Tuesday, July 07, 2009

the road from carbondale to peoria goes up through farm country, over toward east saint louis, and up through more farm country into springfield; then it really goes through farm country, and it's illinois all the way. springfield has lincoln signs and the state capitol; there's corn on both sides of the road but this year, on the fourth of july weekend, the corn was all sizes. some was barely knee high, while some was higher than me. this reflects how wet the spring was and how hard it was for some people to plant.

we had the chance to go up to peoria for the fourth, and of course this was a good time to get away from the heat a little, and reflect on the u.s.a., and all these beautiful old barns, and wildflowers growing, beyond the shoulders of the interstate. actually it rained and was cool on the fourth itself, and we were actually in peoria when this happened, so we got the best of all kinds of things: cool weather, first of all, but also, a minor-league baseball game, and great fireworks by the illinois river. the game was a sea of cub jerseys and cubbie-blue combined with red; the visitors, though, who were in gray, won the game. it didn't matter much. it was a good time to be outside, watch people, and reflect on everything.

back home things had gotten hot again, and it was hard even going to sunset concerts, bringing one or two children who got bored easily; finally at one point i brought them home and left them there with their mom, and went back myself. some of these concerts are on the college campus, so i don't really feel the joy of letting go entirely; this particular one featured a band from l.a., called the nk band, which played kind of difficult rhythms which people danced hard to anyway. at one point i leaned against the delyte morris statue and just watched people; there were quite a few that i knew, including one old friend who regaled me with stories of hard times. it was home; there was the usual crowd, and a pretty good band, but, of course, not that sense of perfect harmony or anything.

i take my patriotism pretty seriously; it's a weekend i might have had to work, but didn't; i love the country, i represent it every day in front of visitors, and today, for example, i had to explain why we never use much in positive sentences anymore, such as, i have much money, or some such sentence. maybe it's because, if you live here, you never have much of these things. but, getting away, i got to really study the wildflowers, the rolling hills, the green corn of all sizes, the lowland creeks and rivers passing under the road. back home, we'd stopped for turtle rescue at our home creek, several times, many times; saved turtles that were trying to cross a busy road for whatever reason, and put them back in the creek. found out later that what they were after was mulberries; that explains why this happened through the month of june, but pretty much stopped now. it was someone i know, who has the mulberry tree; my two favorite trees were both reduced drastically by the storm. we'd stop the car, get out, pick up these turtles, which would get in their shells; we'd save them, and off we'd go. it was like a moment spent with a prehistoric creature, left over from the dinosaurs, who still thought he could lumber across sunset boulevard (sunset avenue) at any time of day...what was he thinking?

back at the sunset concert, the nk band played a song dedicated to its home town of los angeles. i liked this; my one and only song is also dedicated, and about, my home town. this song, as usual difficult in its rhythms and melody, was nonetheless danceable, so i did, and got right up there with the usual crowd of people, some of whom i recognized. i could hear los angeles in the music, even though i was virtually right in my own backyard, the shryock steps.

up past carlinville, the road passes a town called benld, and mount olive, where they advertise some kind of mother jones monument, and they've renamed this the paul simon highway, which is kind of nice, especially with the bow tie on the green state road sign. a place sells antique cars of all varieties by the side of the road; these are all colors and kinds, and appear to be in good condition. in peoria a neighbor comes over to the house where we are, and tells stories, fo bobcats, cougar, coyote, rabbits, fox, wolves; bobcats, especially, are in kickapoo bottoms, they say, referring to a lowland near a river nearby. i finally decide to write some haiku which i'll share as soon as i record it. that, the baseball game, and wildflowers, was enough. i felt rested, ready to come home.

back home, before we'd left, we were out on tower road, a place where the fancier suburbs rub right up against totally wild country, an open field that stretches out to the open lands. another turtle crossing the road; we send the seventeen-year-old out to rescue it, stopping the van with its flashers right out on the road. now in a small town like this, people stop on these roads all the time, to talk on their phones, to do all kinds of stuff. but what happens here is that this turtle turns out to be a huge snapper; somehow we hadn't seen this; it lashes out at the boy with huge and sharp claws and he has to drop it suddenly and run back to the van, somewhat traumatized. i rummage through the van and can find only a large dog-crate which i get behind, and push this enormous fellow back toward the edge of the road where there is a kind of curb which he refuses to jump over. finally he just climbs into the crate. i pick it up and deposit him in the ditch, but a carpet from the crate goes out too, and i look at them, turtle and carpet, thinking maybe i can salvage the carpet. the early july sun beats down on us all. there's no way i can get that carpet. he stares back at me with his beady prehistoric eyes; he has turtle adrenaline going. but he's still alive. we can get the carpet later, and we do. it appears, to passing cars, as if we are abandoning pets at the side of the road; far from it though. who cares what they think. you don't see so many enormous snappers these days.

back on the road, on the way home, we're playing the alphabet game, but also i'm reading license plates, an old travel activity. i've long ago seen the usual nearby ones, ky, tn, tx, ks, co, al, ms, mo, ia, mn, wi, in, oh, pa, mi, ga, fl, a maine-truck and an ontario-truck. finally i see some harder-to-get ones; az, md, va, sd, ok, ca, la, ma, ne. the cornfields are flying by; a deer, off in the valley beyond; i remember the dove, on the wire screen at the ballgame, perhaps enjoying the sold-out fourth kind of crowd, little kids with faces painted in cubby blue and red. central illinois seemed to have its racial divisions, with all the spectators white, all the vendors black, and some people giving us looks for carrying around a young black guy; this could just be that we were traveling, whereas at home, more than half the people we see know us, or at least have seen us before. in the hotel room, we ended up seeing fireworks over the river, right from the hotel-room window, with quite a view, though indirect. on the road, i find a moral dilemma; i see both a washington state, and an alaska, both hard to find, but i see them a little indistinctly, and have to convince myself that i had actually seen them for sure. but who cares; i don't really keep score, and it doesn't really matter. it's like the truck plates, they don't quite count fully, but nevertheless they are plates; most plates, of course by far the vast majority, are illinois, especially on the roads in the center of the state, up by use, and bloomington. so do i count these two- or, who keeps score anyway? it's just a kind of daydreaming point, a way of taking in the whole country, when in fact you never got out of your own state.

and in fact, back in the hilly part, where the shawnee forests start, and the glaciated cornfields recede to the north, it's warm again, july-warm, steamy, the kind of weather where you don't want to forget and leave some windows closed, or all the crayons will melt. the turtles are gone; so are the mulberries. tiger-lilies are out, and so are a host of other flowers. a person could get bored on the endless roads of this state, which supposedly has more than its share of roads, and, god knows, i've done my time on all of them. you could get bored, that is, until you really know what you're looking at, and then, you could see all kinds of stuff you'd never seen before. and you could look at it all, and say, thank god for peacetime, for the wild country, for the full moon over the shawnee that hung there upon our return; it was just a weekend, but it was a holiday weekend, time to take a moment off, maybe, and reflect, watch the cars going by, many of whom are in much more of a hurry. guess i was, too, the first couple hundred times i passed through the state. slowly, i'm coming to appreciate it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the story. I got a dog crate for my guy years ago and it was one of the best investments I ever made. Dog Crates are a safe way of transporting your dog in the car, as well as a way of taking him places where he may not be able to run freely. If you properly train your dog to use a dog crate, he'll think his dog crate is a safe place and will be happy to spend time in his dog crate when needed.

11:20 AM  

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