The Corn Whisperer

In the depths of interminable winter, there was no sound. No words schussed across the silence, no song delighted the heart. No voice, mysterious and enthralling, beckoned willing and wary alike into the heart of the fields. Winter crackled with stubble and ice, purified herself with snow, hid away her fields. Dark and loamy, smelling of glaciers and frost, the earth remained empty as a night without stars until the season turned and the earth warmed, and voices returned to the land.

“Here? Is this where it goes?” “Yes, child. That’s where it goes, the seed that will become the corn. Remember the rhyme?”

“In rows long and lovely, in rows long and straight,
in rows that reach out from the house to the gate…”

He wasn’t someone who flattered you with his answer, someone you felt reached out to pull down a word here and a word there like plucking cherries, throwing them into the bucket of your mind just to make you happy. His answers seemed good and wise and true, born of knowledge older than the corn.

Together they planted, together they sowed. While great, green machinery growled its way across the larger fields, they knelt beside the small, tucking their kernels into the moist, fragrant earth. “When will it start to grow?” “This very night, child, while the stars are shining and the raccoons dance. Then it will start to grow.” “Will we see it tomorrow.” “No, not tomorrow, and not the day after. But one day we’ll hear its call and we’ll come down and see it, growing and green. Be patient. The corn will tell us when to come.”

Days passed with no word from the corn. The child grew impatient, as children will, distracting herself with kittens and haymows until the morning the Corn Whisperer walked into the kitchen, poured himself a late cup of coffee and announced, “Corn’s up.”  Sprinting to the seedlings, the child ruffled their tender green with her fingers, turning to ask the man, “How’d you know?”  “The corn told me,” he said. “I listened to the corn.”

When the first hail came, bending the two-foot-tall plants nearly to the ground, the man disappeared into the field. In a day’s time the corn was standing again, straight and true. Thinking to make a joke, his neighbor asked, “Did you threaten it?”  “Of course not,” said the Whisperer. “I encouraged it.”

Thus encouraged, the good corn grew. Knee-high by the Fourth of July, higher than the eye of a small elephant soon after, it burgeoned into a perfect forest of corn. While its glossy leaves and golden tassles waved to the passing clouds, passing children ran the rows, hiding and seeking and pausing now and then to look up into the vault of blue that seemed their only escape from the interminable green of the corn.

In the blazing heat of one summer’s afternoon, the man took the child into the shade of the field. “Not everyone knows this,” he said, “and of those who have been told, not everyone believes. But sit here now, and listen. Listen beyond the wind and the birds, listen beyond your fear of the field, listen even beyond the chatter of your own imagination. You’ll hear the sound of the corn.”

And the child sat, and the child listened, and she discovered his words to be true.  The creak of growing leaves, the stretching of the stalks upward toward the light, even the faint murmur of green insinuating itself into the light was unmistakable. “Those are corn whispers,” the man said. “When you no longer hear that voice, you’ll know the season of growing has ended, and the time for ripening has come.”

Later that autumn, when the season of growing had ended and hope hung heavy over the land like low-hanging ears, ripened and full and waiting for harvest, the man walked the rows with the child. Caught suddenly between the syncopated clack of drying stalks and the sweet trill of blackbirds singing one to another, the Corn Whisperer stopped. “Is it the corn?” the child asked. “Is it talking to you?” Cocking his head, the man squinted against the light, bemused and listening. “No” he said, “this voice is different. Can you hear it?” Mimicking his intentness, the child tilted her head. “I do!” she said. “I hear the voice, but I don’t see anyone. Can we find it?”

Peering down the rows into the darkening field, the man considered.  “It might be anywhere, that voice. It could be this way, or that. It could stand in front of us or lurk behind. It could be here, or it could be there.” “Let’s go find it,” said the child. “If we’re lucky, we can catch it. And if we get lost, we’ll ask the corn, and the corn will take us home.”

