Beau 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.