31 August 2012

the drought

The cornfields of western Iowa are bone dry. Burnt is the word I want to use as I fly past them at 75mph on I-80, but they aren't burnt: they're thirsty.

This summer's drought has turned the field brown in early August, as if ready for the harvest.

Everywhere you go in the Midwest, the word "drought" is spit from everyone's lips; perhaps the spit will green up the fields.

Around kitchen tables and over thick-handled, coffee-stained mugs at the diner smelling of hashbrowns, grease, and routine—and even in the cities with their climate-controlled malls and chain restaurants—we are all talking about the drought.

"I can't remember when it rained last."

"We had that big storm around the Fourth, but that was more wind and thunder than a good rain."

"Have you ever known it to be so hot?"

Our throats are parched, our grass is prickly, and in our dreams, gray skies pour forth—waves of raine—as if it were autumn in England and we all lived in stone cottages with fat sheep in the back pasture.

We live in a burnt and thirsty land here in the Midwest this summer, but looking out over the cornfields, it is like it's late September already. The harvest is ready, though the overall scene is wrong: the trees are still a brilliant, life-filled green. {Their roots have stretched down through the years, down through the soil and the rocks to where they can almost always find water deep in the earth.}

If it were the harvest, the trees would be oranges and golds. They would be red against the blue autumn sky—a blue so shining, you would forget the washed-out blue skies of July when the heat sucked the color from the world.

They're green now; it is too early for the harvest. With the car window down, I can hear the cicadas singing, and they, too, are a harbinger of autumn.

The world is ready early this year, even if we are all still stuck in thirst for something more from summer.

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