07 December, 2010

December Plains

High Lonesome

Its not an environment that many folks would call inviting or beautiful. In fact, eastern elites and the tanned, toothy hordes on the west coast simply call it "flyover country", deriding and dismissive. The long slow rolling miles, broken by section roads and dry arroyos are just boring to some, downright frightening to others. Folks with Agoraphobic tendencies do not find it a comfortable environ. There is so much sky! It confounds the eye at times, just how far distant the edge of the world seems to be...lonesome, empty, silent.

When the wind blows out of the east-northeast down the unbroken prairie from Canada, nature's raw ferocity rages. In winter, blinding snows roll down from Alberta and Sasketchewan. They move with a speed that will kill the unwary and unprepared. The State Patrol and Colorado Department of Transportation have found frozen corpses less than a hundred yards from their stranded, snow bound autos. Panic and disorientation set in when the whole world turns white on white.

At the entrances and exits of the interstates and small communities, red and white striped postern barriers stand at the ready. They come down or swing shut when these Canadian Clipper storms hit. Driving into them is folly, it is suicide. Schools turn into shelters for the stranded. Those who live out on the open prairie hunker down, check emergency generators and pray that their cattle will move into windbreaks or tree lined river bottoms.

More than once, Mark and I have driven home from hunting with one of these white furies on our tail. The leading edge turning interstate travel into a fine line between driving and slip sliding to oblivion. OTR truckers convoy with each other to reach the next town, and we have followed suit...white knuckles on the steering wheel and intent focus on the raging storm's blinding the road ahead, leaving small visual clues , a mile post or fence line, a bridge abutment or snow fence.

It is a unforgiving land to those who choose to travel it unconscious and unprepared.

To the casual traveler on the two lane blacktop or the long concrete interstates, it is simply empty country. Mile upon mile, upon endless mile of wheat, milo, corn and sunflowers mesmerize the eye. Tiny dark dots on the open range might be cattle... or tumbleweeds. Words like monotonous, tedious, dull and boring come to the minds of many who travel on the way to somewhere else.

To my mind and eye and spirit, it is a wondrous land, full of life. Harsh, yes...and beautiful in that harshness. Watching hawks and prairie falcons ride thermals in search of food; seeing a herd of Pronghorns dancing across the horizon at full gallop; awakening to a sullen, red-orange sunrise, these feed my soul. Walking mile after mile along the edge of an arroyo, I stretch my long legs into that slow rhythm that becomes meditation in movement, watching for the elusive plains deer to rise from beds in the tall grass.

Now and again, near a fence post or weed patch, a cock pheasant will explode in raucous flight. Coyotes, fox and badgers appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. I find my gut relaxing, my breathing deepens. Drawing in the sweet, dry air, perhaps a bit acrid from the akaline soil, it quiets that chattering mind inside.

I understand on some level, why the Plains Indians loved this country, why they fought so to keep it open and wild. I understand too, why it takes a special kind of person to work this land, to keep cattle, plant and tend crops that might or might not grow to harvest.

I only spend small amounts of time out on the high lonesome plains. Yet each time I do, I am reminded of my own insignificance in a very large and wild world. And, I find joy in knowing that this creation, a harsh and unforgiving as it can be, shows me a side of God, his immense and profound mind that I will never fully understand....but boy howdy, its sure is fun to explore and revel in it!

1 comment:

  1. That's beautiful post.

    I kinda glad that so many folks just plain can't abide the "high lonesome." That leaves more of it for the ones that love it.