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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wheat

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I am sixteen, and I am driving the once luxe 1966 Country Squire station wagon passed down to my parents when Grandpa Reuben died. It's black, with faux wood siding, power tinted windows, air conditioning and power seats of red vinyl. On this day in 1973, the beast is a rusted out heavy metal piece of beautiful junk, my wheels. My brother Bennett has trained me to drive country roads whenever possible, avoiding highways. Michigan's back roads feel wild and rustic, even when the fields are cultivated, with islands and peninsulas of maples and oaks resembling silhouettes of vintage roller coasters on the horizon. I am sailing along in my boat on a hot summer day, heading God-only-knows where, listening to Smoke on the Water, windows down, the regular beat of the wind through the windows keeping time with Deep Purple. AC off, my long amber hair shimmying above my shoulders like riotous ribbons of smoke. Farm fields are radiating all around me. Endlessly. I am a teenage loner, so maybe I am just sailing for solitude. And listening to rock and roll as loud as I please. Then, in my speed and abandon, I hear a whisper. I ease my foot off the gas. Click the radio knob off. There. Again. The whisper. Slow, slow down, girl. 60 . . . 50 . . . 40 . . . 30 . . . 20 . . . 10 miles per hour. Stop. Dead still. Not on the road's shoulder. Not in someone's drive. But in the middle of the two lane road, the tanker is stopped. Parked. Anchored. Not another ship in sight, fore, and aft. I quiet my hair behind my ears, to better hear the breathing air.

"W - h - e - a - t  .  .  . w - h - h - h - e - e - a - t  .  .  .  w - w - h - h - h - e - e - a - t - t - t  .  .  . " Ocean waves of wheat on both sides of me rasp, swell, surge and oscillate. Swishing, flashing, pushing, rushing, splashing, shifting, shining, swaying, shivering, hushing. Languishing. Perishing. Replenishing. The strands of my hair peacefully float and fishtail, while the wind braids them into grains of wheat.

Listen to me read Wheat, here.
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60 comments:

George said...

Pure poetry, Ruth. To stop for the sound of swaying wheat at age sixteen was a miracle; to remember that vivid moment now, with such passion, is a blessing, not just for yourself, but for the rest of us as well.

Shari Sunday said...

What beautiful description! I feel as if I am there in the moment. The first passage that caught my imagination in the Little House on the Prarie series was when they stopped the wagon in a wheat field and took the day to wash some clothes. The vision of that little wagon in a sea of wheat stuck in my memory long before I finally finished reading the series on my own.

Deslilas said...

Nice, even for a French ear. I guess it could be better told by you !

Gwei Mui said...

What a gorgeous description

California Girl said...

great photo and description. i feel there with you.

my mother always drove a Country Squire wagon. The first was white w/ blue interior and the second, her fave, was a buttery yellow with the fake wood paneling and an irridescent taupe interior. I believe I tore the front quarter panel off that one...in a parking lot...looking at photos from JC Penney w/ my best friend.

Lorenzo said...

This is pure magic, Ruth. One of my favorites of late. I know who you workshopped with on this one: the wind, the wheat, layers and layers of memory's sediment, your five senses, your innermost muse, a deep, deep hue of deep purple ... well, I won't go on. I haven't been this captivated by something since the description of your father's oak bookshelf.

Happy sailing, country girl.

Lorenzo said...

I just reread this and have to say, that I will never, ever, ever drive throught wheat fields again without recalling the rapture of your prose poem. Considering how often I drive or, especially, bike through wheat fields, that makes this piece quite a fixture on my inner landscape. It will probably soon feel like I wrote it myself. In a couple of years I may even think I did. Please warn me if I ever post this as my own! For now, I will content myself with a link on the "Caught our eye ..." sidebar.

I also echo George's observation that you were pretty hip for a 16 year old, and I don't mean the Deep Purple, I mean the stopping to capture and create this moment.

Cait O'Connor said...

What great writing, so descriptive and atmospheric.
I do also have a thing for hanging out washing, you too?

ellen abbott said...

that was lovely Ruth. I too prefer the back roads but here it's corn and cotton.

Pat said...

Great visual. I imagined myself right next to you in the car with the music blasting and my hair flying!

And then the sudden stop to stop and listen to the wheat. Just beautiful.

Funny I was just thinking of wheat yesterday. I could see from my perch on my lawn chair the farmer in the field next to the campground cutting down the wheat field. I wanted to walk over to take a picture but I was afraid that all that dust would send me into a coughing frenzy.

