Iowa, Comfort, and the Groove of Heaven

[Photo on homepage is by Gordon McBryde, accessed at ]

Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe Jackson in "Field of Dreams". Picture from:

Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams”. Picture from:

“Is this heaven?” Asked Shoeless Joe.

“It’s Iowa.” Replied Ray.

This is a pretty well-known conversation lifted from the book Shoeless Joe and the movie “Field of Dreams”. It’s an especially famous quote to Iowans.

Mt. Everest or Mt. Olympus seem appropriate likenesses to the realm of glory. Maybe expansive and impressive states like Colorado, Arizona, or Oregon inspire more idyllic images. Iowa is not a state often remarked upon for its natural beauty, and few would compare the Iowan landscape to that of the heavenly realm.

Iowa rolls. States like Colorado inspire the human imagination with their severity, their cliffs and crevasses, their immensities and extremes. There is nothing extreme to Iowa. The color is predictably green. The terrain isn’t stagnant, but it is not severe. It rolls smoothly from one depression to the next climb. It’s less like the grandiosity of a symphony and more like the smooth tones of early Motown. More Gaye than Bach. It’s a land that grooves.

In its smoothness.. it’s casualness… it’s ease, Iowa is comfortable. The first-time visitor feels she’s been there before. There are no surprises in this land. It fits.

Is that heaven, Shoeless Joe? Is it the land that fits? Is it the realm that feels right in its ease, welcome, and comfort?

When Joe considered his experience of Iowa–the beautiful ease of the land, the open space of possibility, the ready familiarity–he considered heaven. I wonder: was Shoeless Joe wishing Iowa was in heaven, or that heaven might feel like Iowa?


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