For me, Independence Day has never been as much about fireworks as about corn. For as far back as I can remember, the benchmark of summer was the height of the corn by the Fourth of July. “Knee high by the Fourth of July” punctuated my dad’s conversations with other ball-capped men in the hardware store and the local NAPA, where I tagged along and spun on the vinyl-covered stools at the counter while we waited for the whatever-it-was we were getting to fix the mower or the tractor or the pump at the pond. The camp where I grew up always had something in need of fixing, and Dad never failed to tinker and get it running again. He also never failed to invite me to tag along, and I remember, at about age four or five, running down the driveway as though my life depended on it to catch up with the battered red International truck so I could go along.

I have memories of fireworks too, but it is the conversations about corn that whisper along the edges of my memories, and perhaps it was they who fertilized my own interest in agriculture. This year, we have corn on three sides of us, and I have been marking its progress. I’m helpless not to. On the long middle-of-the-night drive home from our trip, Heidi had me rolling as she poked fun at me for romanticizing the corn fields in the early morning sunlight. (I was pulling no stops in my attempts to stay awake. Seeing the sun filter through the fields – corn and wheat – was becoming a grail for me as we drove the black fraught-with-wildlife night.)

Knee high isn’t even a realistic goal most years. I suspect my husband rolls his eyes (never in front of me) and wonders about my obsession with knees and corn. In the northern part of the state where I grew up, knee high was a more realistic goal than it is here only a few hundred miles south. Here, the corn will be, easily, thigh or neck high by the Fourth. We get tassels a week or two earlier too. We may harvest at the same time, but the growing seasons and the yields are different.

Even so, today, peering through the gloomy rain of the Fourth of July, I’m marking the height of the corn. It has me enchanted with its rolling green vistas, the rustle of the leaves, how tall it is. I remember the last year we had corn planted here on our little six-acre plot, and how I took pictures every week of the field. I remember Prince Charming’s joy as he planted, cultivated, harvested. He would walk out in the field periodically and mark its progress.

We wouldn’t trade the sheep pastures for fields, but, all the same, we love the corn. Seeing it in the fields next to us reminds us of what we love about country life. It is a daily, growing nudge by God to spend some time looking around before the beauty of the day is gone. In the silence of the corn fields I remember to spend some silent time with God, even as summer keeps us hopping from one thing to another.