Touched by her confidence, the Corn Whisperer smiled. “Yes, we can do that,” he said. Taking her hand, he measured his steps to hers as they began the journey, listening together for the mysterious voice, marching straight as grain toward the edge of the world, steady in rhythm as a blackbird’s trill, their hearts ripened and full, ready for reaping, with the old poet’s promise-song floating about them on the sweet and singing wind.

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

Comments are welcome. To leave a comment or respond, please click below. The final two lines above, of course, are from the marvelous Shel Silverstein, a Whisperer in his own right.

And please – NO “ReBlogging”. Thanks!”

Published in: on February 26, 2012 at 2:36 pm  Comments (75)  
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  1. Hello Linda:

    I just read your post about the child and the man who could listen to the corn. After reading it, I’m speechless, still in awe of your post.

    Thank you, that’s all I’ll say. The child, the man and corn will say the rest.

    Omar.-

    • Omar,

      I’m a little speechless, myself. This is the first “story” I’ve ever written. I’ve had the title for months, ever since I took the photographs of the corn on my trip north for my mother’s funeral. It’s just been sitting there, and then a few days ago, it began to take form.

      I’m so glad you liked it. It’s very special to me.

      Linda

  2. I, for one, want to know what the man and the child heard.
    Listening as hard as I can here now. Gotta move away from the desktop to really listen, though.

    • Ken,

      I don’t think you have corn fields up there, although there may be some wheat. And I know you have orchards. I can’t believe corn is the only conversant crop – who knows what you could hear if you listen!

      But you’re exactly right on the basics: push away from the desktop, get up, and go find the world. Who knows what – or who – is out there?

      Linda

  3. Linda; This is a truly lovely story. It brings us back to the innocent days of our childhoods, the all-knowing wisdom of a beloved grandparent and the wonder of the natural world around us and leaves one with a warmed heart.

    Thank you for sharing this with us!

    • seachange,

      As they say, you can take the girl out of the midwest, but…

      Corn always has been iconic for me. People driving through Iowa often say, “What? Don’t you have anything besides corn?” They’re not too impressed when we point out cattle, or silos, or such. But like so many crops – wheat, sunflowers, maize – corn has a hundred faces to show the world. This is just one.

      When I was in Minnesota, I think the people who were showing me around thought me crazy for wanting to take photos of corn. I’m glad I did. It gave me a chance to get back out in the fields.

      Thanks so much for the kind comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

      Linda

  4. This is so beautiful!! It reminds me of innocence..of trust…of wanting to believe in magic once again.
    And – congratulations!! What an incredible beginning! Will look forward to many more stories to come. You have a true gift!

    • Marcie,

      Innocence and especially trust have taken a bit of a beating in our world of late. We need as many reminders as possible that trust is possible, and it wouldn’t hurt us to relearn that miracle and magic aren’t synonymous with manipulation.

      This really was such fun – and I’m so glad that I came across your reference to Silverstein. That really was the missing piece.

      Linda

  5. So poetically lovely! I felt like I was right there with the corn!

    • Chris,

      I couldn’t ask for more. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your comment.

      You’re always welcome!

      Linda

  6. This is so lovely, Linda. I was there. I felt the soil beneath my feet, the sun on my head and the scratchiness of the dried corn stalks on my bare legs. Many a time have I walked through the corn field with my granddad.

    I could say much more, but my words would be superfluous – they would disturb the peace your words have evoked.

    • Sandi,

      Of course a Yorkshire lass would know the feelings, and remember the richness of the fields. I suspect you grew up with corn shocks, too. There still were fields with shocks in Minnesota- so lovely to see.

      We tend to speak first of the influence our parents had upon us, but grandparents, too, shaped our lives. It’s such a gift, to have those memories to draw on.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the story!

      Linda

  7. First story, huh? Wow! You have an awesome talent with photography AND writing! You are both blessed and a blessing to others. Thanks for being you!

    • Texasjune,

      Well, of course I’ve told plenty of stories – better to say this is my first attempt at fiction. I’ve always said I didn’t want to write fiction, which may have been a weasely way of saying I didn’t think I could write fiction.

