Dreams Among the Corn

January 19th, 2009

What are dreams made of?  Some see them as lofty or far reaching goals that we risk time, energy and much of our lives to achieve.  That may be so, and I have been privileged to realize so many of my life’s dreams in that fashion.  Understanding has come to me more slowly however, that many of our dreams are often the simpler moments of our lives, realized over time almost without recognition.  And then too we are sometimes lucky enough to watch a dream unfold in front of us.

In the summer of 2008 I found both. It was a time spent with one who I never thought I might meet, a son that I™ve come to know these past eight years and who surprises me each day with the marvels of his smile and his joy for life.

We took a trip, he and I, and spent barely a couple of weeks on the road in a small camper. We didn’t really know where we were going, only that we wanted to explore. We brought his bicycle, a dog and enough clothes to keep going without having to figure out where to wash them. There we went… alone together on a great adventure! We ended up making a 12 day circle to the north around Lake Michigan. We camped, hiked, bicycled, swam and played with a little bear cub during that trip, even sharing a particularly good cherry pie from a roadside stand along the way. In all it was a time to watch my son growing up. I’ll never forget him riding his bicycle with other kids in campgrounds, waving at me as he enjoyed his newfound independence. So many stories to tell, but one stands out among the others.

Towards the end of our trip we visited a place where dreams have come true for millions. It™s a nostalgic, fun and even romantic place. One where people honor the journeys we all make in life in reaching, searching and sometimes even finding something within that we have been looking for. The place is called The Field of Dreams site near Dyersville, Iowa , and is where the movie by the same name was filmed. It™s a home, a farm and a baseball field, created for the movie and remembered as a site for people far and wide to come and visit. Today it remains almost the same as it was over 20 years ago.

My then 7-year old son had never seen the movie, while I fondly remembered it. We found ourselves driving within 20 minutes of the site by sheer coincidence. We had stopped for breakfast while driving from Wisconsin into Iowa, and I noticed the site as a œpoint of interest on the gps navigation device we used for the trip. That little gadget proved its worth a hundred times over, especially on that trip. When I saw the listing for the œField of Dreams Movie Site on the Garmin, my pulse quickened a bit as I have always thought it would be neat to visit. I never imagined it would still be the same, but it was.  As we drove closer the landscape changed to fields of corn and sky as far as one could see.  For some a visit here meant a kind of nostalgic return to baseball’s roots, but for others it was something more- perhaps a validation of dreams shared or let go, or a desire to connect deeply with something inside.

My son wondered, as would any young boy, what the big deal was about a baseball field in the middle of nowhere.  But he knew I was excited and that was enough for him to see some value in visiting. We drove down the highway and turned off through cornfields, driving in the back way along gravel roads passing farms and silos. Over a small hill the baseball field appeared near a quaint white farm house, just as I remembered in the movie. I may have been hoping for some music to begin playing, or some other magical moment. I didn™t have long to wait.

Field of Dreams, Dyersville, Iowa

We drove down the long driveway, and there were few cars. The field was there, and I wasn’t sure what we would do, but then something special happened.  I wasn™t even thinking of it, and had not even considered doing so, but as we drove down that lengthy drive to the baseball field my son turned and said, œHey Dad, you want to play catch?

My heart caught for a moment, I couldn™t believe he just said that. He™d never seen the movie, and couldn™t have known that was what I really wanted to do. I didn’t even know it… we had not ever talked about it. And I had forgotten that indeed we had brought two baseball gloves and a ball along on our trip to play catch with, never intending to do so here. It had been almost two weeks and we had not even brought the ball and gloves out yet either.

If you™ve ever seen the movie you know those words were pretty amazing. I don™t know why he thought of it really, but I simply said, œThat™s a great idea, as I pondered the reason we brought the ball and gloves. I thought then it was so we could be here, but that seemed so very strange.

We arrived early enough on a weekday morning that only a few other visitors were around. We let the dog out for a bit and looked around tentatively. Then we got the ball and gloves and walked out to the field, empty of anyone but us at first, and we marveled at the lush green grass.

 Field of Dreams baseball field

It was beautiful- a cloudless, perfect summer day. We walked all the way to the outfield, and up to the corn, even disappearing briefly as we walked through cornstalks. I giggled, he smiled and then wondered why I was laughing, and I said when he saw the movie he would know, but people came and went in this corn.  He had no idea what I was talking about, but had fun just the same.

Then we played catch. What a silly, nostalgic, warm, right feeling that was. Here on the backend of a really cool trip I was standing on the Field of Dreams with my son- playing catch. He was still learning really, and he threw me the ball. I threw it back- we both caught the ball on our first tries, which was a big deal. Then we laughed and threw the ball around some more, catching, dropping and smiling under the clear blue sky. All I could think of was how much I loved him, and how much I appreciated being his father.

