(Painting by Liza Ezhevskaya)

Like a perfectly preserved skeleton between two sheets of sedimentary rock, the memory stands crisp before me.

It is late November. We are driving across the cold, austere landscape of northern Missouri. The two-lane highway runs straight into the horizon, and a prickly sea of haze extends in all directions.

It seems as if all of the colors of winter lie hidden under a dusty gray. Grayish green firs, grayish blue sky. Grayish brown earth and grayish opaque water frozen in the gullies. On the background of gray the rusted red hues of tree trunks, train cars and abandoned factories emerge. The drive is fast and yet we are moving nowhere, because that is how things are in the Midwest. There is no rush. There is nowhere to be.

I look out the window and see the telephone lines dip down, and move up with every pole that we pass. Down…up, down…up. The simple and steady rhythm of existence slowed for the winter months. Somewhere smoke pours lazily from a chimney. Somewhere from a smoke stack. Here there is no glitz, no glamour, no promise.

Here the landscape has incorporated human structures, which may stay unperturbed for decades, centuries.

Affected by the surroundings, thoughts slow down as well. You begin to see sap flowing slowly down tree trunks. You hear the crows. Your heart contracts with forgotten emotion. You want to weep peacefully, and think amorphous thoughts.