Fields of Gold

A few weeks ago, we visited a friend’s farm where they are experimenting if they can grow rice here in Iowa. In case you don’t know, we don’t plant rice here. The farms here in Iowa are mostly corn and soybeans. Though rice is grown in a few southern states of the US.

The rice that they are trying to grow here in Iowa is a different type of rice though. As you can see in the picture below, it is not growing in paddies that we Filipinos are more familiar with. This variety of rice is more sturdy to the cold weather and does not need irrigation or much water. Of course the part owner of this farm is a Filipino. As we Filipinos loves rice, where ever part of the world we are.

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Back in the Philippines, even though I grew up in the city, we went to my father’s province quite regularly when I was young. Their ancestral home was by the edge of a rice field. We spent many hours watching farmers work on those fields. We sometimes played in those fields too, hunted for palakang bukid (frogs) there, and even played tag with my cousins while running in the pilapil (dikes).

During harvest season, it was beautiful to see the palay (rice) with their golden grain swaying and dancing as the wind blows through them like the waves of the sea. I miss seeing those fields of palay.

In 1993, one of my favorite singers, Sting released the song “Fields of Gold.” The song opens and ends with these words:

You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold.

Sting found inspiration to write that song as his house in England, a 16th century Wiltshire manor house, was surrounded by barley fields. Even though I am not familiar with fields of barley, I can somehow relate as I have seen “golden” fields of rice, which I believe has the same poetic appeal.

If Sting lived in the Philippines, he could have sung: “You’ll remember me when the west wind moves, upon the fields of palay.” And if he grew up in the Philippines, his name may not be Sting, but it could be Pagi (stingray), or Putakti (wasp), which we know can sting bad. Sorry I digress.

By the time the song Fields of Gold became popular, it was the time also that I left the Philippines. You could say that I left my native land in search of some greener pastures and in pursuit of “fields of gold.”

When I came to America, the first couple of CD’s I bought was albums of Sting. For several months, during my lonely moments, Sting kept me company. I listened to his melancholic songs of Fragile and They Dance Alone, and also sang along his upbeat songs like All This Time and If You Love Somebody Set Them Free. Sometimes he even serenaded me to sleep.

After living here in the US for some time, and after moving from New Jersey, then to New York, then to California, then to Florida, and finally settling here in Iowa, I believe I have found what I was looking for. I can even claim now that I am literally looking at fields of gold. With autumn season upon us and with changing fall colors, even the fields here are turning gold, signifying that harvest time is near.

Below is a picture of a ‘golden’ soybean field.

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I may have traveled long and far in pursuit of my dreams, but at least I can say that it brought me to my own fields of gold. I am not saying that I own those soybean fields. I don’t own corn fields either. I am not even talking about the soybeans, or cornfields, or even those rice fields. What I’m saying is this – what I own, is the realization of my dreams.

As I was running the other morning near these golden fields, the song Fields of Gold was playing in my mind. And if I may borrow from the lyrics of Sting, albeit with some changes:

Many years have passed since those summer days among the fields of barley palay
See the children me as I run, as the sun goes down up among the fields of gold.

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(*photos of soybean fields taken during my morning run)

 

Sunset Boulevard

In Hollywood, there’s a famous street called Sunset Boulevard. It is lined with tall palm trees, bright lights, commercial establishments, and is teeming with cars and people any time of the day. This is where the Star’s Walk of Fame is also located. I drove and walked in that road a couple of times.

Here’s our version of Sunset Boulevard here in Iowa, which I am more familiar with.

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Just me, the road, and the sunset.

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(*photos taken while on our way to my daughter’s university)

Watching Cornfields Grow

There’s an English idiom that says “like watching grass grow,” which means something that is slow and boring. But that exactly what I did here.

Part of my morning running route is passing by a vast cornfield. And I chronicled its slow evolution during the whole growing season with these photos below – from a few days after being planted, to right before harvest.

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Early May

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Late May

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Early June

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Late June

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July

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August

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September

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October

Not everything in life is fast and exciting though. Sometimes life can be mundane. And there are things that needed time to develop and mature. We cannot hurry nor rush them. We just have to be patient and watch as they evolve in their own time.

I’m not just talking about growing grass or corn.

(*all photos taken with an iPhone)

Coming out from the Cornfields

I was standing at a clearing beside a cornfield. Then all of a sudden I saw people, dressed in their sports gear, coming out of the cornfield. Was I dreaming?

My name is not Kevin Costner, and the scene I was witnessing was not from the film “Fields of Dreams,” which by the way, was shot in Iowa.

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scene from the movie Field of Dreams

The people I saw emerging from the cornfields were not baseball players, but rather cyclists, with their biking shirts, shorts and helmets on.

Here’s my story.

Me and my friends took part in the recently concluded Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), which was a 7-day long event. The total length of this year’s route was 405 miles. Though we only rode a 1-day leg, from Perry to Des Moines (3rd day route), which was still a formidable 50 mile course.

We could have not picked a better day to participate. Besides that it was the shortest course, and probably the flattest (1308 feet of climb), but the weather was also perfect. The temperature was in the high 60’s to 70’s F (it was in the 90’s to 100’s the day before), and was overcast, so it was cool the whole day through.

My friends and I were not real cyclists and this was our first RAGBRAI ride. We rode slow that I don’t think we passed any cyclists, yet everybody seems to be overtaking us. Including a grandma who was celebrating her 90th birthday, riding a recumbent tandem bike with her daughter, who was also older than we were.

I learned many biker’s lingo during the ride. They shout “biker off” to alarm other riders, when they are stopping and exiting on the shoulder of the road. “Biker on,” when they are getting back on the road and rejoining the pack. (I wish I could shout “flame on,” like the superhero Human Torch, and my bike will be ablaze and zoom.) “Car up” when there’s an approaching car up ahead, or “car back” when there’s a vehicle behind. Then there’s “on your right” or “on your left,” to warn you when they were about to overtake you.

I also heard a chilling warning calling out “Biker down!” Aside from calling assistance to the biker who fell, it is also to alert other bikers to get ready to stop or slow down to avoid domino-like collision.

Unfortunately, that call for “biker down” was for my friend, after he collided with another friend. I told you we were novice bikers. Good thing we were going slow, so he was not seriously injured, and only had a scraped knee. He just don’t have photos to remind him of the RAGBRAI, but a physical memento as well. He wore that wound like a badge of honor.

We stopped a number of times to rest. And to eat too. The course was lined with food stalls and other specialty booths offering a variety of things, especially in towns we passed through.

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photo courtesy of RAGBRAI.com

Then in one lonely stretch of the road flanked by vast cornfields, as we stopped for ice cream (did we eat more than we burned?), was when I saw people coming out of the cornfields.

Why were they coming out of the cornfields? Was it a mirage?

No, it was not. And it has nothing to do with “build it, and they will come,” symbolic theme of the movie “Field of Dreams.” (Though you can say RAGBRAI draws both national and international participants to Iowa.) These people emerging out of the cornfields had a more plain and practical explanation.

There were more than 10,000 bike riders that took part on RAGBRAI. Even though there were several hundreds of portable toilets, mostly placed in the town stops, it may still not enough to provide “relief” for everybody in every place.

But who need toilets, when you have thousands of acres of cornfields spread all over the course, right?

So what did the riders do inside the cornfields? You don’t want to know.