There are several ways not to walk in the prairie, and one of them is with your eye on a far goal, because then you begin to believe you're not closing the distance any more than you would with a mirage. My woodland sense of scale and time didn't fit this country, and I started wondering whether I could reach the summit before dark. On the prairie, distance and the miles of air turn movement to stasis and openness to a wall, a thing as difficult to penetrate as dense forest. I was hiking in a chamber of absences where the near was the same as the far, and it seemed every time I raised a step the earth rotated under me so that my foot feel just where it had lifted from. Limits and markers make travel possible for people: circumscribe our lines of sight and we can really get somewhere. Before me lay the Kansas of popular conception from Coronado on--that place you have to get through, that purgatory of mileage.-- William Least Heart-Moon, PrairyErth (a deep map)
Hiking in the woods allows a traveler to imagine comforting enclosures, one leading to the next, and the walker can possess those little encompassed spaces, but the prairie and plains permit no such possession. Whatever else prairie is -- grass, sky, wind -- it is most of all a paradigm of infinity, a clearing full of many things except boundaries, and its power comes from its apparent limitlessness; there is no such thing as a small prairie any more than there is a little ocean, and the consequence of both is the challenge: try to take yourself seriously our here, you bipedal plodder, you complacent cartoon.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Tales of the Heartland
Heartland is less than seven weeks away. And it is definitely on my mind these days.