Visit to the Heartland

by Oak Hill Studio

This is not my parents’ home, but it is a common midwestern summertime view.

It has become a summertime tradition to travel out to visit my family in Illinois and this year I actually captured much of it on camera.  Hmm…I think it would be an interesting comparison to see how many photos people take when their children are little with how many are taken as they grow older.  For us anyway, the number has dwindled drastically.  However, having just replaced our old (5 years; rather old by today’s standards) malfunctioning digital camera, I was determined to make more of an intentional effort!

We have traveled this same route at least a dozen times before, but about 5 years ago, as we turned off the interstate to travel on back roads  we were met by quite an interesting sight.  I think this particular trip occurred during the wintertime, and so the evening sky was pitch black.  Yet amidst the darkness hundreds of red lights stretching across many miles of flatland puzzled us.  As we drew closer, strange stick like creatures towered above the landscape, flashing their red lights.

Well, once again as we neared my childhood home, we were met by this site that is taking me a little while to get used to.

These wind turbines stretch for miles across the landscape.

I have yet to decide if I like them.  From an aesthetic point of view, when the turbines are turning they do look rather graceful; at other times they seem like so much litter cluttering the natural landscape.  I bet locals felt similarly when the first phone and electrical poles went up decades ago.  As for the environmental perspective, I guess I don’t have enough information to make a wise analysis.  How much power is harnessed?  How does that compare to the cost of installation/upkeep?  What exactly are the environmental impacts–the effects on wind patterns, etc.?

Speaking of landscapes, I sure miss those gorgeous Illinois sunsets, unimpeded by various structures and trees as they are in the Northeast!  The haze only adds to the beauty.

Throughout the years a passion of my parents’, and especially of my dad is to nurture, mostly native, trees.  Their park-like yard is the result of many, many years of hard work.  Most (or all?) of the trees in their yard were planted as young saplings; many of them transplanted from their timberland near the river (the only place trees seem to grow naturally in farm-country).  If I were to count up the hours of labor, they would likely stretch into years!  In fact, we have often been put to work helping to clear out brush from the timber.  It is hard, sweaty, scratchy, and sometimes painful work.  (The barbs on the native locust are 1-3″ long, and there seems to be no shortage of brambles!)  I think my Dad’s love language must be acts of service!  But, as the years pass, I find myself much more desirous of doing these types of things that are so important to him.

Michaela took this photo of my dad and I just love it!  I think it really captures him well; notice the dirt on his cap.   He rarely is seen without his farmer’s cap!

Well, besides helping my dad in the timber and mom with yard work, we did get to go on a few fun outings.  For the first time (of all the trips we’ve made) we hopped in the car to travel to see a few sights in Chicago with my brother and his family.  (I guess after traveling for 17 hrs, we aren’t normally too eager to drive very far.)

We really enjoyed the Field Museum and even got to see Sue, the T-Rex! This is probably one of the most impressive museums I’ve been to.  There are a wide variety of exhibits–both of the natural world and various human histories.

We took a short ride on a water taxi from Navy Pier to the Field Museum.  The nice breeze off the water helped to cool us off.

I’ll end with a neat photo that Michaela took of the moon as it rose over the fields one evening.  She took advantage of the 21x zoom, and this was the result.