Just south of town along Pioneer highway lies an old farming road with a vacant field. and 9’ 6’ tall train track bridge towers over the road that dips beneath. "The Cornfields", as they were dubbed, are only 60 yards patch along this stretch of road two miles long. To passerby, it's just a cornfield. But to me, they were everything and they silently taught much of what I know about life simply by watching them.
During the summertime, waking up at 5:30 in the morning and working a twelve hour shift doesn't sound appealing to an teenager. But last summer, that what I did as Pea Viner for Twin City Foods. Your days become a rhythmic pattern of waking, eating, working, eating, sleeping. Sooner than later, the little things throughout the day begin to amuse you. Staring off into space, your thoughts working in sync with the hum of the conveyor belt. When you pull back into reality, you look over at your fellow coworkers whom themselves have fallen asleep and you listen and watch the supervisor yell over the CB, "16 Wake Up....John....Wake Up"
You'd listen to other's, John in raspy smoker's voice would call over a Pea Truck to unload, “Pea truck to 16...Pea Truck to 16” I’d watch the his lights go on from the other end of the field and then soon see dust rising in the distance as a pea truck would race to machine sixteen.
Others viners would come to visit you as your drove around the field. Collecting Peas. For Twelve Straight. Hours. Suddenly, you became amazed at the sight of your coworkers driving giant combine's around the field. Before you know it, the simplest things start to amuse you.
But as I sat in the dirty old pod stripper, I couldn’t help but notice the corn stalks at other end of this pea field. Different. Epic. Liberating. Before long, I was caught in their trance, imaging how deep they were and how far they could possibly get me from escaping the responsibility of waking up every morning and going to this monotonous job that I dreaded dearly. My mind began to thick as deep as the cornfields themselves and soon I found myself mentally running through them.
When I got off work later that evening, Katie and Chelsea came over and we all hung out for the night. Bred out of our minds from prank phone calling the operators outside of the dollar store, we need something to do. in the Viking Village.
On our first journey ever to this place, I followed my childish desire, to run in rows of cornfields hoping for them to never end. Pointless to many, but yet meaningful to few. We cruised south of town towards the Norman Road. With KMPS blasting on my stereo, the warm summer breeze blew through our hair as we nibbled on our Ring Pops and gulped down our Iced Teas our goodies we bought at the dollar store just minutes before.
Scouting for a corn field. The girls had no idea. Dipping down under the train bridge, I found it. I yelled at the girls drowning their singing out with “I Think we found it, I think we found it!!“ I screamed in excitement, much like a little girl. As I pulled off on the grassy shoulder, shut my door, and jumped into the cornfields. Meanwhile, I could heard Kater’s and Chelsea, yelling in confusion, “What?..oh…Wait up, stop, Wait up Ty Ty”.
Going to this place for the first time we went for fun, and excitement. Just three kids on an average august afternoon with childish dreams to pass the summer time away. Now the reasons have matured into my life, my future, my relationships, myself. Now, when I pull over onto the damp wet grass along the side of the road, I realize that my once childish dreams evolved into responsibilities. The corn has since been harvested. But even if the corn hadn’t been harvested, and I were to jump out of the truck, and run through the tall dry stalks of corn, I still wouldn’t be as satisfied as I was the first time I came because my wants and needs in life have changed.
Sitting here in the Stillaguamish Valley, I am less than a mile away from my Grandma Murphy's Homestead. My mind is flooded with the stories of her childhood, and the wonderful memories. She tells stories of old Stanwood, and families that use to live in the valley, and how its changed so much since her time. alks about the valley every once in while.
I understand the importance of what she’s talking about, because on a different level, I have strong personal connection with it as well. , almost as lover has a strong emotional bondage to their lover. I feel at home, right where I belong. it’s at this spot in the world that my personal feelings for certain people that I held high in my life, are deepened and strengthened to a deeper level. With my new life experience, and knowledge, it reminds of the T.S. Elliot quote, We shall not cease from exploring, and at the end of our exploration, We will return to were we started, and know the place for the first time.
