Flat. The great big middle of America is flat. From an airplane window you can see the round irrigation circles arranged neatly in the grid of agriculture. I never thought much of it until I was amongst the flatness. I didn’t think it was anything to see. But standing in it, I can’t deny the feeling of infinite possibility in a place with so much space and so few bounds. Vast fields roll off into the farthest distance, equal parts sunflowers and sky.
The road leads in a straight line to whatever it is you are trying to get to. The next town. The next mountain. The next river. You can drive straight to anything between Ohio and the furthest edge of Kansas and Nebraska. Seriously.
There isn’t much place to hide out here. Not from the weather or from each other. The biggest buffer you have is distance. You can watch a storm 50 miles away pass right on by. The storms move quickly.
There is nothing to hide behind but there is also nothing to place you. There is no mountain telling you what direction you are walking. There is no river eroding away at the earth to create topography. There is not a damn thing out here that tells you how far you’ve come or how far you have to go. Not in nature.
In this place, you can look around and see the curve of the earth in whatever crop is growing near you. Alfalfa. Soy. Corn. Wheat. Sunflowers.
I stand in the flowers. The breeze moves them around me and I feel like I should blow around too. Their yellow faces sway back and forth. Friendly. Perfectly friendly. If I walked just far enough into this field, I wouldn’t know which direction to walk out of it. I would have to grow roots and exist among them.
I drive farther than I believe is possible. The flatness persists. Days of flat.
When I start to see terrain again, it feels shocking the way someone’s swollen ankle feels shocking. The hills rise unnaturally out of the plains. I roll over them, rising and falling. At the crests, I can see they go on forever.
Now, I long to see the flatness again. This thing that felt endless is hard to get back to. I think of the sky there, bigger than me and bigger than everything else. Not bigger than the earth, not by much.
I think of that place and I think of how easy it would have been to fall into a field of flowers and never come back out. I could have bought a little farm house for nothing, made it perfect. I could’ve bought some cows and some chickens and learned how to grow endless fields. Endless, earth-curving fields. I think of these things and I think of how I almost fell in love with the big flat.