We grew up in the city of Chicago, so growing up our interactions with nature never would exceed romps in our spindly, sickly forest preserves in Chicago's Northwestern residential sprawl,
or encounters with the occasional colorful Cardinal or Finch, and the abandoned, brown shells of cicadas, who emerged every summer and whose extraordinarily loud mating calls from the treetops,
whose extraordinarily loud mating calls would scour the air and render all outside conversation useless from three in the afternoon until sunset.
Our father, though, had a craving for nature, that either grew out of a want for me and my younger siblings to gain an appreciation for it, or,
a suppressed need for quiet after raising three kids in a marriage that didn't work.
Whichever it was, we began to take roadtrips every July in his low-ceilinged bright blue and battered Mercury Grand Marquis,
whose seats were made out of a light gray fabric and became unbearably hot in the sun and was colored by various stains, to a small town of less than 500 people called Cloverdale, an attempt,
perhaps, to detach himself from the life in the city.
Cloverdale was a city of disenchantment and decay; A decades old restaurant with a neon sign reading 'STAR' marked our arrival to the town, where our Great Aunt Mary lived in an empty house,
where crosses hung from every wall and a brown lazy boy creaked and groaned with every kick backwards.
It was a collection of wooden planks floating in an inconceivable sea of farmland, where other debris -- abandoned farms, torn up tires, and the ghostly figures of windmills drifted.
It was where dreams went to die, where men would watch as their riches turned to scraps, and would raise up in anger and curse the Democratic party,
them fall back into their chairs on their porches and spend their days fishing and wandering their memories, waiting for ants and termites and weeds to grow up and devour them.
The first of our family had long been dead, likely in some grave whose name and history we wouldn't know, and now their Grandkids -- our Grandparents -- lingered about the dust of the plains,
content in the dust and the heat of bucolic languidness.
They were a long line of Americans who loved God, their children, and liquor, and people were determined by what order they put those three in,
and they had devoted their lives to an unimpassioned life in a perfect paradise of dust, and their children, and their children's children would dwell their until the end of time itself,
until their ghosts joined the windmills and abandoned, leaning barns in their Solitude, and slowly, yet surely, my father joined them.