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  • John Hogeland

Why Iowa?

Updated: Oct 4, 2019


I was born in Iowa and lived the years of my youth on the acres that my father still farms as best he can at the age of 85. I spent summers immersing myself in the creeks and ponds, and winters tramping over the frozen, snow covered hills (yes, there are hills in Iowa). Spring and fall were for hunting and gathering, finding what the woods and streams have produced in silent bounty. All of my fiber knows that farm and it filled me up with its life.

I left after college ....I left my home and I haven’t lived there since.


I moved eventually to the Bay Area. And while it is beautiful here, I have come to feel that it is a taking place. There are too many people, driving too many cars, living in too many houses. People don't catch your eye when you pass by because they are afraid you want something from them; it is a land that is over burdened, a place that struggles to support the people on it. It is expensive as well, and although I am not speaking of money, it is expensive in that way too. We must take what we need because the land has been stretched beyond its ability to give.

And the season, the only season in San Francisco, is one long cold spring day. Even sunny days feel the cool grayness that is never far away, it simply waits to fade back into being.

I am ready to leave this cold, taking place. To be away from this place that was never my home.

So why Iowa?

Because the land in Iowa yearns to yield its awesome fecundity. Its giant’s shoulders contain the strength to feed millions. It flourishes, despite the poisons that we now pump into it. It regenerates, though we tear away its verdant growth. This land of my birth grounds me, the land of the farm is imprinted within me.

Because in Iowa, the seasons break over the land like tidal waves, washing in, inundating everything - there are no half measures there.


Summer storms march through bringing sudden chills and a terrible flash of lightning, roll of thunder. Sun blazes low in the evening, fiery sunsets setting the west aflame. Night skies fill with stars uncountable and lightning flickers over the horizon. Fireflies wink in and out of existence and cicadas buzz their songs of mournful love, while somewhere along the Whippoorwill the coyotes yip and yi in chorus. Morning steals the night away with the call of a thousand birds.

Because fall slips past summer’s guard and steals its vitality for the ripening fields, giving over that lifeblood to safeguard the winter sleep to come. The first frost nips back the green, bruising leaves red and yellow before they fall. Geese fill the skies, high and fast in their v’s, pointing their own way. Cats grow fat with young mice, muskrats hurry about the ponds in last preparations. Deer in rut appear everywhere, unafraid in supreme health.

Because winter begins with a breath, cold and smoky. Single snowflakes dash from the sky to disappear on the still too warm ground. The cold takes on the quality of steel, hardening until it shatters, stinging with it’s shards. In the dead of winter, there are moments when everything quiets. The stillness is eternal in those moments.

Because a drop of water forms at the end of an icicle and falls. Time passes, another drop and spring begins to unfold. Crocuses appear through snow, a robin on barbed wire, a new calf tripping along after its mother, all defying the last of the cold - harbingers of the greening. The scent of fresh cut grass, lilacs reminding of mother and the gentle patter of an April shower. Frogs sing in the chill waters of the creeks and ponds calling, calling. Kittens appear, rough and tumble and cool breezes find warm sunny spots.


The question then is not Why Iowa? It is really a question of why the story of Iowa as a flat, boring state has come to overshadow its amazing beauty. Why we now choose to raise livestock on irrigated fields of California or in confinement units when the rolling hills of Iowa are so well suited to their needs. Why those who live on the coasts of this country see themselves in opposition to those in the interior, why taking cities are preferred over giving rural communities.

So I say to those who have asked, because Iowa...