Thursday, October 01, 2009

To walk in corn

My wife said, “What are you going to do tonight,” and I said, “I’m going to walk through the cornfield.” I’d called her at work to ask where she kept the plastic freezer bags.

“The cornfield?” she asked. “Why?”

I shrugged, though I knew the gesture was lost on the phone. “Just something I want to do,” I said.

For several days the corn had called to me, in that way inanimate objects do when they want to get your attention. Or maybe something else was at play, something as simple as novelty: we’d never before had corn growing in our little one-acre plot, and the long palm-like leaves swaying in the breeze were mesmeric, the way they caught the sunlight and refracted it, the variegated shades of green, the silken textures, at once smooth, crinkled, veined, tasseled.

To tell the truth, I hardly recognized the place. We’d taken a week to tour the badlands of New Mexico and as always I immersed myself so deeply in the food, culture and geography that it was difficult to remove myself fully upon our return. So much had changed in that short span; temperatures more like autumn, skies bluer, birds flown, and the corn more than doubled in height.

Before disappearing into the cornfield, though, there was work to do; work away from home, work at home, work on the home. But always, always, my eyes crept from whatever I was doing to enter, if only vicariously, those endless emerald corridors.

Something about the shadowed recesses between the unevenly-spaced stalks appealed to me. I’d never walked through corn and wondered if the experience was like entering dense woods hung with spider webs, or a bewildering maze where every direction is a clone of the other, as if looking into a mirror that reflects only what is behind you. I wondered if the sound of the leaves rustling was like that of quaking aspens, or cottonwoods.

The doorbell jarred my reverie. A friend come by to ask about an upcoming meeting, questions about scheduling, chitchat. I glanced at the angle of the sun; low in the west, weltering into a burning haze.

When she was gone, I slipped out of my sandals and into my hiking boots. As I weighed the merits of taking the camera, there came a knock on the door. This time it was a resident seeking advice on zoning regulations and animal ordinances. I tried answering his questions but fumed at the delay. Dusk settled with a preternatural suddenness. A mosquito buzzed around my face. I swatted it away and looked behind the man at the shadows darkening the field. It was like a rising tide, swamping the lower ground and spilling onto the lawn. The man spoke about racing pigeons and lofts. Darkness was complete by the time he left.

Not for the first time, I wondered why it’s so difficult to find time to do the things that complete us. Tomorrow, I promised, I will walk in the corn.

Lightning played on the southern horizon when I rose to go to work, and by the time I returned home I felt exhausted and laid down for a short nap. By the time I awoke for the second time the sun was high and I watered the garden and weeded and washed dishes and handled several business concerns that were overdue. Followed by more work, a nagging deadline, and a rash of phone calls that made me want to rip the phone off the wall and hurl it into the field—the cornfield, to be precise, and then to follow it on its journey.

Late afternoon. I prepare for a meeting, find the necessary papers, study to refresh my ailing memory, make a pot of coffee for the jolt. A cool breeze flows through the open windows. The corn shimmers and dances as if beckoning.

Someday, while it remains, I want to walk in corn.

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