Sitting here in the cool of the night, the dark and relaxation overcomes you. This place seemed to helped me change a lot about my beliefs. Throughout high school, my ego would try and impress other with my atheistic outlook on life. But here its In some weird way, I would always try to impress everyone with my atheistic outlook on life, but its here its
Comfortable and stable in my beliefs, I nestle into my sleep bag in the bed of my pickup gazing at the heavens above. Staring at the this mind boggling sky that so many take for granted. Although I’m not intellectually satisfied, I believe that is what keeps me attracted to this mysteriousness, and wonderful “higher being” and ultimately pulls me closer and closer to the energy of the universe. This place also taught me be "true to myself."
But rather, I would ask the Divine, "how the hell they came up with this idea of life?"
Through the course of time, autumn arrived, and the corn was harvest. One day, tall, healthy, green stalks towered over the land. The next day, brown stubs dotted the ground. My own personal heaven was changing before my eyes.
Life is a psychological journey. This revelation reminded of me of Joseph Campbell's quote, that sacred space isn't some physical location, but the place in your mind you can arrive at every time. But still standing there, I experience another flashback.
Soon you find yourself contemplating the universe. Everything begins to fits like a jig saw puzzle and you reach the conclusion that you ultimately hold the power to change this world you live in. Not necessarily change it, because there are circumstance in which we have no control over but you can change your attitude, your drive, and ostensibly the world you live. You feel this change come as the result of the moonlit ground, as you stare off in the distance feeling that you are so far away from civilization but knowing that it lies right over the hills in all directions. You see the orange outside light of the houses pierce the hillside, and occasionally watch a car or two drive down Pioneer Highway in the direction of Silvana.
The Corn stalks stood perpendicular along the train tracks. At some point every ones life, we realize we have to grow up, but really don’t quite know how true those words are, for me it hit me like a train.
Shortly after one in the morning, you can hear the train go by. Like clockwork. Its in the silence of my room, I’m reminded of the vivid memories with each blow of the train engineers horn. I gazed into absolute wonder into my Christmas light lit room to reflect on the impact this place had on me.
By the time, we get "it". It's often too late. because we don’t know what we have ahead of us, a lot of us are unprepared. Nobody teaches you how to grow up. Sooner or later, you'll get "it". However you want to play the metaphor out. Life saves you. It's the only way it works, instead of living life, life lives us, because we know we can’t stop the train at the rate its going, we also know we can’t stop time either because we’re soon watching that the train makes no stops on its journey, and continues onward without stopping. We understand that we need to take action and move away from the train tracks or the train will move us. In relation to life, we need to move and be somewhat prepared for what life gives us regardless of the circumstances.
If you can picture yourself right up close to a train track at night. You watch the train come around the corner slowly, listening to it's horn. Then on the straight away, the light appears stuck. But the train is moving fast. As it comes we are scared because we have no idea what the train’s contents holds, and we are almost scared of life because we have no idea what’s in store for us. At this point in life, as we watch the train come around the corner is a metaphor for when we realize that we will die someday. We instinctual understand that we must move and make something of ourselves.
Some of us are still caught in bright headlight coming from the train and enticing loud horn, the illusion of its secure position in our time and space. We don’t want to move because we want to be close to it and experience it.
As the train gets closer, the tracks begin to violently shake, and only then do I realize that when I move off the tracks, the conductor in the train, will have no idea of my existence. He will have no idea that only minutes before I’d spent watching his train come to life on track. Only to make a move at the last minute, similar to the way a predator watches their pray, or the way an average teenager watches their future and adulthood.
The clear blue summer sky didn’t talk to me it was the change of seasons that they told me that things don’t stay the same. Everything, I venture out there a new lesson is waiting in the tilled soil, or the cricket filled night.
When Emily asked me, “Wait, why are you writing your memoir on a cornfield?” I responded with a hesitant "I honestly don’t know” Prior to this, I’d never thought about what it was that kept me captive about that place. It was on self reflection once again on my trip later that day to the cornfields that I understood exactly what the Cornfields meant.
I saw experienced and beared witness to a transformation in life. I watched this fun, wild place, where awesome memories lie transform over the next few months into a quiet, deserted, place perfect for clearing my mind. I watched the seasons teach me a lesson about time. I know that I never leave drive away without being nothing less than amazed.
Our individual life experiences, the places we occupy, the world we've found ourselves in can teach us beautiful and transcendence lessons, but only if we let it.
Written originally in 2006, revised in 2011.