a massive corn field.
I’ve had a couple of “wilderness experiences” this month — times of protracted solitude away from phones, emails, computers, and the demands of daily details. Thank goodness. One of those experiences was on a farm in Nebraska along the banks of the Platte River. There were good times with my friend Sam and his family and with my friend Eddie as he drenched me to the skin with his wild driving (see the video below). But the best time was with Sam out in his fields.
Space and solitude have always spoken to me, and I’ve been thinking about finding a way to express what happens when you’re all alone in a big place.
When you’re at a crossroads in life, there’s something about a dirt road that makes the mind a bit less cluttered, the eye clearer, the heart lighter. There’s something about the expanse of green fields stretching to the horizon under a curving blue sky that shrinks you and so, shrinks your worries, dwarfs your fears. That reduces you to a relievingly tiny scale. That somehow makes you small enough to take a deep breath and take a risk.
Standing in the middle of a checkerboard of agriculture where each section of the grid is a mile square and every square is bordered by eight more, and those eight squares are bordered by eight more and the squares go on to some mythical city where rumor has it there are things called freeways and super walmarts, and a ridiculously complex contraption the city dwellers call “Internet” where a bunch of machines called computers are all hooked together and people use these computers to go look at stuff on other people’s computers which sounds a lot like driving your car around to look at other people’s cars.
There’s something about standing in the middle of nowhere that makes all the places that people call somewhere seem like nowhere much at all. Like you’ve finally awakened from a deep, deep sleep from a vivid, elaborate dream world which contained multiple worlds with multiple endings and which seemed so real a few breaths before but now fades into the mists of the subconscious mind. And suddenly you’ve forgotten all the troubles of your dream world, and you know none of those worries are real and now they seem kind of silly and you’ve forgotten what you’ve been thinking about in the first place altogether.
Standing in the middle of a corn field is like that.
And if you search while you’re standing in the middle of the corn field you’ll see mostly corn stalks, row upon row. But if you look again and listen closely, you may find a very valuable thing — the great Reassuring Negative. The firm and final denial of your nagging question formed from a mix of a hope and fear and pride: Am I too big to fail?
If you look and listen you’ll be relieved to find the priceless answer: No. If anything, I’m small to do anything but fail. Praise heaven, I’m not too big to fail.
It’s good to feel small again.
And, an insufferably long video featuring activities like driving around corn fields, irrigating crops, a robotic arm and zipping down a sandy riverbed in a golf cart that goes 70 mph.