An Iowa Primer

You know what kills me? People often feel the need to express their condolences when I tell them that I’m from Iowa. The conversation usually goes a little something like this:

“Iowa? You mean the place with all the potatoes?”

“No, that’s Idaho.”

“Oh. Did you say Ohio?”

“No, Iowa. You know, the heartland. The center of the United States. The home of the bridges of Madison County and the Amana Colonies and the Hawkeyes.”

Blank look. “Wow. You’re a long ways from everything aren’t you?”

Everything. As if what we have is… well, nothing.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I enjoyed that particular conversation much more when Aaron and I lived in Vancouver. As soon as someone voiced the question, I happily (and not without a bit of pride) announced that we were British Columbians, that trendy set of urban tree-huggers who were equally comfortable in a pair of hiking boots or expensive stilettos, depending on the situation. There was a certain status that seemed to naturally come with claiming such a diverse, international city as my home base — surely I was by extension the embodiment of everything good my geographical location had to offer. Conversely, as a small town Iowa girl, I too, must be bland, narrow-minded, and stodgy. And who knows? Maybe I am those things.

But I’d like to think not.

I’d like to believe that the simple beauty of my home mirrors the uncomplicated deepest desires of my heart: time and space and peace. Iowa offers all of those things to me — time for the things that matter (my family, my friends, the pages of a good book, a blank notebook before me, a fine glass of wine), space to breathe (blue skies and golden prairies, a fresh breeze and the sound of silence), and an unexpected peace (the sense that, to a certain extent, time has forgotten us here, that the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world can be forgotten — if only for a minute).

Iowa is long walks and longer conversations. It’s songbirds in the morning and the sun on your face. It’s the scent of backyard fires and sticky sweet s’mores. The sweep of crimson sumac in the fall. Ditches full of black-eyed susan and golden finches perched on the swaying tips of slender grass. Harvest moons and thunderstorms, white-soft blankets of perfect winter snow and the lightbulb flicker of fireflies on hot July nights.

Sure, I have to drive an hour to get to the nearest Target. But you should see the stars in my backyard. And it’s true, I miss the mountains, the salty-crisp tang of the ocean, and the sound of six different languages being spoken on the streets, but Dorothy was on to something when she said, “There’s no place like home…”

I’ve decided that Iowa is the guy/girl next door. You spend your childhood taking it for granted, believing that it’s nothing special. But then you grow up and you realize that it’s beautiful — and it always has been. You just never had the eyes to see it. It’s the sort of love affair that takes you completely by surprise.

Ask me the question. I dare you. I’ll answer, happily (and not without a bit of pride).

How about you? Do you love where you’re planted?

*I have to throw in a PS… All the photos in this post were taken yesterday during a Labor Day hike/kayaking expedition with my boys and my mom and dad. It was exactly the sort of day for falling in love with Iowa all over again…


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8 Responses to An Iowa Primer

  1. jill hoke says:

    I live in Florida, and I love it. It’s so green here in the spring and summer. We live near the ocean, and there is usually a day in late winter when you can smell the salt in the air. It’s definately home for me.

    My in-laws live in Boone, IA. It’s beautiful country. My son just spent the summer with them. He worked in a cornfield and met a girl. He loves it.

  2. Britanie Summerhays says:

    I do NOT love where I am planted at the moment. I don’t HATE it…I just don’t love it. It’s not home. I miss everything about home (Oregon)… the tall pine and evergreen trees, the beautiful snow-capped mountain outside my parents’ living room window, the dry heat in the summer and the cold, snowy winters, the 60 herd of deer that wander around and are often spotted everywhere on my parents 800-acre ranch and my extended family, of course. I also miss having my mom close by for those days when you are having a Monday on a Tuesday and you just need to cry and receive nothing but a hug because it’s your mom and she “gets it”. Also, my mom is am RN so she would be a GREAT help when it comes to my daughter. Please tell me your secret, dear friend, how DID you get your Canadian man to move?? This is probably a conversation we should have in private…I really want to discuss this with you :)

    Love all your posts…even though I don’t always make the time to respond!



    • Nicole Baart says:

      Getting my Canadian man to move to the states wasn’t as hard as it sounds… He followed a job he loved. We both love Canada and may find ourselves back there someday, but for now we’re very happy where we are. Anyway, I’d love to discuss. Call me sometime! In the meantime, I’m sorry your’re homesick. :-( There’s nothing quite so heartbreaking as the feeling that you’re not where you belong. Sending hugs…

  3. Marsella says:

    I moved to Sioux Center three years ago after living in Fort Collins, CO for 26 years. At first I compared everything to Colorado and everyone I met here asked me why did you move here? Like I was crazy for doing so.

    At first I hated the bugs and humidity but there is nothing so beautiful as a horizon of rippling corn and the sun setting on farmers cultivating their fields. It kinda choked me up. This is the heartland of America.

    Never have I found such kindness and a sense of community. Sioux Center is a beautiful little town and has completely captured my heart. Iowa is home.

    • Nicole Baart says:

      To me, community = home. Geography is nice, but I can visit the mountains/ocean/city anytime I want. What I can’t reproduce is the sense of belonging that goes hand-in-hand with blooming where you’re planted. Glad you’ve found your home!

  4. Annie says:

    I moved from Monterey, CA where I lived for almost 16 years. I had access to everything geographically beautiful and a climate that embraced outdoor sports: hiking, biking which I love to do. God called me to Dallas, TX area. People would ask me: why? Short answer: God called me here. He caused me to fall in love with Texas. It has its own geographic beauty, although quite different than California. I believe that wherever you are called to be–anointed to live, to bloom where you are planted He blesses with his favor. I love the wide open spaces of Texas, the expansive sky, the warmth. My neighborhood is my special haven, and I enjoy it. I can’t explain it, because to others eyes it appears to be very ordinary, although I’m blessed to live near a lake (cause God knew I needed to be near water). I loved what you wrote about Iowa–indeed it is a place of quiet beauty where as you said you can focus on family, friends, and the simplicity of life. Well put Nicole. Makes me want to visit! Warmly, Annie

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