Saturday, June 7, 2008

Oh Pioneers!

My apologies to Willa Cather for pilfering her title. The subtitle for this entry could be "Oh the Joy of Illinois".

What I want to talk about today is the tendency of people to romanticize the idea of living in the country. I know this subject first hand because years ago when we lived on a tiny suburban lot I lived on a steady diet of Country Living, Country Home and any other "country" magazine I could get my hands on. Over time you build up this highly idealized vision of what living in the country means.

Think about those magazine spreads depicting lovely luncheons on a sweeping lawn or a spectacular dinner under the stars with a metal gazebo draped in diaphanous fabric and a beautiful wrought iron chandelier suspended over the table ablaze with candles. My only question is, "What are those editors smoking?" Maybe they can share because I've got a headache that could use some illicit drugs.

What's causing my headache? Well, I spent most of the day doing a dry run tile layout in my basement in preparation for tackling the tile installation job by myself. Yeah, I'm crazy that way. When I went upstairs to take a shower and change my clothes I was met with a sight that was upsetting but not unusual. My beautiful dark bedroom furniture was obviously very dusty. I ran my hand across the top of the dresser and came up with this:


I know what you're saying, "Wow, that's one really terrible housekeeper!" And that's where you'd be wrong because I dusted my furniture first thing this morning! Which means there's been a perfect storm of conditions here in northern Illinois.

After making the bed I opened all the windows because it was already getting warm and the humidity was rising. I took the time to dust the furniture, had a cup of coffee, checked my e-mail and proceeded downstairs to work.

One of the distinctive features of the Illinois landscape is the wind. Yes, the wind is as much of the landscape as the prairie plants or trees. It's always windy. If it's not windy we get a little nervous because it usually means something bad is going to happen (calm before the tornado bad). Today was exceptionally windy with gusts rising to rival tropical storm levels. Couple that with the fact that due to weather conditions the crops have been recently planted and the fields are a little dry. So what I wiped off my dresser this evening was a nice layer of black Illinois topsoil.

Back to the problem of romanticizing life in the country. People are moving to our area in droves. They're all looking to capture their little bit of rural paradise. But the problem is that the reality is not living up to the magazine version. When I worked at the newspaper we would get some amazing letters to editor. New residents living in subdivisions that were soybean fields last year would write and complain that those darn farmers tilling the fields just to the west were creating clouds of dust. They were having to dust their cherry dining room sets twice a day! Couldn't something be done about those farmers?? I am not kidding.

We also received letters about the pesky hay wagons whose slow progress down the county road was causing people to be late for their dinner dates. And the most shocking continues to be those new residents who insist on leaving their small pets unattended in their yards. Did I mention we share the land with coyotes?

- One of our rural roads. Doesn't that just take your breath away?

The biggest problem is that people move here without having the temperment needed to thrive in a rural setting. It's rarely magazine spread material. Nothing is staged for camera shoots. You need to be able to bail water when the electricity goes out, and be willing the following day to shell out big bucks for a generator. Then you're going to need to know how to fire up that generator, in the dark, in a storm, with one hand tied behind your back.

We have learned the dichotomy of living in the country. You learn to be self-sufficient in almost any situation BUT you know that neighbors will pitch in to help at a moment's notice.

It's true, I was once one of those people who believed that living in the country was a magazine spread. What I found is that it's so much better than a magazine could ever portray, except for the fact that now I must dust every piece of furniture in the house!

NOTE: To be honest with you in a lot of circles we wouldn't even be considered rural since we live only 50 miles from a major metropolitan area (Chicago). I read a blog that's written by a woman in Missouri who lives 45 miles from the nearest cell tower. THAT'S RURAL. I guess there's stratifications of rural. Who knew?


Marie Reed said...

I live in a small country town about two hours from Paris. Rich Parisains thus often have little week end houses here as well. It is hilarious to see the woman hiking around the lake in high heels! I think that they are missing the point!

Mary said...

When I was growing up, our neighborhood was not quite rural, but not yet a suburban mecca either. Our neighbor 100 yards to the east had a small farm. When the new people who moved in across the road complained of the smell from his sheep, he fenced in his front yard so that they would be closer to the "city slickers." He and my dad shared a good laugh over that.
btw, I think you meant "illicit" and not "elicit" drugs. Hope I'm not stepping on any toes by pointing that out, but I used to be a copy editor and you used to work in newspapers...

Suzanne said...

Oh Marie, I would love to see those women hiking in heels! Ooh lah!

Mary - There is a lot of that going around here as well. It's a crazy mix of cultures colliding before our very eyes.

No toes are being stepped upon. I RELY on my readers in this regard. You get "The Catch of the Day Award". I've made the correction. I could rewrite the sentence to include both terms.

"I elicited a promise from the magazine editor to provide me with illicit drugs."


Have a great Saturday everyone.

- Suzanne

Jen r. said...

You must not be too far off from me because I am about 30 miles outside of Chicago....
Where I grew up, there was a pig farm literally across the street. There's nothing like a warm summer night eating dinner and the wind blowing just the right way :) ....Jen R

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Now I live in small town USA, but having that kind of dust blow in over just a few hours would tick me off. I couldn't possibly live in your corner. LOL!

PAT said...

Hello Suzanne

I don't think I've visited here, before. I may have, then lost my way back. I clicked over from Rue's where I've made a couple nosey visits, today, to see what the answers and questions are.

We live just a bit outside a small town about 50 miles nw of downtown St Louis. Our town is now considered an area of metro Stl. A sort of bedroom community. My husband grew up here, on the family farm and lived there for almost 60 years, we sold the farm 5 years ago and moved to a subdivision farther out in the country. At that time, the farm had been my home for about 20 years. We have a pretty good idea of what rural life is like and what you wrote is delightful and right on the mark. I enjoyed reading this post.

As I was reading I kept seeing images from the movies Funny Farm and Baby Boom!

I read your advice to Rue about getting the word out about blogs. I've often wondered about technorati. Is that the correct spelling? I might check into that. In March 2007, I just started blogging away without knowing a thing about. Not long ago, I started a photo blog, because along the blogging way, I found I have a pretty good interest in photography. I still don't know what I'm doing blogwise, though! I'm appreciative of your advice and will see what I can find out.


Life on Bonnie Lane said...

Oh dear, when I first saw that picture or your hand, my first thought was, "shoot, she's been in my house!" Wish I had Illinois topsoil to blame! I think those Illinois storms hit my area in northwest Ohio just a few hours later.

The country life sounds appealing to me, but I'm a town girl at heart. I hear you though about the people complaining about the farmers and the like. We had people do that around here too when they complained about the smell of a hog barn. Well what the heck were they thinking pigs and manure were going to smell like? Geesh, lol.

Rue said...

Good morning Suzanne :)

I know exactly what you mean about those people thinking the country would be something else. My mom was one of those people. Eventually she got the hang of it though. We moved from a suburb outside of Los Angeles to a ranch with cattle. I have some stories about that LOL I'll have to share them on the blog sometime. Funny stuff!


Karen said...

Your hand looks like my hand does, about 1/2 an hour after dusting. Mind you, I do live in the desert :-)