When I was little, my favorite parts of Sesame Street— other than Ernie and Bert— were the videos that showed in glorious detail how things were done. The crayon factory, the beekeeping family, the stamp factory, the sugar beet harvest- and now I feel like I'm living in one...
At this time of year, this part of Illinois is wall-to-wall corn, with the occasional soybean field providing a welcome glimpse of sky. It's been that way all summer, of course, but now giant machines have invaded the fields, appearing more like massively overgrown children's toys than serious equipment costing millions of dollars. They're ruthlessly hacking down the stalks, gradually and heroically bringing us back our 180 degrees of sky. The Midwest gets teased for its flatness, but the outrageous openness that it provides is rarely mentioned. I feel claustrophobic all summer, driving through the corn labyrinth, and am starting to breathe easier thanks to the harvest.
The corn combining (emphasis on the first syllable) has been happening at a rapid, perhaps even panicked pace, as the temperatures hover around freezing. Everywhere I go, I see impossible amounts of corn streaming into trucks like the one in the photo, liquid gold. It's beautiful and it's way too much.
It often feels like nothing is happening around here— no music, no art, no decent cup of coffee— but watching the harvest has made me feel like this is where things actually happen. This is the stuff that is keeping the rest of the country moving, I suppose. Of course, it was disappointing to realize that all of the soybeans and most of the corn grown here is actually for animal feed, so that's not quite as poetic as imagining our local fields feeding my fellow citizens far and wide. I realize that they indirectly are, but when you become a vegetarian at age five, it's hard to get jazzed about the whole meat scene.
Still, it's amazing. Amazing the way a factory is, but sad to think of this majestic land as just a factory, churning out the same two products year after year, when you think of all the incredible plants that could be growing, and all the incredible animals that could be living amongst them. As with most things in this life, watching the harvest play out around me has been thrilling and heartbreaking.
What's going on in your neck of the woods? Extra credit question: What Sesame Street video do you live in?