Thursday, August 30, 2007



"Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain..."

Robert Browning wrote, "Oh to be in England, now that spring is there." I write, "Oh to be in North Dakota, now that August's here." This landscape is sacred to me.

I have never understood why they call Big Sky, Montana, "Big Sky." To me, the sky is small, hemmed in by mountains. In cities, I am hemmed in by buildings. In the woods of Minnesota, I am hemmed in by trees.

Don't get me wrong. I love each of those places. But I can always breathe a little easier when I am on the prairie. My lungs expand more freely when the air is clean and clear. North Dakota, "Clean and green in the summertime, white and bright in the wintertime."

This sacred space, once trod by Native Americans, who revered and honored the land. This space that does not shout out its beauty to you, but entices you in small ways. To appreciate North Dakota's beauty, sometimes you must bend close to the ground.

Bend close to the ground and pull the soft dusty green sage through your fingers. Bend close to watch the grasshoppers - so benign now, so insidious in the Dirty 30s. Visit a prairie dog town and watch the animals pop out of the burrows as if they were in a game of "Mole."

Stop and listen, to the meadowlark. Can any sound be more heart stopping? Listen to the cottonwoods softly slapping their leaves against each other. Listen - can you hear hymns coming from the old country church?

Yes, there are the abandoned homesteads and the crumbling barns. The North Dakota Tourism Department does not like to promote images like these. But, hush, can you hear the murmur of voices talking about the weather and the crops?

Feel the long blue stem grass - tawny as a lion - as it brushes against your pants. Smell the chaff from the harvest. Glory in a sunset unfettered by buildings or trees.

Oh, North Dakota can be majestic too. Drive west along Highway 2 the length of the state in August. See the sunflowers - field after field, brilliant masses of yellow - all turned toward the rising sun in the mornings. Drive back the other direction in the evening and these gracious ladies have all turned their heads to the setting sun.

Stand on a promontory in the Badlands and be in awe at the power of nature to scrub and scrub away at the landscape until only multi-colored buttes remain.
Stand in awe at the terrible beauty of thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Stand in awe of the loneliness, if you must. In his book, "Travels With Charlie," John Steinbeck remembers never feeling so alone in his life as the time he camped out near Jamestown ND, under a bowl of ink black sky and stars.
But I revel in the loneliness, the starkness. I am never afraid here, as I would be in the city.
I know to seek beauty where many would find none. To search for the tiny orange mallow and scarlet gaura flowers. To love the squabbling of the king birds. To be seduced by the sight of ancient purple lilacs against ancient silvered buildings.
To be home.


Naturegirl said...

Julie beautifully expressed!
I would have to agree nothing like being ~bent close to the ground!~ So many wonders of nature to behold!!
The images speak volumes!
What an absolutely wonderful piece of heaven on earth! I understand why this landscape is sacred! hugs NG

GreenishLady said...

This is so beautiful, Julie Marie. It makes me feel torn with indecision... next time I manage to get to the States, will it be California or North Dakota? What a dilemna!

Kim Campbell said...

Beautiful photos!

Lila Rostenberg said...

What a beautiful post, Julie!
Be careful or you'll have carloads of blogging friends dropping in on you!

I for one love to find "uncrowded" places!

Tea said...

Hi Julie

What beautiful pictures! Enjoyed this :)


Laura Stamps said...

Hi, Julie! I found your blog through Patty's, and what a gorgeous site you have!! The photos are breathtaking!

Being a Wiccan Faery Witch, I feel the same way. The land is a spiritual vortex to me, a spiritual being that is so much a part of me I cannot imagine living without it. As much as I love visiting New York City, I could never live there. Just not enough green growing things. Maybe that's why the pulse of that city beats so FAST. I crave the simplicity of Nature, and for life to move at a much slower pace.

It's funny. I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of north Georgia. The first time I flew out West to visit friends in Utah I was confronted with the fact that I must have the color green in my life in large amounts. I never knew that about myself until that trip. The landscape of the SW was beautiful, but too brown and beige. I found every day when I got up I had to stand at the window of my hotel room and pull the green energy from a big green tree growing next to that window into me to get through the day. I love nothing more than being in the deep green of a forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains. And I am so blessed my house backs up to a state forest here in South Carolina where I live now.

But I completely understand what you mean about needing open spaces. One of my publishers is from NM, but lived for a time in NC. He said all the green and trees and forests there made him very uncomfortable, since he was used to growing up in desert and prairies and being able to see long stretches of land that flowed for miles unhindered.

I have always believed the land where we grow up seeps into our bones and cells and sets the course for where we will feel most comfortable. We are truly creatures of the Earth, and what a glorious thing that is!

Sending you many faery xoxox today!

smilnsigh said...

"This sacred space, once trod by Native Americans, who revered and honored the land."

Thank you for this line. And not necessarily for the reason you may think....

I can never make any one's e-mail link work, in blogging. ??? But I can't. If I had your email, I'd write you my reason, backchannel. {Private email} Maybe you'll have time to drop me an email at...
warrrmmm at yahoo dot com

Then I could say the full thank you.

Oh and if you do get the time to email, please say something about this comment, in it. I fully admit that I have many forgetful moments these days. -grin- And this will save me racking my brain, about why I asked for your email. :-))))


gma said...

This is beautiful; Being connected to Earth and recognizing the sacred in your homeland. I know how you feel ...I am connected to the desert and it is sacred to me also. How are you doing? Hope all is well with you Celtic Woman.
Sending love!

Rowan said...

Some lovely images and a thought provoking post. Every type of landscape has its own beauty but most of us have a particular type that we are drawn to, for me trees and hills are what make me feel comfortable. I think it probably depends on what kind of area you spent your childhood years in. Next week I'm going to Norfolk for a few days, this is East Anglia which is flat fenland with skies and views that go on forever. It's beautiful and I love it but I'm not sure I'd want to live in such a flat area permanently. I suspect you'd like it though.

Anonymous said...

I have been to South Dakota once.

Miss Robyn said...

you are blessed to be in a place you love - your sacred place....
my gorgeous Blue Mts, where I live is a special place too. The air is so fresh and clean and you can feel the Divine here.
I love how you have described your home state, your words certainly tug at heart strings and make the soul stir!

Sweetpea said...

I have home in London and home with my Da in Cumbria. I love them both for different reasons. I love the busyness and hussle of London, I love the peace and beauty of Cumbria. I call them both home. My birth home and my home where I live! They are both beuatiful to me. xxx

couragetocreatewriteandlove said...

What a pictures!!!
Beautiful poetic post!
Stay this way always healthy and young at heart forever dear Julie!

Annie Jeffries said...

Dear Julie, I completely understand your feeling of breathing more easily when in open spaces. I had no idea how oppressed the coastal mountains and heavy forest growth of Oregon was making me feel until we suddenly burst free into the farmland around Eugene and Corvallis this past June. Beautiful country but such a weight. I guess that is what comes from living in the Central Valley for 21 years.