Traveling across Iowa



I’m in Ohio with my two youngest, visiting with Andrew, Sonia and Princess Anya, patiently (more or less) awaiting the birth of the newest royal family member. I promised to share our travels with you, my Gentle Readers, so here are a few reflections from my sketchbook journal:

It’s a dream for me, visually speaking, to be driving across Iowa when there’s a thick layer of snow on the ground. Snow covers all imperfections and renders all it coats in bas relief. Iowa, of course, is already quite pretty, with its modestly undulating hills, tidy farms and skeletons of trees, bare of leaves, standing out in stark contrast to the white ground.

The shadows of those trees–as they lengthen with the end of the day–give me particular joy. This is not something that is easy to see or notice when there is no snow on the ground. It makes me catch my breath: those shadows slanting across the white ground in turquoise to dark blue, a complex and graceful webbing.

Frozen streams with clumps of snow along the banks spur me to pull out my sketchbook, but of course we drive past too quickly and I can’t capture them, except in my own head. Native red cedar trees are dense smudges on the landscape. My eyes are drinking all this in, and I feel a deep sense of gratitude for my daughter Amalia–a good driver and so patient with her mama, looking here and there as I point out one thing after another. She is willing to drive for hours so I can just sit and look.

“Mom,” she observes patiently. “It’s only Iowa.” She is smirking, though. She has a soft spot for this place, too, since she was born here–seventeen years ago, today!

It’s good that she loves to drive so well, because my eyes are drinking and I am feeling too elated to drive.

So–a very special and heartfelt happy birthday wish to my darling daughter, Amalia Charis. And–many more happy returns of the day, I am sure!


Amalia lent me one of the books that she brought along: Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry, by Ted Kooser and Jim Harrison. It’s a wonderful little book. I picked it up yesterday and couldn’t put it down. It seems that when Mr. Kooser was diagnosed with cancer years ago, he and Mr. Harrison started sending each other poems. These poems range from the humorous to the pithy to the poignant. I haven’t read them all yet. Here are just a few of my favorites, so far.

The moon put her hand

over my mouth and told me

to shut up and watch.


A nephew rubs the sore feet

of his aunt,

and the rope that lifts us all toward grace

creaks on the pulley.


Trust snow to keep a secret.


Each time I go outside the world

is different. This has happened

all my life.


I think everybody probably ought to own this book.

And look–a picture of Iowa on the cover. Well. It might be Nebraska, after all. 🙂

Iowa–a special birthday–a new book–snow–pretty good for one day, eh?

Thanks for checking in, Gentle Reader!


10 thoughts on “Traveling across Iowa

  1. Renee

    Love this post….I, too, love to ride along and enjoy the landscapes……Pointing out the subtle color changes and intensities to my children as they roll their eyes…..the artist in me comes alive as I ride along. too……and I wonder why no one else sees what I see….but alas. you do. Thank you.

  2. Michele

    Such a colorful post; thank you. ‘Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry’ sounds delightful; I will have to purchase a copy. Happy travels.

  3. Alana

    Loved the barn, loved the book cover – especially as the book cover reveals what so many people do not know about Iowa, a state I lived briefly in many years ago – it is not all flat. No, far from it. (Ted Kooser – awesome!)

  4. Lucy

    Amalia……Happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy……..17TH BIRTHDAY
    to YOU!!!

    And MANY MORE!

    Hi Amy dear!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I’ve actually been to Waterloo exactly once, when we first moved to Iowa and I went out driving to—-no! I won’t tell you where I was heading. I got lost and ended up in Waterloo! If I ever end up there again, I’ll give you a call!! Coffee and tea and cake sounds very welcoming, indeed. 🙂

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  6. Nathana Clay

    I love that book . . . and Ted Kooser in general. 🙂 You captured the beauty of winter and those trees so well in your description. I have been trying to in my gifts’ list. I love bare trees and a snowy landscape! The winter hues from morning to evening are some of my favorites to watch. I wrote a post similar to this last month as we were crossing Kansas. It was just so pretty! I even convinced Mitch to stop and let me take a few photos. He is a kind husband! 😉

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