Thursday, November 18, 2010

On the web this week: Coming home to Iowa

The cold weather is really setting in now! The temperature is dropping, and with it the amount of travelers passing through. Fewer visitors mean a more intimate experience for each who enters the American Gothic House Center. Yesterday I met a couple from West Des Moines who stayed for nearly two hours and thoroughly absorbed every bit the Center has to offer. I am pleased to say that by the end of the visit, they were asking to get on this mailing list!

Connecting with travelers is a delight. Having lived a whole 23 years in the state, I thought I knew it pretty well. Silly me. You wouldn’t believe how much information visitors pass on about the unique details of Iowa! I’ve been told several times about a wrought iron sculpture of American Gothic located near Des Moines (I’d like to see this—any idea where it is?). One visitor described the Grotto of Redemption in West Bend, and another theBily Clocks Museum in Spillville. There is so much to see and do in Iowa, it’s no wonder that after traveling Europe Grant Wood decided to come home. As my new friend living in the Gothic house tells me, “All the cool people come back.” Laura Millsaps, for the Ames Tribune, left Iowa for nearly two decades and returned to Ames four years ago. In an article written last week, she compares her relationship with her home state to Wood’s.

Certainly this links to the flood of guests lining up to vacation with the Gothic house tenant. Since her arrival in September, Beth has hosted friends from Mason City, Davenport, Des Moines, Portland, L.A., D.C., and Virginia. One couple even honeymooned at the house! Many comment on how well they sleep during their stay. Her current guest has spent the last week in Eldon doing some soul searching. “I don’t really want to leave,” she admitted yesterday.

Once again, I have to hand it to Grant Wood. When he painted Iowa, he wasn’t just showing off pretty farmscapes or immortalizing a character type. There is definitely something beneath the surface describing a deeper Iowa. It could be the spirit of the locals, with their commitment to giving back. In an article by Cindy Toopes of the Ottumwa Courier, Eldon Mayor Shirley Stacey is recognized for her contributions as a volunteer, GATE president, and member of the PEO. Perhaps the personality of Iowa can also be described by the fact that there are over 240 museums and historical societiesthroughout the state. Or maybe it’s something much simpler.

I recently chatted with a California native, back in Iowa to attend his class reunion at Central College in Pella. He described himself as being in California “for the time being,” and said he is “trying to escape.” The man quoted an article he read during his college years that has stuck with him. “Coming to Iowa is like taking off tight shoes. You didn’t know how bad it was until you took them off.”

After experiencing Europe, Wood made a conscious decision to return home. Something about the essence of Iowa drew him back in 1927, and it’s still drawing people in 2010.

So keep the travelers coming!

1 comment:

  1. I love that quote about coming to Iowa!!!!!