Last month, I traveled 1,500 miles and through ten states around the United States. Though the main excuse for the trip was the wedding of my good friends I made a long break of it to visit friends and family, all of whom I rarely have the opportunity to see see now that we have an ocean separating us.

The second week of the trip was spent at home in Southern Illinois. Ajay Naidu, an Office Space star and Chicagoland resident, once said that “There [are] extraordinary similarities between the Midwest in America and Europe in that there is this sense of vast, open sky and loneliness and cold.” After having spent the last nine months living in Europe, this statement explains something I have been noticing more and more during my European adventures: architecture and the occasional castle aside, the countryside looks familiar, as if I could have seen the same ditches, roads, and plots of land thousands of times before.

This realization has been, to be honest, quite sad and demoralizing as I find myself questioning whether I am all adventured out and why I am not feeling butterflies in my stomach as I board yet another bus through Central Europe’s seemingly endless farmland.

On the other hand, after months of exploring everything possible, I found myself, for the first time ever, intrigued with my own hometown, the beautiful ruralness of the countryside just as the summer growing season gets underway and the odd allure of desolation in area whose prime has come and gone. Though the ground is flat and the fields reach for miles to the horizon, their beauty is marred by the ever present toxin-spewing smokestacks of the country’s largest  and the world’s third-largest coal-burning powerplant; fields upon fields of Monsanto’s gmo seedlings; and abandoned houses and structures, such as the now shuttered Wabash Coal Mine, which in its final year reported a $26M loss and left more than three percent of the area’s workforce unemployed.

These photographs, all taken within five miles of my family home, show this paradoxical beauty of America’s heartland.

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