      But, I set myself a goal of writing three little fiction stories this year, just to push the boundaries a bit. I didn’t intend for this one to be part of the mix – it just happened. So, maybe I’ll do four. ;)

      Thanks so much for your generous words. I hope all’s well in your world, and that you’ve gotten some of this rain that’s been roaming around.

      Linda

  8. What a great story. Corn fields are really magical for kids – the whispering, the rows…of course those “Children of the Corn” movies have jinxed it for so many. Terrific job

    • philosophermouse,

      The funny thing is, “Children of the Corn” had a very brief run as a title for this piece – it lasted about as long as it took me to get to Google and figure out why the phrase was rattling around in my head. I never read the story or saw the film, but it was pretty clear Stephen King owned that title.

      Of course, changing the title changed the focus of the story, too. It worked out just fine. Glad you enjoyed it!

      Linda

      • Actually I like your title better – those sounds! (and you don’t want to upset that guy…)

  9. Linda, this is simply beautiful! It is exactly what I needed to read tonight :)

    • belle,

      It’s such a pleasure to have you stop by. Thank you for your kind words – I’m glad you enjoyed the story!

      Linda

      • I really admire your work and it is always a pleasure to stop by :)

  10. When my mother moved out of Vancouver, she bought a little house near Agassiz (you’ll have to look it up!) tucked in between a corn field and a field where dairy cattle grazed. It was one of the loveliest and most peaceful places to be and I miss it, as I miss my mother. The eastern part of the Fraser Valley is full of corn fields, and I like nothing better in the fall than to bite into a sweet cob of corn from the valley.

    I also love to read stories, and this is a lovely one. Thank you.

    • Shirley,

      What a beautiful place. I got side-tracked at first by the prehistoric Lake Agassiz, which is interesting in its own right. I’ve actually visited its remnants without realizing it, in the form of Lake of the Woods and Lake Winnipeg, but I think I’d rather live in your mother’s valley.

      Summer in Iowa meant two things: sweet corn and tomatoes. When my mother still was living in Kansas City, I timed my late summer visits to take advantage of the wagonloads of sweet corn along the back roads.

      We’re going to be rushing the season if we’re not careful! I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

      Linda

  11. I LOVE that you found the Shel Silverstein quote to round out this piece, Linda. To read it twice now, from two different places, has made this a “second blessing.” Thank you.

    • Ginnie,

      Now that I’ve re-read the piece with a little distance, I think it could stand quite well without the verse at the end, and if I submit it for publication I would eliminate that. But, it was the “key turning in the lock” that opened up the piece, so here it stays.

      Isn’t it funny how this or that will suddenly shift our focus and help us see things in new ways? It’s one of the reasons I still believe the kaleidoscope is the best metaphor for the creative process. The bits are there – you just have to give them a twist to see the new patterns!

      Linda

      • Not being familiar with that closing quotation, I searched online to see if I could find out in which Shel Silverstein book the lines appeared. The first however many sites that I looked at gave the author’s name but no further attribution. Finally I found one (by an English teacher) that attributes the lines to Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974). And that’s where that Internet walk ended.

        I also did a search for the first “quotation” in your story, but when I got exactly one hit—this post—I realized you must have written those lines yourself. It’s great that you’ve managed to make them sound like something classic and familiar even when they’re new.

        • I had trouble finding the original source for the Silverstein lines myself. That’s why I settled on Goodreads until I could do more searching. Now I can go back and change the link or add one.

          I’m tickled that I sent you off on a search for the other little rhyme. I think spending so much time in my mother’s autograph albums was partly responsible for that. Like limericks, folk poetry has a certain candence, and once your mind starts marching to it, it just keeps on.

          One Google hit. That’s funny – and much to be desired!

  12. You have the most amazing things running around in that pretty little head of yours!

    This makes me think of visiting an old farm up in Benton, LA with my cousin. It was her grandfather’s farm, and the corn plants were crispy in the hot sun. He had shot a big black crow and was hanging it on a fence post as a warning to other crows that would sneak his corn!!!

