Photo Credit: K.Rummer

The View

A temporary blessing

by Ken Rummer


I’m going to miss the view.

I knew it wouldn’t be forever, this view from the back of our new house. Sooner or later, the owners of the field beyond the trail would get an offer they wouldn’t refuse, and the field would begin to sprout houses. This is the nature of development at the outer edge of a fast-growing city.

But now it appears the transformation will begin very soon. Dump trucks have been delivering extra soil along the main road, and two tractor-scrapers have taken up positions in the corner of the field.

So I am taking stock and calculating future losses and feeling the onset of anticipatory grief. My time for enjoying this expansive and restoring view is running out.

The land is flat mostly, not flat like a glass cook top, but more like the quilt on the bed after the first tug in the morning, still sporting a few lumps and mysterious bumps.

I think I’m going to miss the way the mist grays out the distant knoll at sunrise, the way the rows of corn march away to a point of perspective, the way I can see the barn at the Moeckly corner more than two miles away, almost as distant as the horizon seen from an ocean beach. What a great view.

I once toured the fairy-tale castle that is the Biltmore mansion in the mountains of North Carolina.  I remember the Stickley sofa in the den, the bowling alley in the basement, and the view from the terrace looking out across the forest below, all the way to the distant mountain ridge.  The tour guide said he bought the view, he being George Washington Vanderbilt II. In the late 1880s he purchased 125,000 acres, extending from the site of his house all the way to the horizon.

Here’s the dilemma for those of us of more modest means: there are views we come to value, soul-nurturing views even, but since we have’t bought them, things can happen to them. Subdivisions can sprout where seed corn lately grew, foreshortening the scene to a closeup of the back of the neighbor’s deck.

I’m going to miss seeing the horizon, where the bowl of the sky comes all the way down and meets the earth on a line like an artist might draw, not one scribed along a straightedge, but one aiming to be straight, yet here and there thrown off by a pulse of blood or a nudge of inspiration, bumping up a little rise in that place, and modulating to accommodate a few trees in another, and over there, the hint of a barn.

Maybe it’s my claustrophobia finding itself in a happier place, but I feel myself relaxing into the openness. Here is more sky than most views can hold, and nothing to stop the wind, all the way to North Dakota.

At night there is plenty of room for the North Star and the Big Dipper, for a stray meteor, a passing satellite, or a high jet contrail backlit by moonlight. And by day there is generous space for the cauliflower clouds that sometimes grow into thunderstorms, and for the high, wispy clouds that can catch fire at day’s end and day’s beginning.

Over the years, other views have lodged in my remembering. The Boundary Waters wilderness reflected in a mirror-still lake. The near-treeless Flint Hills by the cattle pens on the Kansas Turnpike. The Grand Canyon falling away into purple beyond the South Rim.

Other views. But today, looking through the window, my eye travels up the prairie bank and over the trail, across the cultivated fields and the low-hanging dust that marks the gravel road, past a distant cluster of barn and house and silo in an outpost of trees, all the way to the rotating blades of a wind turbine eight miles away.

It looks to be a temporary blessing, this view. So I’m soaking it up like a painter trying to capture the changing light. Like a diver sucking a deep breath before plunging into the water, I’m trying to take it all in while there is still time.

Ken Rummer, a recently retired Presbyterian pastor, writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail.