This weekend I sat at the top of a hill, looking out over the vast Iowa farmland and marveled – the beauty of this wide open space all around me was just a dream one year ago.
With the exception of my first year of marriage, in which we lived in a Los Angeles beach community, I’ve always lived in the suburbs. Sidewalks, cul-de-sacs and street lights were my normal. Smaller lots, houses tightly fitting in like puzzle pieces on the tree lined streets were all I had ever known. I loved these neighborhoods; they gave me a wonderful sense of belonging and a feeling of safety – neatly hemmed into this suburban life.
My childhood was full of bike rides, climbing trees and walking to my friends’ houses. I enjoyed raising my children on quiet streets with a sand box in the backyard and birdhouses near the kitchen window. I cherished pushing a stroller while my sweet babies babbled away as we enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine on our daily walks through the neighborhood.
While my childhood home in Louisville, Kentucky was in a traditional neighborhood with relatively small lot lines, we were fortunate to be at the top of a large hill on a nearly one acre parcel. From my bedroom window, I could see pastures with cows grazing beyond the street and houses. My daily commute to school passed through the beautiful rolling bluegrass of famed thoroughbred farms. The fog would rise each morning as the horses ate their breakfast beyond the black four board fences. I was able to find some space in this setting, I never felt closed in, there was room to breathe – to take in the natural world and openness of the land. And while my dad also grew up in a neighborhood, his favorite childhood memories were of visiting his grandparents’ farm. I loved his stories of summer days spent exploring the fields and barns. These experiences from my childhood have contributed to my desire for wide open spaces – before I ever imagined them possible.
Similarly, my husband grew up in the suburbs. However, the majority of his treasured memories occurred on the family farm (the childhood home of his Grandmother) in South East Iowa. He loved nothing more than time on the farm – riding tractors, the busy activity of harvest each fall, eating homemade cookies in his great-aunt’s farm house listening to talk of livestock and crops.
I have always loved nature, craved it really – I’ve experienced moments of deep peace beneath the canopy of leaves in the woods or breathtaking sunrises at the edge of the ocean. I had one particular moment in Santa Barbara, California decades ago that has stayed with me. I stood on a relative’s deck overlooking a grove of avocado trees, with views of rich green polo fields and the Pacific Ocean beyond, a picturesque scene by any measure, but after living in a busy beach community full of noise and commotion, the profound quiet wrapped around me, a sacred moment. This was the first time I was profoundly aware of the quiet – the depth of it, the calming comfort of it. These were inklings, occasional whispers urging a different way of life. A few years ago I began to truly crave more space; I can only describe it as needing “room to breathe.” I longed for a place to roam, to connect to the land all around me. I wanted to look up to the sky without the clutter of rooftops and take in the beauty of an approaching thunderstorm or see the countless stars in a dark night sky.
So when we recently had the unique opportunity to choose where we wanted to relocate our family, we felt the strong calling “home” – even though neither of us has actually ever lived here – near the family farm of my husband’s childhood visits in Iowa. This is not a choice for everyone, but for us, it is perfect.
This weekend we experienced our first truly warm days here since moving late last fall. We took a 4-wheeler ride up our favorite path to see the pastures full of cattle. Most mothers have begun giving birth to the sweetest little calves; still others wait and rest in the warmth of the sun for their babies to arrive. They are a sight to behold – dotting the landscape as far as the eye can see. That view, from the hill on the family farm with its brilliant blue sky above and the greening grass beneath is what called us home. We are here in Iowa taking in these wide open spaces and excited to experience the adventures ahead.
Wide open spaces
Room to breathe