Midwestern Green

The Midwest is a very green place. There is good reason that this is called the breadbasket of the world.

Growing up in the region, I never realized how different are large sections of the country. That changed when I moved to South Carolina. The soil, instead of dark and rich, is sand and clay. The woods, instead of thick and lush, is sparse and dry.

The stark contrast didn’t really hit me, though, until I moved back to Iowa after high school. Now, I’ve been living in Iowa for a few years shy of two decades. I have once again grown accustomed to the green.

I’m looking outside at my parent’s backyard. The flower beds are full. The lawn is a deep carpet. The woods at the back is a solid wall of foliage. It is green upon green, endless green. It is life frothing at the bit. I’m in the city and yet life surrounds me. Bunnies and squirrels and a thousand birds tweeting.

This all hit me again because of my recent road trip out West along a more southernly route to the coast. The Southwest for damn sure is dry. Even the Bay Area of California can’t compete with the summertime brilliance of the Upper Mississippi River Basin.

There were only two small areas we visited that would be comparable: far down in the canyon of Zion National Park and halfway down the Grand Canyon in Indian Gardens. A stream flows through the Zion canyon. However, despite the relative greenness, there was no apparent life in the stream itself… which I thought very strange. Indian Gardens is an even smaller area. The smaller area coincides with a concentration of life. It is an island amidst dry rocky terrain.

It wasn’t just life or lack thereof that stood out to me. I was sometimes surprised by what kinds of life I saw, what kinds I didn’t see and where.

Down in Indian Gardens, I saw Box Elder bugs. I saw those little critters several different places where one wouldn’t expect them.¬†They weren’t present in the massive swarms I’d see as a child here in Iowa. But how did they end up at all in Indian Gardens? What strange wind blew them across the surrounding arid land?

At a rest stop in the middle of desert, there was a few trees and a leaking faucet. A flock of pigeons lived there. After some travelers got up from the picnic table, the pigeons cleaned up the crumbs. Pigeons in the desert? Probably hundreds of miles of dust and rock in all directions, but that man-made oasis was able to support a decent sized population of non-desert creatures. I’d assume those poor pigeons were trapped there. Once again, what strange wind?

So, what didn’t I see?

I’m sure there were rabbits somewhere in the various areas I went, at least jackrabbits if nothing else, but I didn’t see them. Here in the Midwest, little bunnies are like flies on shit… and they breed like, well, rabbits. Another animal common in Eastern United States are domestic cats, whether pet cats being let outside or strays. There is a large stray cat population in this neighborhood. There were even quite a few cats down in South Carolina, despite there not being as many rabbits for them to feast upon. Out West, I only saw one cat the entire time.

There was only one animal that I saw in many different places. Deer. They seem to be versatile creatures. North, South, East, West. There are deer everywhere. If you see one of them, there are probably a dozen more nearby.

Coming back to the Midwest after the trip, everything was greener than when I left. It was greener in my perception because I had been away from it, but it also was literally greener because it had rained a lot in the meantime. We had drought conditions last year. We are far from having a drought right now. Farmers lost crops last season, but the Midwest is now back in business.

I’ve known many people from many places. People tend to like the place they came from. My South Carolina friend thought the woods there was beautiful, but not I. Green, deep dark green. That is what I like. Green is life. The more green the better.