Yesterday, the wind pushed hard and steady. Almost the whole day, it seemed like it wanted me to remember that I live in the middle of the Midwest. We are laid out in the sun to dry here, without a hill to make a shadow or protect us from storms. Nothing breaks the wind in this land. Exposed entirely on the prairie's face, the wind licks and tumbles over the surface of things here. I'm sure that hurricane Isaac being a bully in Louisiana isn't helping the wind calm down any. But weather is strange and powerful, uncontrollable and determined to carry out its own whims.
|Via. I. Lincoln, NE (Me.) II. Baton Rouge, LA (Isaac.)|
I spent the afternoon and early evening sitting on top of my car overlooking my favorite place in this city. There's a herd of American bison to my left periphery and an elk couple on the right. Before me, the prairie lays itself bare in the straw-yellow of late afternoon.They were all so lazy in the sun, languishing in their confined spaces. I wondered how it would be, constantly enclosed like that for my whole life. Would I know that I was missing something? Am I?
But here, the wind is king. I heard once that sound travels over a distance of 1,256 square miles. The wind pushed itself through all of the yellow tall grasses in their late-summer brittleness and bashed into trees. I could feel it rocking my car below me, and more than once it threatened to take away the blanket I had wrapped under my body. It won't let me forget.
I walked over to a tree to get a better look at it. On my way back, the wind took my hair and tangled it into a branch. I pulled it loose and turned to face away from the wind so that my hair would be my own again- it became a veil on the sides of my head and danced on my elbows, my back. I felt safe in there.
I have sat on top of my car many times. I've found need for the ritual in every place I have lived. I need to be alone outside. I need to touch the earth and feel the wind and know the sound that the sun makes and un-makes. I need to have it touch my face. I need to smell grass growing and dying and being eaten. I need to be reminded that I am small and that there is a whole world beyond my understanding and the phenomena of my immediate concern. It is here that I draw the closest to God.
Nature is a temple.
In high school, I had to be outside to be regenerated. I remember wanting to hang my cleaned sheets from a line that I rigged from the house to the shed. I wanted them out there not because I wanted them to smell fresh when I went to bed, but because they created the most ethereal fort in my family's back yard. I set up a stool between the fitted sheet and the top sheet and just sat there watching the wind manifest in the ripples of fabric. I sat there for hours. The same wind manifest itself in the tall grass of the prairie yesterday.
When I was a little girl, my mom worked as a landscaper in a cemetery in Northern Utah. She always brought us along to help pull weeds and to know what the earth smelled like. Some of my best memories were from gently nudging pansies out of black plastic cups and setting them in the deep brown soil for my mom to carefully swadle into their beds. I liked to take adventures away from her side in that cemetery. I remember one in particular because of its strangeness in retrospect. I found a hole in the side of a little hill towards the back of the cemetery lot. Looking back, the idea of this scares me, but I had the courage of a child who didn't know how to be scared yet. I remember feeling very tired and warm from working in the sun all that afternoon and so I climbed into the hole and laid down. It was so dark and damp and cool in there. I could smell the bitter sting of roots and feel them cradling me there. It felt like things were growing all around me. I fell asleep and when I woke up, it was dusk. My mom was just packing up to leave. I wonder now, if she knew I had gone. I wonder now what that hole, that was just large enough for my 7 year old body was actually for? A deer, maybe? I felt then, that I had gotten away with something tricky because I was on my own entirely for that few hours. The best naps are taken in wombs, I guess. Even in a place where they might actually be a tomb.
Finally, in class this week, we were discussing (very philosophically, of course), where the idea of humankind as separate from nature happened. I believe it was the rise of "humanism" during the 15th Century that the distinction was made the most deliberately. In that time, the objective was to see where humanity fit in the grand scheme of things. The scale went like this: Nature -> Man -> God, and the human sciences served as a means by which to measure the human distance from nature and from God. In some instances, this was an enabling power and in others it was a delimiting one. The effect was our separation from nature: from the nature of which we are inherently part. Nevertheless, the word "HUMAN" comes from the same Greek root as the word Humus, which is basically the end result of compost. It's dirt. And it's dirt from which we come. It's dirt to which we return. We are beings of the earth.
The earth is our mother.