Patricia said...

This is such a telling piece...your relationship to your family and your world and the feelings of an adolescent are rendered so well.

Margaret Bednar said...

Love this. Thank you for the beautiful photo & words. You are quite the artist.

Kate said...

More magic. Oh, thank you.
I'm so happy to have found you out here in the virtual world.

The Bug said...

See, this is why I feel so at home in Ohio. I'm mightly surprised about it because I was a mountain girl growing up (grew up in NC's piedmont, but yearned for the hills). But the first time we drove north from Cincinnati headed to Lake Erie I thought - oh THIS is where I'm supposed to be!

ds said...

Wow. I can smell the wheat, feel the grass sliding along the rusted out bottom of your "ship"...and will have "duh duh DUUH, duh duh DUH-DUUH" in my head for the rest of the week ;)

You are a diamond in the bloggy sky, Ruth. Rock on! (and write on--this is exquisite. no joke.)

Janice said...

i hear it!!! and feel the wind in my hair....

gemma said...

Oh Ruthie
Your words are art. You painted the most fantastic picture on my mind.
I want more.

Babs-beetle said...

Every time I read your writing, I am there with you. In fact I wish I had been there with you. 1970's was a bad time in my life, and that sounds like heaven.

rauf said...

very powerful picture Ruth. Sudden sense of freedom and abundance

Earth is all giving. It is meant for us all living beings, and yet millions go hungry. We still haven't realised that some thing is seriously wrong with our beliefs and our system.

lovely you said...

Just beautiful, Ruth, the words and the image. As usual, you took me with you to that moment. And what a gift of a moment to share. Have you ever read the "children's book" The Other Way to Listen by Byrd Baylor with illustrations by Peter Parnall? I think you will likey.

I'm sending you peace and love from down under. I hope you feel it.

Deborah said...

Simply beautiful. You have the ability to put your reader inside your mind, to see the picture you see, to feel the wind blowing in our hair.

Wheat fields have done that to me too. A lovely, lovely piece, Ruth.

Marcie said...

Thru your words I can feel the heat..the wind..the endless fields of wheat. And mostly I can see that teenage girl that is still within us all.

Ginnie said...

Now after seeing the myriad fields of ripened sunflowers in France, Ruth, I can just imagine what you would write. I thought of you every time I saw them. You were in heaven!

Ruth said...

I thank you, George. When Nature calls, it calls with miracles. Every second. Deep and wide.

Ruth said...

Shari, I was driving for a couple of hours. They were in a wagon, covering maybe a couple of miles a day, for months. I never stop being amazed at the pioneers' will and strength. What a day you describe, doing the laundry surrounded by wheat. Now that will be in my memory too.

Ruth said...

Merci, Daniel. Vous aimez aussi la nature.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Gwei Mui. It's good to be lost in a moment.

Ruth said...

Oh dear, California Girl. Stuff happens.

My parents' next station wagon was the butter yellow one you describe, a little more curvy than this 1966 version. Grandpa Reuben was a Ford dealer, so we inherited some nice used vehicles.

Susan said...

You positively slay me with your word pictures. This is one for the book.

Ruth said...

Thank you so very much, Lorenzo, your comments mean the world to me, because this was such a powerful moment. Your response expands its meaning and potency in me.

I am remembering another wheat connection. Don and I stopped in a gallery in Istanbul and fell in love with a large painting of wheat that filled the frame, with no horizon. In the lower left corner were three women, harvesting, with cloth bags full of wheat shocks on their backs. We hesitated to spend the mere $300 but decided to go back the next day and purchase it. It had been sold. I never see a wheat field now without thinking of those women, in so many fields around the world.

cathyswatercolors said...

I am riding with you Ruth, but i am in a large white chevy convertable. My friend is driving I am sitting next to him Evie is sitting on the top of the back seat cross legged,hair flying in the breeze,barns and corn field all around. Not sure what was on the radio,something rock-n-roll and loud.

Thank you for reminding me of that evening.
More importantly thank you for sharing your writing. Love it xoxo peace my friend

*jean* said...

beautiful, ruth...

Ruth said...

Thank you, Cait. And yes, there will be a laundry line in heaven. Well, I guess I already have that piece of heaven now.

Ruth said...

Ellen, we have the corn - and how this year! But no cotton. These fields are such a treasure.

Ruth said...

Pat, that is a beautiful sight, seeing the farmers in their machines and the dust rising like a tail. But I suppose you're right, that it wouldn't be great for the lungs.

