accent photo

As a farmer's daughter, I have always been proud to say that I grew up in the cornfields of Illinois. Not a bad place to grow up, especially if you enjoy getting one-on-one with Mother Nature. I remember the hubbub of spring planting—smelling the moist earth as it was opened to receive the seeds being planted; being ever watchful for blue summer skies filling with giant silver–white, puffy thunderheads as the weather patterns were about to change; the smell of corn pollen in July; the rustling dry corn leaves in fall; and the energy-charged harvest season. What I had forgotten from my childhood was how a field of corn can dramatically awaken your senses of sight, smell, touch, and sound.

As I worked on my project for The Illinois Steward magazine, I was able to revisit my childhood and spend time alone in the cornfield. I had planned to photograph and write about critters in the corn. Early one morning, I went to the cornfield to photograph corn critters, insects, whatever. The corn was glistening with morning dew. The good news for me was that there were not a lot of insects in our cornfield this year, not so good for the article I had planned. However, what I rediscovered was even better than insects in the corn. What I heard and smelled and saw and felt that early morning was glorious! I went alone, deep into the field. The corn towered over my head and brushed against every part of my body. I could see no beginning and no end to the rows of corn. I noticed the gentle curl of the long corn leaves and the soft white hairs extending out from each stalk of corn. Totally cut off from the outside world, my senses ignited. As I stood between the emerald green rows of corn, I looked up to see that the clear morning sky was the exact color of spring bluebells. It would be a great day. I could hear birds doing their twitter-talk not far from where I stood, but I couldn't see them, just the all-encompassing corn. I detected no movement, so the birds must have been perched on top of the stalks. What were they? As I proceeded down the alley of corn, my movement startled the birds, and they burst into flight over my head. Blackbirds, lots of blackbirds, streaks of jet black ink winging across the bluebell sky. I heard movement in the corn behind me; the corn leaves were swooshing. What was coming? I thought it might be a deer. Wouldn't it be great to snap a picture of a large buck coming through the corn, if only it didn't run over me. Not to fear, it was just the wind making the elongated green ribbons of the summer corn leaves swish against each other as it made its way through the field.

accent photo

By this time, my shirt was feeling more than a little damp from all the dew on the corn. I took a picture of a drop of dew hanging on the very tip of a corn leaf, ready to plop to the leaf below. Wet, crystal-looking dewdrops were artistically sitting on the corn silks. Beautiful! A small brown cricket chirped at my feet, then sprang away. I walked down a row, listening to sounds of the cornfield I had forgotten existed, investigating the stalks, looking for insects, noticing the pollen dropped on the ribbed leaves of corn.

I stepped through the sharp-edged blades of corn to the next row, all the while zigzagging my way through the field, enjoying every minute of solitude. I remembered my dad advising me as a child that if I ever got lost in the cornfield to always walk to the end of the row. He told me that when you get to the end rows, where the corn rows begin to cross the row you are walking in, you will know you are almost out of the field. Today, I wasn't looking for the end rows. I was being captivated by the corn. Seeing the beautiful green corn, smelling the corn pollen and the earth it was bursting from, feeling the corn leaves brushing against my face and the soft silks under my fingers, hearing the corn gently swoosh and birds singing made for a special time of solitude. All of this caused me to make an appointment with myself to be sure to come back to the cornfield in a few months when it would be ripe and brown and ready for harvest, providing me with entirely different sights, sounds, and smells that would totally captivate me again.