    Anyway, it’s a very special piece, Linda!!! Very enjoyable.

    • Bayou Woman,

      Well, at least you said “running around” and not “infesting”!

      I can see those fields, just as clear as can be. I’ve been through Benton and the surrounding countryside while the corn still was standing. It was on my trip to find Huddie Ledbetter’s grave. It’s at Shiloh Baptist Church, just west of Blanchard.

      Those crows are irrepressible – it’s possible they were put off by their friend hanging dead on a fencepost, but it’s just as likely they said to one another, “Good. That leaves more for us!”

      Glad you enjoyed it – I surely did have a fine time constructing it!

      Linda

  13. A beautiful, so gentle and lyrical little story, I’ll never look at a cornfield with the same eyes. I hear the leaves rustling in the breeze but I’ve never thought of voices.

    There is an old German song and story about a woman who lives in the rye, the ‘Roggenmuhme ‘, but she is not a friendly spirit; she is there to stop children trampling the growing crops. We used to play in the tracks between the rows of wheat and rye and oats, taking special care not to fall into the crop, because you never knew if the Roggenmuhme wasn’t near.

    • friko,

      Now that I’ve been introduced to the “Roggenmuhme”, I may never look at a rye (or oat or millet) field in quite the same way.
      I found this lovely woodcut, which has a great deal of humor about it, but I also found an animated video with an original score that is flat scary.

      The Roggenmuhme must have been very effective. I wouldn’t go into her grain. A disembodied voice in the corn seems preferable, especially a quiet and gentle one!

      Linda

  14. Having become enthralled with your writing of late, I made a particular effort to not be interrupted once I started reading…I am glad I did.

    You done good…Thanks for sharing it with the world. Now, I’ll spend the rest of the day walking down memory lane behind my grandpa.

    • Coffeemuses,

      Glad I could set you off down the lane. Sometimes, taking life at the pace of a good walk is just what a person needs, and now and then a walk through the past isn’t too bad, either.

      Glad you enjoyed the story. It surprised me a little when it showed up and wanted telling, but I was glad to do it

      Linda

      • “…it showed up and wanted telling.” What an excellent way to put it.

        • And quite true, much to my surprise. It makes me wonder – what happens to stories that ask to be told, but are refused? Therein lies another tale, perhaps…”

          • I think that in some cases they wait, maybe for years, till the telling time is right. And in other cases I’m afraid they get lost.

  15. Gorgeous. A musicality winds its way through this entire piece. I do indeed hope you submit this for publication! It reminds me a bit of a parable, something “starfish”-“it made a difference to that one”-esque. I arrived at the final words feeling inspired, and that’s certainly no small feat. Thanks for this!

    • Emily,

      Interesting that you bring up the story of the starfish, with its roots in Loren Eiseley’s “The Star Thrower”. There was something in the finished piece that made me think of Eiseley – not that particular story, just the cadences and phrasing.

      Given your recent achievement, the words “anything can happen…anything can be” surely must have resonated! And if you were inspired beyond that, I’m pleased. How better to spend our days than inspiring one another?

      I’m so glad you stopped by. You’re always welcome!

      Linda

  16. You took me straight back to a sojourn to Nebraska one summer. The B&B I think I’ve mentioned here before backed on to vast corn fields. The sound of the wind rustling among the stalks, the blackbirds perched and swaying in the breeze . . . the magic of simple things, isn’t it?

    • Susan,

      The magic of simple things, and the gift of simplicity. Neither requires any more – and no less than! – an attentive and receptive spirit. This time, at least, I have a bit of music that I think you’ll enjoy. I listen to it often, particularly when life seems intent on becoming complex.

      Linda

      • I love that piece–I suspect it’ll get into my sidebar one of these days. You’re exactly right–it’s the perfect thing when, as you so marvelously put it, “life seems intent on becoming complex.”

