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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Fling

I’ve been having a spring fling (in summer) but it’s no secret. My fling made me feel extra alive. My senses were heightened, my heart full. If you insist on all the details, I’ll spill ‘em.
I’ve been having a fling with a small country town in the Midwest. My heart belongs to San Diego, but while my body was in Missouri, I was enamored.

Had trees ever looked greener? Had the country air ever been so full of chirps and hums of country critters? The sky seemed bigger, the clouds puffier and more layered. Rolling hills, and a (real!) deer, grazing in a meadow under a tangerine sunset. Was it real or was I dreaming? Had there been this many wildflowers the other times I’d visited?

Bobbing in the breeze were white flowers as flat and lacy as doilies.

Orange Asiatic lilies pop up in bright clusters throughout the countryside. 

Spiky pinky-purple blossoms the size and shape of gumdrops bordered the meadows.

This wasn't my first time visiting hubby’s family in Washington, Missouri. I've been six or seven times before. But this was the longest trip and one without a big event like a wedding or graduation, so there was more time for me to explore. This time I noticed different things, like the rolls of hay dotting the fields. We'd never visited in late June before, so we must have missed this season. I think the rolls are beautiful! I love the contrast of how their cylindrical shapes are smooth and even from far away, but textured up close, with strands of straw poking out in a hundred directions. Seeing the hay rolls made this scenic countryside truly farm land, in my eyes. Sure, I'd seen farms and cows nearby on other visits, but the hay rolls showed me another crucial piece of the process, an essential ingredient in the cycle of a farm year.

I studied the woods and the town with a fresh eye. This time I noticed how very, very green it was. Granted, the town had an unusual amount of rain this spring, so it really was greener than usual. But maybe I appreciated the environment more this time. I saw the beauty of the woods and its trees of different shapes, sizes and varieties. I noticed the colorful wildflowers in periwinkle, yellow and purple bordering the country roads, like embroidered details at the edge of a quilt.  

This small town has fewer than 14,000 residents, although residents from neighboring towns drive in daily and double that number. Still, that seems so small to me, coming from a city with 1.3 million residents. Actually, their town has grown a lot in the last decade. Every year I notice more stores that have set up shop in town, although there's still a lot of green space in between. I still marvel that behind their big box store there are woods. Woods! Behind the big box store near where I live is a freeway! And that's not a knock on San Diego, a city I truly love. But coming somewhere different shows you not only about the place you're visiting, but also about the place you live. San Diego is famous for its gorgeous beaches, famous zoo, universities, and of course, Shamu. But in Washington, trees and hills dominate the view. Washington has cows and barns where San Diego has freeways and traffic! My walk each morning began on a gravel road--yes, gravel! I grew up in Los Angeles, worked in San Francisco and now live in San Diego. Needless to say, I haven't spent much time on gravel roads, but I'm charmed by them. It’s a piece of the country experience. 

On our last morning I took a 40-minute walk on a paved back road and had it nearly to myself, seeing a car drive by only twice. I liked the solitude. The sounds of nature were all around me: the tsk-tsk of rain drops on my nylon umbrella, the calls of birds and the chirps of crickets in the nearby woods, the shimmy of leaves in the breeze. On my way back I heard the putt-putt of a farmer steering his tractor across a field.

Not only do country and city have different sounds, they also have different animals. I saw cows and horses, pigs and lambs. I see the occasional squirrel in my city but in the country squirrels and cottontail bunnies frequently leap across the path. In the woods behind the house are the Marco Polo calls of cardinals, wood peckers and blue jays.
The highlight of the trip was meeting our new baby cousin. Everything about him is adorable, from his smile to his toes. I love his tiny fluttery fingers, the smell of his soft, soft skin, and little noises he makes.

There’s more to tell about this trip, but I’m saving other tales for another day. It’s fun to visit someplace so different from where I live, a green oasis in the middle of our nation, filled with red barns and blue, blue skies. Can you blame me for having a crush on farm country?!

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