close up, because there is no elevation that would allow you to see further.
2. The familiarity of grain silos. Their image is thumprinted on my brain like my kindergarten teacher's voice.
3. Tractor-shaped mailbox adjacent to a silver-studded motorcycle. John Deere and Harley Davidson.
4. Turquoise. Single-story ranch home with dulcet antique autos. I whirred by a freeze frame of the color: pool-bottom blue, glossy.
5. Sumac. Occasional copses of my hairy friend, red and soft. Make tea with the gentle pods, or dry and crumble for the sour Middle Eastern spice.
6. Houses with names. Signs in front of them, swinging, declaring habitation, colonized status: WINDY HILL. MUDDY CREEK. SECRET HOLLOW.
7. Wild orange daylilies + smelling palatial moonlilies. They crop up like freckles on the highway's shoulder, orange blinks in the brush. Scrappy and wild. Not like those towring kindred behind the Edgewter Palace gate, moon-colored sepals peeling impossibly to reveal stamen replete with tangerine pollen. It smelled like Bath & Body Works. We hovered around them, cooing.
8. How I met Chicory. In an in-between time of my early 20s, several friends I made who were students at the local university genereously shared their institutional access with me. I maxxed out their generosity, attending every lecture and opening. Lydia Moyer showed works in progress at a. half-full lecture auditorium that smelled like a carseat. The videos shook me because they caused my realization that formal qualities could be thrown arown freely. Moyer had power to represent, and she used it. Her process prodded uncertainly at complex structures and emotions, juicy with color and texture that unfolded and confused itself.
I recognized Diane's voice in the video Moyer was showing right away and felt so happy and proud. That weird mix of compersion/envy/pride/screamfeel when someone kind of famous who you love shares your other niche celebrity crush - fragile fame adoration triangle.
I always loved the line "pale blue chicory's all gone withery." Cluck is a master of using plants and animals to witness time passing in lyric. After hearing it sampled in Moyer's video, I longed to listen to the track on repeat, but it hadn't been release yet. Because she is a literal angel, Cluck emailed me an mp3 of the song when I emailed her asking where I could find it.
About 4 years later, I realized those blue July stars are the exact flower from the song. Sunflower family, Asteracae. Roots good for a coffee substitute when roasted and ground, which it was used for in Appalachia during the Depression and WWII, I think.
9. Queen Anne's Lace. I guess it's their time, too. Lots of edible things look like her - carrots, parsnip, cow parsnip. Some really poisonous things look like her, too. I'm not versed enough to know the difference so I keep to myself.
10. Sundown Towns. At first, driving through small town Illinois is somehow charming. The charm of the road has the quality of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland -- epic shifts of scale, puzzline bylines from quippy liminal characters, and a nefarious-feeling undertone. Towering grain silos punctuate the overwhelmingly pastoral amber waves of literal fucking grain. Mariokart-perfect white clouds in a Laffy-Taffy blue sky. A trailer passes towing machine tires the size of my whole studio apartment. Instead of the Cheshire Cat, billboards occasionally spit out mean riddles about fetuses and hell. The nefarious undertone is what catches my imagination in a dark net. What specifically is so creepy about this landscape? That it is stolen? The homogeneity of the corn fields? The flatness, overexposing to my deeply ingrained hillbilly sensitivities?
I remembered my friend telling me about growing up in small town Midwest. She said the place next to her hometown was a sundown town into the 1990s. The memory of the conversation surfaced as I realized I wasn't far from the place she had named. It's a dull, perpetual horror, realizing I will never know the depth nor intensity of the racism and hatred in the places I pass through. The privilege of ignorance. The veneers whizzed past me, Americana carousel.