Excerpt from road trip

[June 15, 2015 Part of Our road­trip to coastal North Carolina]

June 8th, 2015: On NC-99 between Ply­mouth and Pan­tego, NC Some­how we’ve end­ed up in Indiana.

We’ve come upon com­mer­cial­ized farm­land which I haven’t seen since Indiana—flat, seam­less­ly plant­ed fields that run to the hori­zon. The roads drop away plumb-line straight and like infin­i­ty, tend to hyp­no­tize. Any sense of speed is sus­pend­ed. We aren’t dri­ving so much as float­ing while the land­scape sluices by. There is no point of ref­er­ence to com­pare our motion to oth­er bod­ies. It’s like being, I would imag­ine, on a vast calm ocean or an inter­stel­lar voyage–everything is far away, your rel­a­tive motion all but imper­cep­ti­ble. The road and the fields are unbro­ken, unde­mar­cat­ed lines that make it hard to judge speed in the same way judg­ing a mile-long train’s speed: they seem sta­tion­ary until they go blar­ing by like tor­na­does. With­out land­marks, I can see how some­one can eas­i­ly break 80, 90 miles an hour and not be aware of it

I yell at the kids in the back to look out their win­dows at the view and they do look up from their ipads and won­der what I am try­ing to show them. They are used to hills and trees and hous­es and here they only see geo­met­ric planes of browns and greens; I might as well be show­ing them a gray-laden, blank sky. To me it speaks of where I grew up and reminds me of my long trips between Chica­go and south­ern Indi­ana dur­ing col­lege breaks, hours of rid­ing a road through unbro­ken corn­fields that numbed friends mad from lack of scenery. But you dri­ve it long enough and you learn to appreciate—what I lat­er learned is called—the “neg­a­tive space” of the scenery, which is the space around and between things, sort of like Indi­ana; it’s a space between oth­er states in the Midwest—which I learned some peo­ple think includes all the states until the Rock­ies, which real­ly are called the Great Plains—and like­wise the way the Mid­west is, to some peo­ple, all that space between New York and say, San Diego [hmm, Leslie.] Need­less to say, they don’t bring the need­ed bag­gage to under­stand or appre­ci­ate indus­tri­al-grade farm­ing for its aus­tere and glacial­ly-paced beauty.