Our Turn At This Earth: Taking Notice

Jun 11, 2018

Today, rather than share my observations of the High Plains, I devised an exercise to encourage you to explore yours. I hope you enjoy it and that it brings you some insight into your relationship with the land. You can do this in your head, but it will be more informative if you do it with your feet, nose, hands, eyes, ears, and, if you’re particularly adventurous, maybe even your tongue.

Drive to a place where intact (not over-grazed) pastureland borders bare farmed ground or a planted field. Stand at the fence facing into the pasture, or if you’re comfortable doing this, crawl through the fence, walk a ways and sit down. Whether it is hot or cold out, windy or calm, smell the air and experience the feel of it on your skin and in your lungs. Take deep breaths. What do you smell?

Let your eyes travel over the grass. Run your hands over it and study it up close. What colors do you see?

If you were an artist would you want to set up an easel and paint a likeness of this place? Is the sky different here than elsewhere? If so, is it the sky’s color or transparency or the shape and height of the clouds or the sheer amount of it that makes it different? Would it be as beautiful without the grass beneath it? What do you hear—the calls of birds or the sounds of engines? If the sounds are other than natural, do you wish they would stay or go away?

Since the Plains are usually sunny, you probably got here on a clear or only partially cloudy day. Regardless, notice the light and the way it affects the colors of the prairie. What is the quality of the light? Is there more light here than other places you’ve visited or lived? What shadows does it cast? Do they lend interest to the landscape? Do they make you wonder what lies beyond the next rise? In what ways does this land affect your mood?

Now leave the pasture and face, or enter, the farmed field next to it. How do you feel now? Would you rather the sun lit the surroundings you were in before or these surroundings? Look at the plowed earth at your feet. How does it compare, in beauty, to the grasses and other plants you were noticing a few minutes ago?

Do the colors of the sky and the ground complement one another as well here as they did in the pasture? If you were a ground-nesting bird, such as a meadowlark or killdeer or a burrowing owl, or if you were a cottontail or a kit fox, would you prefer to live here or in the pasture? In which setting do you feel most at home?

I suggest this exercise as someone who had to leave the Plains to begin to understand how I’d been imprinted by them. Even if your conclusions differ from what I’m sure you can deduce mine would be, I would love to hear your observations. Please share them with me on my website or through this station’s website.