Playing catch- Field of Dreams

Eventually he began running around, exploring. We made our way slowly off the field as I noticed more and more people arriving. In one corner another Dad and a teenage son were playing catch. Another father and son were pitching and hitting, and family members were sitting in the small bleacher seats. We walked around the site, succumbing to the tourist urge to buy a few things to remember the visit. The lady behind the souvenir window described to a visitor how she was in the movie as an extra, and helped us patiently as we looked over every bauble and remembrance. The boy was excited by a ball and holder, and we got t-shirts and a few other things. I sit here writing this while drinking out of a favorite coffee cup we got there, and thinking of the pennant in the boy’s room.

Playing catch at Field of Dreams

But it was time to walk the dog again and get ready to leave.  We talked for a bit with other visitors realizing that a dozen or more cars had arrived and the ball field was full of other people. Many fathers and sons were there now, throwing and hitting the ball to each other. We had got there early to share a special moment. I wasn™t the only sentimental old fool out there that day and it was nice to see.

Before leaving we went to get a coke, but the vending machine didn™t work after we put our coins in. I muttered something as an older, tanned gentleman on a tractor pulled to a stop in front of us, œThe machine not working? he asks, as I shake my head no.  He turns it off and comes over, and opens it up to help us get the drink. œAre you the owner? I ask, somehow knowing the answer, and he nods his head.

His name is Don Lansing, and I took the moment to shake his hand and thank him for keeping up the field and letting visitors come. He nodded and smiled, probably hearing the same thing a thousand times, and I described how I had first seen the movie while at sea on a navy ship almost 20 years ago half-way across the world. It didn™t matter if he had heard it, I needed him to know that another person was thankful. It couldn™t have been easy to keep the field this simple, this wholesome, this green all these years.  They didn’t even charge admission.

The Field of Dreams baseball site has become quite the tourist attraction now.  It’s small but very active in summer. Don said they didn’t advertise or promote it, and prefers to let people just find their own way in their own time. I™m sure many people would see them doing other things with it through the years, but instead it™s still just a simple ball field cut out of the corn, with a farm house and barn, and a small building for souvenirs. Even today, the landscape is surrounded by endless fields of corn.

People do come. Not just because of the movie, but also as a way to share a moment in time. Maybe it™s to share a special dream of their own in ways that others will not be able to understand. It was that way for me, almost as a validation of my life™s journey and a dream once held to become a father. That journey is another story, and a miracle in itself.  And I think of the journeys I took with my own father so many years ago.

Field of Dreams baseball field

The chance to play catch with my son across the soft green grass of summer was indeed magical, and a dream I could never have imagined.  Somehow on a trip with little direction or destination in mind, we found a place to share a moment we will always remember. For that I will always be thankful.

As we drove away I knew it was one of those memories to cherish, and that I would write about it.  That night we watched the movie together, in a small campground in Iowa, and he loved it even if not understanding most of it. But he identified with having been there.  I knew then as I do now, that things change, and our lives take directions we rarely plan for.   I don’t know what the boy will do as he grows up, or where his life will lead him.  But my heart is alive knowing how many other magical places there are in this world- I’ve seen so many of them- I hope he finds them too.  There will be other dreams and other moments, but for one special day we found our dreams among the corn.

Winter Sun and Fun in the Barn

January 13th, 2009

A beautiful sunny day, but cold!  And it’s going to be colder for the next few days.  I’ve been asking for snow, and look!  We actually got enough flurries to dust the ice on the pond.   I like how the trees stand as gray sentinels on the hillside- in summer you can’t see this corner of the pond very well because of all the leaves on the trees.

Fox Haven Pond in winter

The long range weather forecast doesn’t have any snow it in this month- will we go all winter with that one small snowstorm in December? 

Worked in the barn yesterday with the woodstove going- I’ve used it a couple times, but this was the first time I’ve kept it going for such a long time and it was pretty nice.  Why didn’t I put the stove in last year!?!   I had it piled in a corner, but didn’t find the “gumption” to tackle it until last fall.  I’m so glad I did- outdoor temperatures were in the high 30’s yesterday and the barn warmed up to around 50+ and a lot warmer near the stove.  That’s enough to fiddle comfortably with a host of things that need cleaned up.  In the afternoon the boy came home from school and did his homework while laying on cardboard near the stove.  He thought it was fun, and enjoyed the warmth.    

Staying warm by the woodstove

(The picture above was a little fuzzy in the darker light, so I applied some “watercolor” filtering to it.)   But working inside the barn gave me time to move some work lights around in preparation for cleaning up the work bench.  I’m embarrased to say I’ve put it off for almost 3 years!  I use it alot,  it’s just that tools and small items come and go from the bench top and it’s a disorganized mess.  And since it’s an outdoor barn/equipment shed, there’s always a lot of dust and grime.  Maybe, just maybe I’ll get started on that soon.  

But the main area inside of the barn is a different story… I’ve got that somewhat organized to maximize use of the space, and I like to keep the floors swept regularly.  It always feels so much better to keep things in order, and clean up the dust.  With tractors and mowers, dust and grass clippings are a way of life.  Our real work bench is closer to the house in the garage, and it’s in a lot better shape.  Still has a lot of junk piled around it, but at least it’s organized junk if there is such a thing!

