You know that smell of fresh Iowa air? It’s loamy with undertones (ok, or overtones) of manure, and in the early spring months, it’s made fresh by the chill which sets a slight freeze to your nose hairs. It had been a long time since I was granted that sensation, but a few months ago I had the privilege of making a little Midwest tour after being away for more than a year.
So many things come to mind when I think of Iowa: tall corn, endless gravel roads, horizons that stretch 360 degrees. A warm feeling accompanies these sights too. It’s a feeling of support and of humility and of endless welcome.
You are brilliant and subtle if you come from Iowa and really strange and you live as you live and you are always very well taken care of if you come from Iowa. ~ Gertrude Stein
Family is important in Iowa and so is community, and although the world becomes more complex, more global, and more monotone, Iowa moves at a different pace: one that saunters with the breeze, grows with the spoils of the fields, and ebbs with the shape of the snow. When I feel as if everything’s completely, irrevocably changed, to feel grounded all I have to do is come back to Iowa, see the faces of my family, and go on a peaceful midnight run.
On this past trip I went up to the driftless prairie of northern Iowa where my grandparents live and stayed in the tiny house outside of their country church. Suzanne met me up there on Friday night with her octave mandolin, taught me about twenty tunes in twenty-four hours, and the next night we were crooning at the local bar down the way. The next morning was Sunday church where we played for an eager and humbling congregation, and the next Sunday happened to be Easter where we celebrated at Suzanne’s family’s Quaker church in Eastern Iowa.
This spiritual was the one we chose to share and will always remind me of this trip and the time I shared with so many wonderful Iowans. This recording is from our recent meeting in Lyon.