Prairie Lyfe

snowscape

Gulf Coast beachscape/prairie snowscape/beautiful either way

It was a lovely day in Central Illinois today, a bright and breezy 40+ degrees, and perfect for a walk at Meadowbrook Park, the prairie preserve just south of town where I go all year long (weather permitting) to get some exercise, clear my head, gawp at other people’s vegetable gardens, look for deer, birdwatch, look at art and just generally find some balance. The prairie is an amazing place, wholly itself but able to assume a disguise from time to time, as it did today. I listened to the new Damien Jurado record as I walked, and you can too, whether you’re walking a prairie or a beach or downtown or wherever.

Last night, I went to Prairie Fruits Farm to screen Course Work: Dinner Season at Prairie Fruits Farm, the short film I co-produced for Illinois Public Media, with about 30 other people. I love going to the farm for any reason at all, even no reason; I pull into the drive and look up at the windmill and park my car, and, if it’s at night, I look for the moon. If I arrive during the day I look for the farm’s dog, Blue. As it happened, I opened the car door and looked for the moon and Blue did his best to jump in with me. It’s one of my favorite places in the world.

wes harvesting
I never thought I’d make something suitable for television. (I never thought I’d make something unsuitable for television, either). It was incredibly difficult and super-fun and I learned a lot about what I need help with and what I’m good at and also about working with another person creatively. I learned that I need to be direct with interviewees and ask what I want to ask so I get what I need (a good prescription for life in general, not just work), I learned to be flexible, and I learned how to write and voice narration. As soon as it was in the can, I said to my creative partner, Tim, I’d like another shot at that, because I knew I could have done better.

Until last night, though, I’d never seen the film all at once, nor had I seen what I had seen with other people. The film was being screened in the farm’s barn, site of breakfasts in early spring and the farm’s dinners in inclement weather. Wes, Leslie (the owners), and Alisa (the chef and my good friend) had snacks and cider ready for everyone, people brought their own booze, and as the socializing wound down a little, we got everyone to have a seat. They waited. I stood. The film began. The audience laughed at the right times and were quiet and watching/listening during the other times and the farm looked as beautiful as I remembered it and I saw the piece through their eyes, as opposed to through my own often hyper-critical eyes, by myself, in my office, watching on the computer and stopping and rewinding and stopping and rewinding.

The film is viewable here. Tell me what you think, if you’re so inclined. This version has pledge breaks for our station in it – these include me and Wes and Leslie, so if you want some awkward with your pretty farm scenes, don’t skip ’em.

The radio series returns February 6, and we’re working up a plan for 6-8 Backyard Industry videos to spread out throughout the year. I’m reading Provence, 1970 to get in the mood. I’m not sure it’s working, but the writing is captivating – people were so bitchy and hilarious. I think I would have loved hanging out with Paul and Julia Child, though. I love how she started her major career ascent in her late forties. It gives me hope.

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