Sarah’s Slice of Life: Grass – Yes, GRASS
When you think of ordinary or boring things, grass probably has a place at the top of the list. After all, we know how the adage goes: as boring as watching grass grow.
Part of this has to do with how commonplace it is. We see grass everywhere – coating yards, little tufts between sidewalk cracks, under leaves, beside trees, and patches of green spotting downtown flower beds.
But that’s not the grass I want to talk about. I want to talk about a patch of green growing along a roadside near Keflavik Air Base in Iceland. The year was 1988. It was April, the start of spring. The sky was a clear, fresh blue, and yellow dandelions were beginning to shoot up across the hillsides.
Only a picture remains now to document this slice of time. My father took it when he was stationed at Keflavik, a little air base stuffed between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Icelandic mountains. The picture can now be found in a gray photo album nestled between photos of F-15 fighter planes, terminal runways and my dad dressed head-to-toe in his 25-pound camouflage hazmat suit.
My father enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1983 only because his mom told him he had to find a job after he graduated high school. There was no patriotic flare to the decision. He simply needed a job.
That job took him directly into the fray of the Cold War. The 1980s was a decade when the world saw revamped tensions between the Soviet Union and the U.S. My dad enlisted in the U.S. Air Force the same month President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union the “empire of evil.”
I’ve always been fascinated with my father’s time in the military, namely because he was able to travel all over the world and see things that few people have. His job was to guard the planes wherever they went — Europe, Africa, Middle and Central America — which meant he flew across the globe. He’s been to every state except Alaska. He got to hand out supplies to children in Central American villages and help the people of Mexico City after an earthquake.
My dad didn’t make his way to Iceland until 1987. He worked Tactical Airlift Command, securing the fighter planes. There, he got to see F-18 and F-105 planes take off over the rocky beaches. He watched Icelandic sunsets and storms roll in from the ocean. During the night watch, he gazed at the northern lights while they danced in a cold winter silence.
There are plenty of pictures of Iceland in that photo album — farmland, waterfalls, raging waves and small fishing boats in the shadows of the mountains. There are plenty of my dad’s military memories as well, including fighter planes, uniforms, watchtowers and group photos of him and his buddies making funny faces at the camera.
However, I’ve always loved that one picture of the grass along the roadside the best. It was taken at the base, where I’m sure the smell of fuel was strong and the sounds of planes roaring off were loud. It captures a time when the tension of the Cold War was high, when threats of biological and chemical warfare cast a shadow over my dad at that air base in Keflavik.
Despite all the worries of war and nuclear threats, my dad took the time to snap a picture of something as ordinary and boring as a patch of grass beside a roadside. He was able to see a small garden by the black asphalt, a few blades of green in a rocky world of gray.
Maybe one day I’ll follow in his footsteps and get to see Iceland for the beautiful place that it is. But I don’t need to wait to be able to see grass or understand that it shows the potential for rebirth — the promise that precious things can still grow in barren places.
Sarah Tate is the Editor-in-Chief of the Liberty Champion. Follow her on Twitter @state2151