A Graveyard and a Cornfield

I was visiting family in August in Central Illinois – Corn Country.  I moved from Chicago – 180 miles north of where I grew up – to New York City almost 16 years ago, and there was a time when I rarely went back to the Midwest.  Now I try to get there at least twice a year, and recently I have been more and more attuned to the beauty of a landscape that I used to find boring.  There is not the awe-inspiring scenery that greets visitors in places in the U.S. like the Grand Tetons, the Pacific Coast, the Florida Keys, or the canyons of Manhattan.  It is a quiet beauty.  The sky dominates.  There are no cliffs to climb or waves to ride.  You don’t drive to a destination and find yourself standing before a forest of redwoods. Instead, there are endless rows of corn for an Autumn harvest, Cicadas in late summer, the crisp clear air in winter, a thunderstorm you can see coming for miles, or an amazing sunset.  These things take patience to discover – a willingness to wait or to search out on an ambling drive.  Such was the case the last time I was home.  I was driving around near where one of my sisters lives out in “the country,” where the distance from house to house is measured in miles and not in feet.  A cleared patch of land between the road and a field of corn caught my eye because it was dotted with small granite blocks in rows, most of them leaning at odd angles or completely toppled over.  I stopped and discovered it was an old graveyard.  Many of them had been there so long the granite had worn down the engravings, making them hard to read.  But I found that most dated to the 1800′s.  It was fascinating to read the names and dates on the blocks and imagine how completely different their lives were.  They lived during photography’s birth.  Being a photographer I had to take pictures of these miniature monoliths resting next to a field of corn, both the headstones and the stalks of corn reminders of time’s passing.

 (Robert Englebright)

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