  17. Great story! Poetic! Beautiful!

    When our hearts are truly open, the universe reveals its secrets to us, and our world becomes a magical place to live in.

    Thank you, for sharing, Linda.

    ~ Matt

    • Matt,

      We do agree on so many things, particularly the need for that “willing heart”. What I said in my comment to Susan, above, certainly applies here, too – and I’m certain you’ll enjoy the version of “Simple Gifts”.

      It’s always a pleasure to share with receptive readers. Thank you for your generous comments.

      Linda

      • Love it, Linda! I enjoyed it.

        Thanks for sharing…

        ~ Matt

  18. Linda – what a beautiful story. It reminds me so of the book I just finished. It is written by David Baldacci – and he usually writes stories of the mystery/thriller persuasion, my husband has read many of those, but my husband purchased this book at the used book store and encourage me to read it. I’m glad he did. Read this link, and be sure to read past the summary of the book.

    I just remember a scene in the book when Louisa was teaching Lou how to plant the corn, and then how green the field looked when it first started to show through the ground. You captured an image equally as persuasive!

    • Karen,

      I read every word, from the beginning of the review to the end. Clearly, I’m no Baldacci, but it’s also clear there’s a real connection between this story and what he wrote, especially when it comes to the possibility of revivifying the past. I’m so glad you left the link. The book’s gone onto my to-be-read list.

      I thought about that early green when I first began this, but decided there was no way to capture the whole cycle in a single post, so I focused on the autumn and harvest-ready corn instead.

      I’m really glad you enjoyed it. You read enough stories to enough children that you’re a darned good judge of what “works”!

      Linda

  19. What a magical story! A true pleasure to read!

    • montucky,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It occurs to me you may hear a voice or two yourself from time to time. When I used to hike the Wasatch canyons, I sometimes heard the wind as a presence rather than a force. Companionable, almost.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for the kind words.

      Linda

  20. i’ve heard the corn. phrased so perfectly to evoke those memories.

    • sherri,

      I’m not surprised you’ve heard it, too. Your photographs so beautifully evoke rural life, simplicity and time’s passage, I wouldn’t have expected anything else.

      Words and images – two ways to one reality.

      Linda

  21. I was getting ready to ask if you had written a book I could read but I see from the first comment response that you haven’t. So get with it woman! The world awaits! In the meantime I’ll just read this corn story again & think of it as I drive through my adopted Ohio countryside…

    • Bug,

      I think it’s a pretty darned big deal that you’d want to read the corn story twice! I’m glad you like it, especially since you’re someone who knows corn and knows stories.

      As for that book… Well, who knows? After all, I knew I never could write anything longer than three or four hundred words. And I knew I didn’t want to write fiction. I knew I was going to stick to essays, not stories.

      So, there it sits, one more of my famous declarations: “Blogging’s fine. I’m never going to write a book.” On the other hand, I’ll allow that there’s a title sitting in my files. Once a title shows up, there’s no telling what will happen.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

      Linda

  22. This is such a lovely wise story. I love the idea of listening to the corn.

    What a beautiful photo of the blackbird too. We have blackbirds but they’re all black (with yellow beaks). Then we have redwings, which are thrushes with red under their wings.

    Juliet
    Crafty Green Poet

    • Juliet,

      It’s been so interesting to learn the differences between your birds and ours. Even those with the same name – like the robin – can be quite different. And when I think “black bird with yellow bill”, I think of the starling. So much to learn!

      And I’m glad you enjoyed the story. Everything in nature has a voice, would we but listen.

      Linda

  23. Linda, this post touches me in so many ways. As a child, I spent a good deal of my life with my grandparents at their farm where they grew “Croope Corn” every summer. Each year we would have at least one huge corn-only dinner to celebrate the harvest. I was a “picker” and I loved walking through the cornfield, lost to them, but not to me. Follow the corn.

    Your writing, as you know, often takes me to new worlds, teaches me new things, enchants me with its language and astounds by the powers of observation you possess. I never thought about it taking me back into my long-ago world. What a lovely and divine diversion!

