A Week in Rural October by Chila Woychik
Managing editor Krys Malcolm Belc on today’s bonus essay: The speaker in Chila Woychik’s playful and wide-ranging piece insists that “words matter.” This hybrid essay deftly explores relationship dynamics, the push and pull of farm life, the planet’s health with beautiful precision.
A Week in Rural October
1. Spreading Fall fields brown and dead. Grains, soybeans, potatoes, sprayed and killed to speed the harvest process. This killing process by herbicide is called desiccation, and the spray used can vary from the horrible to the less angry, but it’s all chemicals, all the time. I’m glad I raise chickens. Let’s go to the organic grocery, honey.
2. Too many people die of cancer. It’s a tough subject, worse than particle physics or sewing. I’m not sure a Tuesday can hold all the new cases, and a desert swims with sand. Chemicals on the ground we walk on, grow stuff in, get our water from. Chemicals on the plants we eat. Earth grows one big tumor. Spray farmer, spray, for that’s our way.
3. My farmer breathes deeply of the air outside the Jeep, near-harvest air heavy with corn’s musty bouquet, and alfalfa’s rich green tang. He breathes deeply and sighs. “I love this time of year.” “I love this smell.” “I love driving on evenings like this.” So much he says with eyes and a mind cast back to his high school days “on the farm.” When he becomes nostalgic, I think the stars themselves straggle out a tune.
4. Outside our window, a strong ram thrusts against the hindquarters of a ewe in estrus. The land, the animals, lie open and fertile, and every living thing. Shall we fuck, I ask my farmer. I speak in proper English because language matters.
5. Cattle roaming these hills, and thoughts of Tater. “Tater” came calling one perky Fall day, shiny white truck the center of conversation. “Get a new one every year,” he said, then turned toward our pasture. “How many cows you got besides that one?” The next week’s newspaper headlines flashed a picture of Tater under the heading “Cattle Rustler Caught.” We never saw him again, and we kept our cow.
6. I can’t find a spare moment, a quiet time. The trees are too busy, the sky, too loud. And the birds—need we mention the birds? Every field runs some great marathon. Corn sways sways sways. Little soybeans by the billions forget to mind their own business. There are the animals and the stars. One big world of stuff and movement. One rowdy song. Okay, I’ll drive to the city; it’s quieter there.
7. The end of day lies soft and wild on lands long and deep, and each heart spreads open to the next morning’s ambiguity. Not so structured, this country thing. There’s room for play, and we live and work in a sort of beautiful blur, led (or turned away) by nature’s whim. We learn to sing along the lines of fluidity and surprise, sing the land we love.
German-born Chila Woychik has lived in the Midwest most of her life. Her work appears in Cimarron, Portland Review, and other journals. She is the recipient of writing awards from Emrys Foundation and Red Savina Review. She is the founding editor at Eastern Iowa Review & she's seeking a home for her first hybrid essay collection. Her most impressive role thus far has been as Grandma. www.chilawoychik.com