I used to joke that it’s great to live in the Midwest because any direction you travel is a vacation. More interesting, more beautiful. Not so these days. I’ve come to appreciate the quiet beauty of Midwestern landscapes.

Yes, there’s climate change and the reality that coastal living brings visions of sinking into the sea or rising into the sky in smoke and ashes, so the Midwest seems relatively safe. But I think it’s also the gift of dog walking.

Dogs need to stick their noses into every tuft of grass where a mouse might be quivering, to stand frozen, faces eagerly skyward at the base of every tree where the flick of a squirrel’s tail has been spotted. They slow me down. My step tracker is not impressed by these visits as “walks.”

I spoil my dogs with nature when they are young. And then they demand that of me. Daily. I’ve spent countless hours meandering fields and woodlands not far from home. I started to learn the birds’ songs, the small herbaceous plants, the angled leaves and furrowed barks of the trees rather than wait bored with hands in pockets, wind-whipped and half-frozen this time of year. The more I learn, the fuller and more varied those walks become.

Taking photos is a pleasure as well. It invites a person to scan the surroundings for an otherwise overlooked bit of visual enticement that is interesting in the moment and might be intriguing later when caught in the rectangular framing a photo creates. Taking photos, I see the subtle beauty of the landscape and the interplay of color, form, and texture. Grasses lean together, stretching eastward in the prevailing west wind. Raindrops hang from April pear tree buds.

I’ve visited the same field innumerable times under clear skies or cottony fog, the sun harsh overhead or already kissing the horizon. I don’t know why the clouds from this field are so often breathtaking. Probably because I am looking. There’s a wondrous way the sun pours through breaks in looming storm clouds. Even to an atheist it appears to be Heaven speaking.

I’m content with the Midwest as my patch of earth. In part it’s the fondness for home with its deep roots but I no longer doubt its quiet beauty.

The photos below are glimpses of a field I’ve seen in every season.