Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ruminations From McHenry County # 2

“… that endless middle-class cycle of choices that are no choices at all.”
- Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice, p. 38.

Begin with light. The way the light turns the cold, barren fields into a jumbled pallet of color. The remaining patches of snow seem like visual anomalies against the rich browns and frosted gold of the withered cornstalks the plow had failed to harvest. And since it is March again you might celebrate this coming spring with a pint of Guinness in honor of the dead.

Here in McHenry County rising taxes and decreasing property values have come to epitomize the legislative corruption that has earned Illinois a place among the top ten politically corrupt states in the Union. GOING OUT OF BUSINESS signs are commonplace. Of course, a populace of apathetic voters who have failed to connect-the-dots have resulted in both political parties the continued ability to wallow in greed. 

I drove from Crystal Lake to Elgin noting the empty storefronts and the look of disillusionment on the faces of all those I passed. I don’t recall seeing one smiling face at this, the hour of the Sunday bells. Long forgotten are the pioneers that forged this nation with an idea of Manifest Destiny, and hard work. We are part of the land we inhabit and it works its magic on us, too, and its influence is just as easily spread as that of the critic who has reached a large and willing audience. Cold is the weather, scorn in your brow, despair in your eyes, the grave is your destiny.

This is March in Illinois: brutal and unrelenting, stiff as a corpse, as shame-faced as a Catholic priest in a brothel. I would enjoy a populace movement similar to that we have seen in Wisconsin where the peaceful demonstrators are loudly and passionately telling the elected officials – No, this is not why we elected you. We have had enough! This we have seen in Egypt and in Libya, with varying results; the point is never to relent to a damaged and corrupt political mechanism and acts of civil disobedience are, quite frankly, the foundation of this country.

But from this land came an ideology that should never be surrendered to the false prophets of gloom. This land and its people – eternal, struggling against the odds and making headway – this is, I believe, the dream that still flourishes. Its flame has not been extinguished. If nature is uncaring then we shall conquer our fears and forge a new tomorrow; and our children’s children will reap that harvest. The elements of naturalism, uncaring though they may be, are not without its bounty. 

This is March in Illinois: a step away from something else, at the brink of the shadow’s edge and waiting for the sun. With spring will rise the next generation, this year’s model, and we’ll wait patiently, biding our time, the eager literati amongst the archives of forbidden knowledge.

I speak of new cities and new people
I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes.
I tell you yesterday is a wind gone down,
            a sun dropped in the west.
I tell you there is nothing in the world
            only an ocean of tomorrows.
            a sky of tomorrows.
I am a brother of the cornhuskers who say
            at sundown:
                        Tomorrow is a day.

- Carl Sandburg, Cornhuskers

PHOTOS: A frozen Crystal Lake looking west from the main beach; The Frontier Family bronze sculpture by Trygve Rovelstad, Elgin riverfront; building on Spring Street in Elgin; Grove Street in Elgin – empty storefronts.

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