Ruth said...

Thank you very much, Patricia. I am grateful for the feeling to come back to me through the writing of this, and that you felt it as well.

DrowseyMonkey said...

Lovely. So vivid it's like I'm right there. On a side note, I'm impressed about a car with air conditioning in the 70s ;)

Ruth said...

Margaret, from an artist like you, those are kind words! Thank you.

Ruth said...

Kate, thank you. The feeling is deeply mutual.

Ruth said...

Dana, it's nice to be surprised by what fills your soul in a place. I longed for mountains and hills growing up too. Now, clouds are my mountains, and farm fields are my seas. Well, and it doesn't hurt to have the Great Lakes so near, right?

Ruth said...

DS, I apologize profusely for that. I mean, it's not like this song was overplayed or anything. ;-)

Thank you for your very kind words, my dear friend.

Terresa said...

A brilliant moment captured, poetic to the last. I love you for posting this, for writing it...even more. :)

Ruth said...

Janice, freedom! Nature! Solitude.

Ruth said...

Gemma, thank you, my dear artist friend.

Ruth said...

Babs, I was fortunate, that I was getting away just to be alone, not to escape anything in particular. But I would have loved to have you with me in the car. We could have been alone together. And our laughter would rock on the wind.

Ruth said...

rauf, why can't wheat control the world? There would be a lot less yelling, and more whispering. Your Speed series kept coming to mind while I wrote this. And many of your images, of women beating grain, and women and men standing in fields. Such simple and complete beauty. I know they are poor, and they suffer, but they look so happy.

Ruth said...

Tracy, no, I didn't know that book. I do likey. I found the PDF, but no illustrations in it. The opening:

I used to know an old man who could walk by any cornfield and hear the corn
singing. “Teach me, “ I’d say when we’d passed on by. (I never said a word
while he was listening.) “Just tell me how you learned to hear that corn.” And
he’d say, “It takes a lot of practice. You can’t be in a hurry.” And I’d say, “I
have the time.”


Well yes, yes.

I do feel your peace. I also feel like I'm exploding, in a good way. I wonder if you feel that?

Ruth said...

Deborah, it's nice envisioning people around the world, you in Canada (or France), listening to the wheat. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Yes, Marcie, I'm rediscovering that girl. Maybe more than I was conscious of then.

Ruth said...

Boots, yep, I would get lost in a field of sunflowers, in bliss. You should have seen the corn on the way to the cottage - shoulder high and calling, calling. Your trip through French countryside is a dream, and I can't wait to see more pictures.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Susie. Wanna be my editor?

Ruth said...

Cathy, I wonder if you were in Michigan too then? Don and I were just reminiscing about Motown, amazed at the extensive opportunities musicians had in that town who might not have anywhere else. Motown shaped my musical references back then, along with the national and international hits. The Temptations, Marvin Gaye. Man.

xoxo

Ruth said...

Dear Jean, thank you.

Ruth said...

Drowsey, I know. We only had such a car because my grandpa was a Ford dealer, and we got his hand-me-downs. We actually had a 1960 Galaxy 500 with air and power windows before this!

Ruth said...

Thank you so much, Terresa. Love you too. :)

willow said...

Lovely. Now I feel the need to go read some Pushkin.

Oliag said...

I have no better words to express myself than to say that you swept me away in that Country Squire and put me in the middle of the mid-west. This is perhaps the closest I will ever get to a wheat field...not many here in RI:) Can you believe that the only fields here in my town are turf farms?

My father drove Country Squire station wagons for many years...his car of choice for his business...I don't think I was ever allowed to drive it...

Thank you for this beautiful post Ruth!

SamaraZone said...

I was just browsing and saw your photo. I love it!

Jeanie said...

How simply beautiful and beautifully stated. Don't you love driving by wheat? Watching it move in the breeze? I sure do. And I felt all that in this post.

dutchbaby said...

I saw your photo float by my Google Reader a few days ago and couldn't wait to find the time to read the accompanying words. I'm so glad I waited for a peaceful moment to read this. Both the image and words are pure poetry.

Though it is nowhere near as poetic as your wheat bliss, this reminds me of a moment I experienced when I first came to Amsterdam in November of 1960. I was walking across a big room by myself and I heard an odd, rythmic, rushing sound. I stopped, the sound stopped. I walked, the sound resumed. After a few more starts and stops I finally figured out that my new corduroy pants were making the sound. I had never worn anything but cotton dresses in Java. :-D