They signal the changing of our seasons: roadside stands.
In the spring, late spring by the pattern I was accustomed to in the West, the farmer's markets open, first with asparagus and greens, it seems we wait an eternity for tomatoes. Then the roadside farm stands, with a variety of local and regional fare. My favorites are the modest stands that people establish in their yards or at the end of a driveway; almost always on the honor system. In mid-August corn stands start popping up, in front yards, farm driveways and convenient parking lots. As autumn arrives fully the farm stand will transform its fare from produce to pumpkins, gourds and canned apple butter. And by the end of October it will close. The corn stands will be long shuttered and we will find ourselves looking toward winter.
But now, pre-September, we have a full season yet to look forward to, and the festivity is still ahead of us. I have been nine years in Illinois, five in the rural landscape and one of the greatest challenges for me has been adapting to the dramatic change of seasons. Autumn I love the most. Winter is hard. Spring with its potential promise, I find disappointing, I am impatient for beauty and I am still cold. Summer is nice, long days, thunderstorms and time outside. But autumn is my favorite, and the first signal of its coming is the arrival of the corn.
I have always loved the experience of driving. As a child our travel was always by road trip and there was something magical in its anticipation. I drive a fair amount now, past fields and along rural roads. I made the decision after my second winter in this rural setting that if I were to be able to continue living here, happily, that I would have to find a way to fall in love with the land. I would have to discover its beauty.
And beauty I found is not just in breath taking scenery, but in the experience of the land you are in. The being in of the land, the awareness of it, the seeing of it.
I do believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My technically minded husband and I have taught each other that lesson. The rust and decay that I am captivated by is a painful sight to his function oriented sensibility. And from this I have learned the value of varying perspectives. And that ones perspective truly colors experience.
So I have chosen the perspective of exploration, of discovery. Discovery of the day-to-day. When I drive I make mental notes, I stop and take photographs when I am able. My daughter is already leaning this pattern and sometimes offers the suggestion of a stop.
These roadside stands represent so much. They are regional, seasonal, they provide nourishment for the body, and for me the soul.
They provide the opportunity to connect. To stop. To get out. To be in the land. They are the essence of the roadside, which has been a lure for as long as the road has called to us to go.
I have been captured by this land that I have begun to capture in return. This sense of discovering a place keeps me captivated, interested and surrounded by beauty. This nourishment by the side of the road is a treat for me. A treat in brevity that I eagerly anticipate.