Monday, August 12, 2013

Fly Over Country

I rather don't like the moniker, although I understand it. It's easy to dismiss the vast interior of the United States in countless ways, but I don't think we should, for more reasons than I can get into. 

Wendell Berry said "Eating is an agricultural act." Think about that. Agriculture is the foundation (still) of our civilization and like it or not, we are all agriculturalists. We farm by eating. Every bite is a clod turned by plow, every gulp an ounce of aerosolized pesticide, each nibble a nameless, faceless laborer stooped in the field. 

Corn and soy are the most intensively mechanized and industrialized crops grown. It's all you will see on Interstate 80/90, between Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with the exception of an apple orchard in Ohio and tomato field in Indiana. There are no laborers in these fields, only the occasional machine. As I passed through, two weeks since my last drive, it had become Roundup season. Brown as the severest drought; a visual disturbance, as much as a chemical one. 

A yellow plane made a severe descent, disturbing too, in the manner of an imminent crash. But then it arcs upwards, circles around and completes the same maneuver. As I pass the woodlot, I can see its purpose, and it seemed ostentatious, like a car transformed into spectacle, or an excessively loud Harley, to fly a plane in that manner, to spray pesticides by machine, without an eye for the kill. 

Interstate 90/94, in Wisconsin, traverses a patchwork of corn fields, cow pasture, bogs and woods. The highway cuts the line between the sweet Midwest and acidic north woods. Corn is grown, cows milked and cranberries harvested; boundaries manifest greater diversity. I was taken by the blossoming of the knotweed Silver Lace Vine, at the boundary of farm fields and highway. It rose up, a green white light. 

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