Iowa has a rap for being heaven just like Kansas is forever wed to The Wizard of Oz (as the opposite of Oz). Although I traveled Iowa a little too weary to appreciate its heavenly qualities fully, now that I’ve been home a few days, I’m looking at photos of Iowa and remembering how I spent too much time on I-80, but also how I found some lovely roads leading back west days later. In between managed to get just a little lost, find the tastiest asparagus of my life in a little restaurant (thanks to Laura), and sleep in a pink big-flowered room, on a pullout couch among big and loving cats, and in a boy’s bedroom where James Bond posters interrogated my dreams.
I also saw a lot of boldly rolling hills although no cornfields with dead White Sox players emerging to tell me how much they missed the game. Maybe this was more due to the season, a full month behind Kansas (yet very much ahead of Vermont, where I hear it snowed last week), reminding me of past and future. The skies tumbled, the cold shot right through my coat, and I was lucky to find a decent parking garage in the right place more than once.
The highlight of the trip was doing a reading with the other Poets Laureate of nearby states — Mary Swander of Iowa, Walter Bargen of Missouri and Denise Low of Kansas — in the Kalona General Store in the Amish country where people crowded the aisles to listen attentively. Afterwards, we gathered in the old school where Mary has made a home in the middle of the Amish lands. The sun returned after many days, and we helped ourselves with a table heavy with locally-made, home-grown delicacies, the rolling sky visible through all the windows.
On the way home, I traveled places I had never seen before, letting the rhythm of the drive and the motion of the land bring me home to myself. It may not be heaven, but it’s close, and I’m grateful for the trip.