Tuesday, June 05, 2012

There are several ways not to walk in the prairie,

and one of them is with your eye on a far goal, because you then 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 into 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 fell just where I had lifted it 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.

Hiking in the woods allows a traveller 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 this challenge: try to take yourself seriously out here, you bipedal plodder, you complacent cartoon.

--William Least Heat-Moon, from his book Prairy Erth.


bulletholes said...

I need to keep this as a mental image for when I am on the treadmill, and stop counting the seconds and tenths of miles as they drearily pass.

Anonymous said...

Wow,Dave! What great pictures together! You have half disappeared since I last saw you in person. You inspire your ol' mom too.

red dirt girl said...

I love this quote. I was born in the flatlands of Oklahoma and have distinct memories of endless sky, endless land all rising up to meet one another .... haaha - I wrote a poem about it called Flatlands. Then I moved to the gently rolling hills and woodlands of the Piedmont in Georgia. So I also appreciate the intimate spaces of trees and undergrowth. Limited site views opening up suddenly to distant vistas. Some times I yearn for one. Some times I yearn for the other.


Anonymous said...

". . . and it seemed every time I raised a step the earth rotated under me so that my foot fell just where I had lifted it from." Indeed running in Kansas is like running on a treadmill.

Hi, Steve!


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mom!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the long views in South Dakota. I can't wait to experience the Flint Hills of Kansas at night this October!

Hi, mule friend!