gland states (and many Protestants everywhere, I’m told)nhave embraced; and our weather, which is approximated,nmildly, in Alaska.nSee the problem? The harder we tread water trying tondefine that warm spot, the more uncertain we become.nAnd yet, “here” is someplace special. Its boundaryndegenerates only under a strictly objective eye, one thatntakes in nothing but stone-hard facts—which have a way ofnbecoming less unequivocally, vitally “true” in the companynof human beings. Subjechvity is sometimes the only way tonget at the truth. We fall in love because we cannot help it,nnot because we have weighed the good and bad traits of ournbeloved. It’s not blind love; it’s a knowing choice to benfaithful, of the same species as patriotism; “My country,nright or wrong,” scorned by ah kinds of groups (scornednmost tellingly, one would think), is knowing love in the bestncases, the kind a parent has for a renegade son or troublesomendaughter. My love for the Midwest, where I was bornnand have lived always and where I hope I will die (a verynlong time from now), grows stronger each year even thoughnI get no closer to an objective definition or justification ofnthat love. A Southerner, who lives in perhaps the bestdefinednU.S. region, would have the same problem—butnjust try denying there is a “South.”nOne answer, however, the simplest of all, keeps returningnto me: The Midwest is singular and love-deserving becausenit is as close to Heaven as we can come on this earth.nYes, I hear you falling out of your hammocks in Hawaii,npausing amid the endless thunder of Big Sur to wondernwhat drugs I’ve been taking. The world is full of fine places,nand I’d love to visit them all someday. But capital-HnHeaven will not, I think, be a holiday. Something tells menwe’h all have work to do there; important, hard work; laborsnof real love for perhaps the first time. With the labors of lovenwill come understanding, and with understanding, acceptancenand the freedom it allows—and suddenly Paradisensounds an awful lot like Peoria or Council Bluffs, onlynwarmer. Around here, life is one long practice for the realnthing.nEven though God’s Workshop on Earth is managed bynbungling human beings, the Midwest offers a nearly perfectnblend of work and joy, freedom and responsibility. There’snlots of work to go around, and a relatively low unemploymentnrate. (Data can be massaged and facts used differentlynby different groups. I know people who figure everyone hasna constitutional right to a job; to such people, even 1npercent “unemployment,” regardless of how we arrive atnthat figure, is a criminal violation.)nFarmers come to mind first, of course, when we’re talkingnabout really hard work. Not much is harder than farming,neven if you’re fortunate enough to have an air-conditionedntractor cab. All the farmers I’ve ever known have had dirtynfingernails and two-tone arms and grit in their eyes and upntheir noses, at least until their nightly scrub-down. Thensmart, good ones manage to save a littie every year for theirnold age and to pass on to their children. The others go bust.nEven if you aren’t a farmer, though, your days in thenMidwest are most likely made up of good, hard work, if younwant it—at construction sites, in offices, factories, hospitals,ntelevision stations, stores, or in your own studio. Ifnyou’re extraordinarily lucky, you’ll have a job you love; ifnyou’re just everyday, Midwestern-type lucky, you’ll have anjob.nJoy in the Midwest comes from many sources: humannrelationships, the pursuit of hobbies and sports, work wellndone, and—were you wondering when I’d get around tonthis?—the land we live on. Each state in the Midwest isnlarger than many countries; the Midwest is huge, itsnlandscape as varied as America herself Badlands moonscapesnlike ours in western North and South Dakota appearnnowhere else in the world. The Midwest has prairie so flatnand perfectiy lush with wheat or corn or sunflowers it makesnyou dizzy to look around. Wooded hills tower over deepcut,nnarrow rivers in Minnesota and Illinois; the flat pewternof the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers rests between small,nmuch-older knobs of hflls. It gets so hot here in thensummer, sometimes, that our livestock suffocates and ourncities have to ration electricity, and our winter cold spellsnregularly exceed 40 below.nWinter here, especially in the northern states, is annopportunity for personal valor—an opportunity some Midwesternersnprefer to pass up. My brother reeentiy moved tonMesa, Arizona (he’d lived all his life in Iowa, SouthnDakota, and Minnesota), selling everything he had andnarriving there without a job; I found out only then, and wasnsurprised that I’d never noticed before, that he’s alwaysnhated winter. He now works two jobs and makes less thannhe did at one in Minneapolis, and when I ask him what henlikes so much about his new home, I get temperature andnhumidity statistics from him. A friend tikes it here becausenhe enjoys pitting himself against the elements every day:nventuring out when he needn’t, skiing, skating, snowmobiling.n(He also jogs and lifts weights; in spite of all hisnexertions, I respect him.)nFor me, winter is my once-yearly chance to dig in and seenwhat I’m made of, an amusement for which I have littientime in other seasons. The long cold (and my resultant longncolds) gives me an excuse to read a lot, walk a littie,nbundled in my thoughts and other paraphernalia, sit by thenfire in the dark and listen to the wind howl. (Often the windnon our hill is so fierce we can’t start a fire.) I feel—well,nyes, I’ll admit it—like a pioneer: self-reliant, ready fornanything, tough as a scrub oak rooted in rock. I have thenurge to see old friends more often. My tastes grow simpler,nmy desires calmer.nBut let’s say, just for the sake of argument (one morenMidwestern winter pastime), that another long droughtnground us into a dustbowl, and another Depression savagednour jobs, and we were all out of work. And let’s say,nfurther—although the possibility is beyond my imaginingn—that we lost all our means of joymaking. It wouldn’tnmatter as much as it would in some places, because whatnultimately makes the Midwest special is that here, to annextent unparalleled anywhere else, we’re free.nNow, that doesn’t mean you may, with impunity, take anmeathook to my windshield if I perturb you, or that I amnexcused from paying my bills and acting responsibly. Whatnit does mean—to a sometime bohemian who sometimesnenjoys other bohemians—is that here in the Midwest wencan all act a littie crazy when we need to: without beingnarrested, usually without even being noticed, and still—n(continued on page 16)nnnFEBRUARY 1987 / 9n