Dust and Mud - Photography by Dana Thomas

Driving north from the Snake River through western Idaho, we followed a two-lane road that took us through grain country. It was late summer and the harvest was almost complete. The scenery consisted of rolling acres of freshly cut golden grain stems, the grain itself transported to silos and mills. In the middle of the fields, on top of small ridges stood farm houses, surrounded by trees, flanked by barns and served by one lane gravel roads snaking across the terrain. Above the scene was a clear blue sky, punctuated by clouds that sped from west to east toward a collision with the Bitterroot Mountains.

I saw the scene as a beautiful pastoral, filled with light and the order that a well run farm brings to a landscape. The combines and tractors pulled up in front of barns suggested the end of long growing season and the beginning of preparation for the upcoming year. Despite the warm August day, I felt the arrival of autumn and progression of the seasons. A mellowness came over me as a vague desire to be part of this life gnawed at my emotions.

Expressing these thoughts to Lindsey brought a lesson in perspective. Where I found beauty in the scene, she saw drudgery. I saw poetic symmetry in rows of stalks marching up gentle hills, she imagined hard work, heat and dust. Lindsey pictured a life of isolation in the solitary farm homes. I imagined independence and cooperation between distant neighbors. My view of a simple life on these farms, for her was a prison sentence, a life without opportunity.

We talked about our different perceptions and kept driving. Within an hour, the grain began to be interspersed with patches of conifers that steadily grew to become an unbroken forest, punctuated with streams and ponds. The mood changed as we absorbed the scenery and our conversation moved onto other topics, but I filed away a new understanding of my wife, myself and the subtleties of perspective.