Monday, October 12, 2009


This Saturday, I leaped at the opportunity to explore areas beyond the neatly maintained, mowed, signed, controlled path, and indeed saw new things -- wandered down a creek bed, learned the names of the grasses, the trees, met some bison.

But oh there were little "science stations" everywhere -- metal boxes, fences, gates and more gates. The bison had tags in their ears. The gates had locks. The fences had grass on one side, forbs on another.

The sky was grey, cold bitter wind, rumors of snow swirling in the air, autumn.Drove to the top of a hill and looked out across acres and acres and acres of grass, but wasn't allowed to just slip away, head cross-country, dip into the woody ravines, climb along the flinty ridges, just lay down in the middle of a field and watch the clouds grey grey grey. So many shades of grey, though you can't tell without sitting, site-watching. Instead it was just sad, somehow, to see the prairie so poked, prodded, abused, divided. Differentiated. Trammeled.

Back then again the next day, to the same old path. Greyer, colder, wind tearing sprinkles from the sky. Made the place feel even smaller, to have had my eyes opened to roads, fences, boxes beyond my immediate experience. I was at my own pace, but didn't have to look where I was going, just let my feet follow the path. (Maybe that's what it is? You don't actually engage in a place when you follow a path, you just go where it tells you to go, see what it tells you to see. There's no choice.)

At the same, delightful to return to familiar spots, to see oh! the burn from last spring is as full of grasses, rich as ever, I'd never have known it had been black, charred, bare just months ago had I not seen it, returned.

Each time I go back, I have to revise my perceptions -- not totally erase and rewrite, but revise, add layers, depth, dimension. Fascinating to study, but I don't want to be told what to study, I want to explore, see what, as Robert Frost would say, sticks to me like burrs in a field.

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