Iowa Writes

CHRISTINE DALE
Claustrophobia
after Annie Dillard


Those who say Iowa is flat have never really looked around. Say rather that Iowa is not flat, but wide open. Try standing outside alongside a country road an hour or so after sunset. There are no orange sodium street lights to protect you from the night sky that stretches from east to west, north to south. There are no trees whose leaves and branches hide parts of the sky like fingers over your eyes during the shower scene of Psycho. There is only you and the unnerving whisper of the wind through the corn. Add to that the ghostly green of the northern lights, shifting silently in the sky above you. Or perhaps meteors shoot across the night in bright orange streaks at the rate of one hundred per hour. Maybe a total lunar eclipse is turning the full moon an unearthly shade similar to that of dried blood. Truly awesome sights, in every primitive sense of the word.

Those who say Iowa is flat have never really looked around. Say rather that Iowa is not flat, but wide open. Try standing outside alongside a country road an hour or so after sunset. There are no orange sodium street lights to protect you from the night sky that stretches from east to west, north to south. There are no trees whose leaves and branches hide parts of the sky like fingers over your eyes during the shower scene of Psycho. There is only you and the unnerving whisper of the wind through the corn. Add to that the ghostly green of the northern lights, shifting silently in the sky above you. Or perhaps meteors shoot across the night in bright orange streaks at the rate of one hundred per hour. Maybe a total lunar eclipse is turning the full moon an unearthly shade similar to that of dried blood. Truly awesome sights, in every primitive sense of the word.

Is that why you joke about Iowa's flatness? Is it that you are afraid to stand in the open spaces under the sky? Most city dwellers have forgotten the night sky. In the light-polluted cities, there is no longer a need to tell either the season or the direction by the stars. No need to know that Orion rises in the winter or that the Big Dipper is in the northern part of the sky. You have clocks and day-planners to do that for you.

Do you even remember what the Big Dipper looks like? Can you find the North Star? Don't you feel disconnected? Come with me out into the openness that defines Iowa's night. We'll leave the tree-crowded city streets behind; leave the overbearing protection of the orange sodium lights. I'll hold your hand, if you like, to help you shake loose the agoraphobia that city life has burdened you with. It is long past time you learned to see the sky again.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


CHRISTINE DALE

Christine Dale is a nontraditional student currently pursuing her B.A. in English, with a minor in Creative Writing, at the University of Northern Iowa. For the last year she has been working at the North American Review. One of her poems, also about Iowa life, won third place, college division, in Lyrical Iowa 2005.

This page was first displayed
on May 08, 2006

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