    • jeanie,

      I love the alliteration of “Croope Corn”. I’ll bet it tasted pretty good, too! In my imagination, I see a long, planked table outdoors, spread with oil cloth and loaded with roasted corn, corn pudding, scalloped corn, corn fritters, creamed corn… Shall I keep going?

      And it just occurred to me. No one yet has mentioned smoking corn silk! Quite terrible, really, although there are stories of my dad doing it out behind the garage, which was as close to the corn field as any barn.

      Isn’t language wonderful? We really can move any direction we choose, as though time is a permeable membrane, rather than that ever-flowing, uni-directional river. I’m so glad, because I love going back in memory, too. After all, that’s where we got our start, and that’s the world we carry with us.

      Linda

  24. Oh Linda,
    What a beautiful story and you are great with fiction! I agree with others, you do have a book inside you just waiting to get out!

    We had fields of corn some years when I was growing up and us kids played out in those fields.

    What can I say, I loved every word!!!!!
    Thank you,
    Patti

    • Patti,

      Corn fields are great places to play. The only thing I’d say matches them for pure fun is a good climbing tree. I hear lots of people getting sentimental about their old fishing holes, but we didn’t have those. The closest thing we had was the Skunk river – my dad would take me down there with a cane pole and a red-and-white bobber. And earthworms, of course. Iowa’s earthworms were almost as good as the corn!

      So glad you liked it! You might get a kick out of this, too. Not everyone remembers Jubilation T. Cornpone, but I’ll bet you do!

      Linda

  25. Mother Earth is continually renewing her invitation to plant seeds, encourage growth, and listen to her guidance.

    My grandparents planted corn and other vegetables. They taught me this hands-on, and I so look forward to growing things again after my move.

    But I have also heard the other voice your story so eloquently describes. I hope that a lot of what I’ve tried to encourage, sometimes during some serious hail storms, beautifully reaches fruition, too. Especially as the daughter-whisperer.

    • Claudia,

      You’re right about that invitation – too many of us never RSVP. I can’t think of better therapy, either. It’s great that you’re going to be able to dig in the dirt, literally rather than metaphorically this time!

      I must confess I have a hard time visualizing a NJ garden, but my only exposure to the state involved Princeton and Camden/North Camden – two ends of a pretty strange spectrum. On the other hand, it is the Garden State. I went looking to see why it’s called the Garden State, and learned there’s “no definitive explanation”.
      That’s really pretty funny.

      If it’s true that we reap what we sow, I suspect you’re going to find you have a fine harvest – in every way.

      Linda

  26. What I found memorable about your story was not the whisperings of the corn — but how a man moved in measured steps, following the lead of a child, after listening to her words. Lovely.

    I’ve been listening to the beckoning whispers of sweet corn land myself. Yep, come July, I’ll be heading to the Iowa Summer Writing Festival again.

    Pray. Why don’t you join me?

    • Janell,

      What exciting news! I’m so glad you’re returning to Iowa City. I remember how you enjoyed it last year. I trust we’ll be hearing more details on your blog.

      I did go over to the site and poked around for a bit. They certainly have a variety of offerings, and there’s no question they’ll do a good job of it. The only thing that puzzled me was the name of the building linked with the workshop – “Seashore Hall”?

      It would be utterly delightful to take part. The only obstacles are time and money – and money more than time. Maybe I’ll do a virtual workshop. The week that you take part up there, I’ll take the week off down here and just write. That would be pretty satisfying in itself.

      I’m glad you caught and enjoyed the man reducing his length of stride to move at the pace of the child. I had to re-learn that with my mother as she aged. Long, purposeful strides belong to our youth and middle ages, but we have to be careful who we’re leaving behind.

      Linda

      • Oh, not last year. It will be two years this July. Some DO attend every year I found out. But last year — well, it just wasn’t ‘in’ me to go. This year feels right. (no pun intended)

        Closer to home, I’m wondering if maybe U of H has evening offerings — when my son and I were researching creative writing programs for him, we were surprised to learn that Houston offered one of the top programs in the US. Maybe we were surprised since it sprung so close to our then back yard.

