Earlier this evening, I was driving home from my weekly visit with Marie and Wrigley the Schnoodle in Virden (Oh, you didn't know that Marie moved to Virden? More on that later.) I was mildly drowsy with DiCarlo's pizza and strawberry-banana ice cream from Whirl-A-Whip. I hurried down Route 4, anxious to get home to me sweatpants and clean sheets.
As I hit a patch of road between Thayer and Chatham, there were no other headlights in sight. No fellow travelers in front or behind me. Kings of Leon found it's way from my iPod to the speakers. I smiled to myself and let the late summer breeze sweep through the open windows tangle my neglected hair into impossible knots. Air that smelled like fresh-cut grass, sweat, and burning leaves.
On the shoulders of the blacktop, the fireflies danced in their nightly testimonial to the impending dark. Deep indigo paint bled across the sky into a canopy in front of me. Corn whooshed by me on the left, soybeans on my right.
Above the fringe of the tall stalks of corn lay a strip of sky still untouched by night. The sun was melting into the horizon in a glowing ball. The atmosphere around it looked as though a child had seized a treasure-box from his grandmother's bureau and scattered it's precious contents across a quilt; sapphires faded into emeralds, emeralds into golden pieces of amber, amber into deep amethysts, and amethysts into brilliant rubies.
The corn's feathery fingers stretched towards the jewel-box sky, silhouetted by the disappearing daylight. Skeletal outlines of trees, set aglow by dusk, dotted the approaching landscape. Modest houses surrounded by fields of vegetative wealth sighed as they settled in to sleep.
I have seen a lot of breathtaking things in my life: the Eiffel Tower, the Trevi Fountain, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the ocean. I have never considered this place to be "beautiful." Desolate, barren, forgotten...maybe. But never beautiful. The place I grew up is populated by spires of metal and glass, twisting upwards into the gray-green mist, created leftovers from an ungrateful population. People congest the streets, moving and breathing as a single organism. That was beautiful to me. It still is.
But there is beauty in this place, too.
Sometimes the light just has to disappear for it's magnitude to be realized.