“It all makes perfect sense now.”
Those were the words that an editor at The Des Moines Register emailed me. For more than a decade, the editor admitted, he thought I was a little bit nuts to step off the front page into a life of obscurity on an Iowa farm.
“I always shook my head at your decision,” he wrote. Why, he wondered, would I trade the newsroom for a life as an Iowa farm wife?
But, then, he said, he read my heart in these words:
I’m parked at the end of our country lane, right by the Lee mailbox and a long row of hay bales. I watch the sun rise right up over our fields, cutting a hole through the fog.
I’m surprised by the beauty. My two schoolgirls, in the backseat, gasp. I snap frame after frame with my Nikon while we wait for the school bus to crest the hill. I’ve learned something about mornings in Iowa: Always have your camera in the passenger seat.
You’d think the newness of an Iowa morning would have worn off by now. Shoot, I’m not even “new” here anymore. I grew up 100 miles from this spot, where you find me now, snapping pictures. I was raised on sweet corn and simple prayers and county fairs and the luxury of wide open spaces. I’m as Iowan as a girl can get.
But for most of my life, I didn’t notice the magical, extravagant beauty of my own homeland. I had twice visited the Rocky Mountains as a child; now THAT was real beauty. I’d heard about other places: Iguacu Falls in South America, the great coral reef off the shore of Australia, the giant sequoias in California.
I lived in a land that everyone else called “fly-over country.”
And for a long time, this native Iowan agreed. I was determined to fly right over and outta here.
I’ve long had vision problems — missing the beauty right under my own two feet.
Growing up, I didn’t notice. Never batted an eye when the sun melted like orange sherbet over the fields in my backyard. Never looked twice when the grass sprouted a green, lush carpet under my bare toes. Only now, as I write it all down, do I remember that an early winter rain could turn a clothesline into a chandelier.
I didn’t notice the beauty of a whole lot of things — like, how death can be breathtaking. Have you ever seen the hopeful allure of a dying farmfield in October?
I saw boring, dusty roads that lead to nowhere and back again.
Maybe it takes a change of scenery to remember what you didn’t see the first time around.
The editor responded: “After reading this, I found the answers to all of those ‘why did she’ questions I uttered years ago.”
And really? I’ve only begun to learn the truth about such things myself: that the smallest moments are the biggest moments, and that the moments that really make a life aren’t front-page news.
I’ve only begun to learn that I’m being made somewhere between the hay bales and the sticky syrup bottle and the Monday laundry piles.
I have learned that the most spectacular parts of life didn’t come with a byline or a pay raise or a framed award for the wall.
Maybe some of you will make the Hall of Fame of Such and Such. And if you do? I’ll be there cheering you on.
But most of us? We’re being made in the simple, holy, ordinary moments in these unpretentious places. We’re living the remarkable, in what some find unremarkable. We’re taking out the trash, and feeding the cats, and packing school lunches, and folding denim. And if we’re parents, we’re raising our miniature humans to be people of light in a world that can sometimes feel dark.
The moments that shape us are the moments that might never get noticed–
You know the moments–
Those times when you’re holding a cool washcloth to a fevered forehead.
When you leave a love note on the counter.
When you’re in the middle of the long embrace. Or the short game of Husker Du.
The molding moments happen in the skipping of rocks, and the counting of stars, and the praying for God to bless your food and your family.
So how do you live the most remarkable life of all? By living the one you’ve been given.
Truth is, most of us are made in the mundane. And if we were waiting for the big moment, we will have missed the beauty of the small one, the one where life really happens, one tiny miracle at a time. And maybe someone will think you’re nuts for embracing the ordinary, and then maybe a decade later, that Same Someone might send you an email to tell you it all makes perfect sense.
And maybe they won’t send that email. But that’s okay. Because you’ll already know the truth about such things.