        The virtual class you describe sounds grand too.

        • Unbelievable. Two years. It seems like it just was last month. Apparently that business about time speeding up as we age is true.

          U of H does have quite a good program. Another program that gets very high marks is InPrintHouston. There are lots of opportunities, for sure. But life-changes still are my first priority. I know what some of them need to be – as always, changing habits is hard.

          Once I have those changes made, the workshops might be more helpful. it would be a shame to enter one without having more time to write!

          Linda

  27. I haven’t gone through all the sixty some comments and replies, so I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this. But, have you seen the movie, by now a contemporary classic, Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams? It’s been said that the film can make grown men cry. Why? The power of listening to the voices from the corn field, the magic of hopes and dreams, may lead you to some moments somewhere in time with someone who just might only live subliminally in your dreams.

    Your story is a magical tale… thanks for telling it to us. Of course, we each put in it that which is relevant to us personally. But, truly, do get that movie, I’m sure you’ll like to meet a corn whisperer from Iowa. BTW, beautiful photos!

    • Arti,

      No one mentioned “Field of Dreams”, and I didn’t think of it. I have seen the movie, a couple of times, but it’s been rather long ago and it didn’t come to mind while I was writing this. Perhaps it’s in my subconscious – I wouldn’t be surprised.

      I don’t remember much about the film, except that I did cry. But now that you’ve mentioned it, of course the (mis)quotation is right there: “If you build it [they] will come”. And isn’t that the hope of writers of every sort, everywhere – that if we write it, they will read? ;)

      Thanks so much for the nice words about the photos, too. That afternoon in the Minnesota cornfields was pretty darned magical!

      Linda

  28. I read your story twice and I read every comment. Love the quiet at your place. As I read it I visualized a children’s book too, a visual corollary to this original piece.

    I agree with Marcie that what carried me as a reader through the story was my desire to remember, really remember the innocence of trust and the waiting to see what develops…a magical time. What I loved most were the lines of dialog, the conversation between the young and the old. Your narrative description is so lyrical and poetic, then the dialog lines bring the relationship in focus. A nice balance, a pleasing balance for the reader. Like the older, wise man’s relationship to the child (or vice-versa), your author relationship with the reader inspires trust.

    Now, I am so very curious to read #2, #3 and #4.

    • Georgette,

      It would make a nice children’s story, wouldn’t it? I’ve an English friend who does beautiful illustrations. She’s working on her own book of stories, but I’ve thought now and then that a collaboration would be nice. Who knows what the future will bring?

      I love your mention of the “quiet” here. Heaven knows there’s enough snarkiness, argument and disagreeable/ insulting language on the internet to please anyone who wants that sort of thing. I’ve no problem at all with readers who have criticisms to offer or who disagree with things I say, but I do want the discourse here to be at least one or two cuts above Congress and the public airwaves. So far, so good.

      I’m pleased to hear you say you found the balance between narrative and dialogue pleasing. One of the tips offered by William Zinsser is to let the narrative move the action, while dialogue builds character. So few words, so much wisdom – and so hard to put into practice!

      And you know – I’m very curious to read #2 and beyond, myself. I’m hoping that the four years required for “The Corn Whisperer” to show up can be shorted by a good bit!

      Linda

  29. Well, I’ve missed a bit having been offline for awhile and then come back to read and find you writing fiction! A story, this, very American, with that lovely cross of myth and reality and wonder and bit of inexplicable-ness about it. Which all adds up to what we like to read! In short, bravo…and the verse within it? songlike and learn-ed….lovely stuff.

    My grandfather’s cornfield, in which we all as kids had quite a hand, does, on the other hand, make me think purely in terms of non-fiction…memoir. Hmmmm….again, you inspire!

    OK, and I’d love an ear of corn right now, doused in butter and salt of course!