Timeless Reflections, Welcome Thoughts

January 1st, 2009

It’s the dawn of a new day, and a new year.  Amazing how our lives evolve to a seeming time warp of past memories.  One day we look around and wonder, “What happened?!”  And thus it has ever been.  With the transition to a new year I always find myself in a reflective, perhaps pensive mood.  We are reminded of so much, and at times we struggle to understand the change in our lives, or even the passing of the year.

Last night the young boy stayed up for his first new year’s celebration.  Celebration is an optimistic word at best, but we all said farewell to the year gone by and toasted the arrival of the new year.  Considering that we usually fell asleep early the past few years, last night was a big event!  But as we counted down the minutes and seconds, the boy didn’t want 2008 to end.  He didn’t know why really, he just knew that we were saying goodbye to something, letting it go and moving on.  And those transitions are hard sometimes.  

Earlier in the day we said farewell to “Brownie” the goldfish.  Brownie was a gift to him five years ago at Christmas.  He awoke that day long ago with all the fervor of a three-year old, running down the hall shouting “Santa brought me fish!”   It was so cute.  And after starting with three, we now have one large, seven-inch goldfish left.  They grow big in five years. Brownie was a Black Moor- those bulbous, puffy eyed black colored goldfish.  Only Brownie became orange over the years presumably because of the food we gave him.  He looked like an orange ball with fins, and was a really nice fish.  But sometime last year his swim bladders stopped working right and he spent a few hours each day upside down swimming around.  He didn’t seem to mind, and swam upright otherwise.  But yesterday he was struggling on the bottom of the tank, and I knew it was his time.  Still I tried to resuscitate him, pushing him back and forth, coaxing him to live…  but shortly after he gave two big yawning gasps, a flick of the fins, and then he was gone.   I’ve never had a fish die in my hands before, it was very strange. 

Reflections in a winter pond

We took Brownie to the pond outdoors, the grounds were frozen and hard.  Besides we decided, fish live in the pond and that should be a good resting place for them too.   The boy cried and my heart was heavy as we said farewell, remembering our goodbyes to his Bepaw, my father, and a pet cat Sparky in recent years too.   So many memories- reflections of years past, the pace of change and the path of our lives.

Letting go can be hard, especially for those we love.  Even the symbolic change that a calendar represents holds meaning for us, created by man to lend astronomical reality to the measurement of our lives.  Today is really no different from yesterday, except that it is new, and we’re alive in the present.  And with our reflections come welcome thoughts of hope and promise.  It’s a day, the first day of the year, to make the best of ourselves, and continue making those memories we will cherish years from now. 

Painting the Pond

December 28th, 2008

These last few days have been uncharacteristically warm… and wet.  So much of the midwest has shifted from frozen to heavy rain, and people are worried about flooding again. I hope it’s not as bad as last year for so many folks.  The pond is so full it’s pouring out the spillway- something it usually does only in late spring.  The warmer, heavy rain coming into the pond from the watershed brought muddy discoloration from the runoff.  It mixed slowly throughout the day, and there was a sharp angle to the two types of mixing water.  Could that be because of different temperatures?  The pond had just barely thawed from being frozen the day before.  It looked interesting, whatever the reason- and I don’t think I’ve seen it quite like that before.   It only lasted for the day and is gone now.

Rainfall mixing into the pond in winter

After last night it looks like the rain has finally stopped and we should have a few nice days of sunny weather to dry out.   And the good news with all the rain is that the roof doesn’t leak with the new wood stove chimney.  Yipee!   The bad news is that we had so much rain that it leaked around the outside of the barn and into the front entrance getting the floor wet.  Boo!  Glad I raised the woodstove on bricks. I think I’ll need to grade the soil lower around the barn when it gets a little warmer to help keep the water from coming in off the hillsides.

It was so warm on Friday that I saw a few bees milling about outside the hives- although it was windy and they were getting blown about quite a bit.  While carrying wood to the house, I found one clinging to a small piece of wood.  We carried it back to one of the hives.  Maybe they’ll have a chance to stretch their wings a bit more this week.

Christmas was very nice, and gave us a chance to visit with family.  One of the family members is just 3 years old, and is the center of attention.  Our young one is about five years older, and gave the little one a prized “stick horse” riding pony, complete with “neighing” sounds when you press its ear.  The smile on the 3-year olds face was priceless… he “rode” it around the room, and when they left, kept it hugged tightly to his chest on the way out.  It’s nice to see joy on the face of a child.

Blessings for Christmas

December 24th, 2008

A welcome day of warmer temperatures, and all that Christmas Eve brings.  The afternoon sun is settling behind the trees, and it all comes so much faster than I remember.  But it’s nice, and the excitement of the children brings fond memories. I was looking for something nice to share, and found it today from a friend, an Irish Christmas Blessing-

The light of the Christmas star to you
The warmth of home and hearth to you
The cheer and good will of friends to you
The hope of a childlike heart to you
The joy of a thousand angels to you
The love of the Son and God’s peace to you.

As you may celebrate and share, we wish you a joyous Holiday season, and Merry Christmas!

Santa and Reindeer


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