I love the Midwest. Most people don’t understand that; they’re here not by choice so much as by circumstance. My father is an artist who paints realistic scenes in watercolor, so perhaps I’m predisposed to liking the subject matter. For years, though, I didn’t understand his fascination with Indiana. Where are the hills, the mountains, the oceans? I’ve seen those things, and they’re breathtaking. Each one is different; God created such variety. One beach may have fine white sand and salty blue skies; another thick, coarse tan sand whiskered with grass; another smooth pebbles and deep aquamarine water that almost glows from the intensity of its depths. What is there to see here?
It took a little bit of maturity to learn to appreciate what is around me. The land is not awe-inspiring; it is not dramatic. It has a peaceful kind of beauty, but for all its quiet reserve, once I was able to see it, it made my heart swell with a deep contentment. Winters, mostly gray and slushy, still hold beauty… the bluish-purple hue of shadows in the whiteness, broken by the rich gold of the broken corn stalks pushing through the crusty, sparkly snow. Fall is a riot of intense, deep, passionate colors, maple trees thrusting their orange-red leaves proudly against the flawless blue skies, the ground carpeted with countless variety, each leaf shaped and colored in its own unique way. Spring: the promise of new life, the hope and excitement, the bright greens competing with each other, purple and yellow flowers leaping up in excitement. And summer – the rich, almost obscene lushness, the damp overgrown grass and trees and plants displaying an indulgent abundance that makes me sigh with happiness.
There’s something genuine about it, something peaceful and unpretentious and true. It’s real and it’s reliable. It wraps me in its tender quiet and holds me tight – safe and secure and steadfast.
In life, it seems we gravitate towards the flashy things. When we dream, it’s not of the flat fields undulating gently in the breeze or the subtle play of light and shadow that defines the topography of the land. We dream of the dramatic peaks, the magnificent canyons, the enormous waters stretching around the curves of the earth, moving rhythmically and powerfully.
But sometimes we need to stop and notice the nuances of beauty God has put around us. Our blessings won’t always be obvious. Our spiritual growth may seem stagnant until we sit up and take notice. But we must learn to see the reality surrounding us and not waste time wishing for the extremes. It is only then, only when we love what we already have, that true contentment can be born.