    • oh,

      As soon as I saw that photo of the airplane in the big, big sky in your blog, I knew all I needed to know. Not the details, of course, but the general sense of a woman newly on the go. Learning a new balancing act always is a bit of a chore. Even when we have to balance new empty space, as I am now without Mom in my life, it can take a while to get steadied again.

      I loved the experience of writing this. It was quite different in a way I can’t explain. And that little verse? It’s always such an astonishment to have something like that appear, fully formed.
      Fun, too.

      It’s been rather a surprise to me to learn how many people have fond memories of corn and cornfields. It’s part of our collective memory, it seems – much like wheat in some areas, or rice. Arugala’s fine, and I like blood oranges and fennel as much as the next gal, but… You’re right. Corn on the cob, with butter dripping, and a side of homegrown tomatoes. Welcome to heaven!

      And my gosh – welcome back! It’s really good to see you!

      Linda

  30. Linda,

    Knowing I would not be able to concentrate on your story last week, I saved it for this morning. It was worth the wait and more. I love how you capture that moment when the little seedlings have pushed through the soil and started growing. After living in southern Alabama for so long I had forgotten how much I needed to see that green against the brown dirt.

    Also, like many of the other commenters I thought your story had the feel of a modern day fairy tale. I am so glad you shared it with us.

    -Kit

    • Kit,

      Even if the Crayola people tried, I’m not sure they could re-create “New Corn Green”. It’s an indescribable color, and there’s very little more beautiful than that faint, green haze that seems to hover above the fields when the new plants arise. It always amazed me how quickly it grew. Miracles are all around, for sure.

      It does feel a little like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? As for sharing it – I’ve been told a tale about my great-aunt Ina, who was a writer, herself. I knew none of this until quite recently, but she must have been quite the gal. I hear she would run after the kinfolk, manuscripts in hand, insisting, “You HAVE to read this!”. Very much the way I felt when I finished this one.

      Linda

  31. This is so lovely! Please tell me you will publish it. With a few more of your lovely photographs it would make and outstanding children’s book! Modern fairy tale, perhaps, but so much more. Children really need to know about where their food comes from. They need to be inspired to put their hands into the earth and feel her. To touch the miracle, and listen with their hearts to “…the whisper of the corn.”

    My passion on this topic runneth over… Thank you for this gift of a story. I suspect there is a lot of experience behind it. The best ones are born of experience.
    ~ Lynda

    • Lynda,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! And you’re exactly right. Children are becoming more and more cut off from from the earth, the source not only of their food, but of so much pleasure and perspective.

      It’s one reason the Houston Livestock Show, the Pasadena rodeo and the county fairs are so important. Kids are given an opportunity to be introduced to the animals, the responsibilities that come with them, and the fruits of the earth that are the beginning of so many good things – like apple pie and cobblers!

      I have a few friends who don’t like to garden – even to pot plants for their patios – because they don’t like to “get their hands dirty”
      What a sad thing – hands that get dirty can be washed, but hands that never feel the earth are missing a good bit!

      And yes, I think it will get published – one way or another. I’ll send you an autographed copy. ;)

      Linda

  32. An enchanting story, Linda, which reminds me just how out of touch with the natural world one can become living in the city. I must say, too, what beautiful images these are. You are certainly very skilled with the camera.

    • Andrew,

      Clearly, it’s my working with boats, and being outdoors every day, that’s helped to keep me a little more attuned to natural rhythms. Sometimes we think it’s necessary to move to the woods or start farming to “be in touch with nature”, but that’s not true. Think of your photos of the urban gardeners, for example. They surely are as in touch as anyone could be.

      I do appreciate your compliment on the images. It was lots of fun to say, “Stop the car!”, then take the photos, and then discover that a few of them came out just as I’d hoped. The top photo, showing the corn grains peeking out, is my favorite. It’s really quite splendid in a large format – so much so that I might even print it out and frame it as a reminder that I can take decent photos!

      Linda


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