20 August 2013


I went to a conference in Washington, DC, last month.  I absolutely loved it.  It was a good conference; a nice blend of USEFUL information and camaraderie, with enough free time woven in to check out some sights and spend a little time with a BFF.  One of the highlights for me, however, was just being in the city.  Not even a particularly big one, compared to Boston or New York with skyscrapers, but a busy, humming, diverse place with functional public transit (God bless it!) and choices.  So many choices!  In the two blocks around my hotel I could choose from a dozen different ethnic foods and a variety of shops (the Baskin Robbins store smelled really funky, though, so we opted for the frozen margaritas next door.)  I love cities.  I don't know if I'm cut out to live there full time, but I find a visit rejuvenating.  I love the diversity.
In the boondocks we have limited choices, and the closest regional shopping towns are 45 miles east and south, respectively. Yesterday,  I was forced to make the trek for a routine, work-related lab test that couldn't possibly have been done locally.  As I drove home, though, I caught myself noticing, then made a concentrated effort to notice, the scenery around me.  I often hear folks complain of rural scenery: one field after another, with only a road every mile to break it up.  That's not what I saw, though.  I saw fields of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, sugar beets, hay, oats, stubble and freshly turned earth, all different textures, colors and heights.  I saw the ditches filled with cattails, brown-eyed Susan, thistles, broadleaves and grasses too numerous to keep track of.  Red sumac, silver maple, weeping birch, evergreens and other trees filled windbreaks and groves with a cacophony of color.  Tidy little farmhouses with well-tended gardens and yard art alternated with sprawling, ramshackle farms with bikes, trampolines, pools, lazing dogs, and machinery scattered about.  Here and there a burned or abandoned farm haunted the landscape, with its own particular beauty painted in charcoal colors.  We do, indeed, have diversity in the countryside, it's just of a different sort.  Though perhaps this brand of diversity is not as impactful on lifestyle, its essential to living.

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