Belonging to the Prairie

The sky as far as you can see. The wind blowing so hard against your face as you work in the field that the grit and grime sticks to your body. The sweet fresh scent of the North Dakota badlands overtakes me and I take it all in. These are just a few of the things that I love about my beloved North Dakota. My heart and soul have and always belong to the prairie. (Which is where the title of this blog came from)

In seminary, I remember many friends sharing that they did not want to go to ND for their first calls. They didn’t want to be out in the middle of nowhere which I understood then and still understand now. Yet I wished that they would just give her a chance…they would see the beauty that this state has. I do remember a seminary professor sharing how much he loved ND and could possibly see himself moving there someday. My heart loved hearing his words. I wish more people could see her beauty.

Yes that beauty has been taken over in the west by the oil. And it isn’t the same as it once was. Yet ND still holds her beauty. Years ago many people saw the beauty in the land of North Dakota. Teddy Roosevelt spent much time in the ND badlands and loved being there. He even once said, “I have always said that I would have not been President had it not been for my time in North Dakota.” Sakakawea and Lewis and Clark traveled along the route through ND.

For me, there is something so incredibly holy about being in North Dakota. I have spent many nights laying in the grass looking up at the big sky taking in this beautiful land. I have felt the whip of a cold wind on a ND night and have felt the heat of a warm ND summer night on my face. I have heard the Western meadowlark (the ND bird) carry her song throughout the plains of ND. (I love how Teddy Roosevelt captures her voice. He once wrote, “One of our sweetest, loudest songsters is the meadow-lark…the plains air seems to give it a voice, and it will perch on the top of a bush or tree and sing for hours in rich, bubbling tones.”) I have watched my father, uncle, and grandfather work the land of ND. And I have found my place in the prairie! In the prairie, I am able to feel a sense of holiness, a sense of peace, a sense of belonging that I haven’t found anywhere else.

It is hard to put into words what the ND prairies do for my heart and soul. It is hard to share with others that haven’t experienced it like I have. Yet I know that my heart and soul belong to the prairie. Again Teddy Roosevelt seems to have captured my thoughts best. Living in the ND badlands, he once wrote “There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.” Or as he also wrote “Nothing could be more lonely and nothing more beautiful than the view at nightfall across the prairies to these huge hill masses, when the lengthening shadows had at last merged into one and the faint after-glow of the red sunset filled the west.”

Holy Ground

(This blog post was inspired by another blog post I read earlier tonight that my friend Dan wrote. You can read his blog post here: The Gift of Perspective)

There is a children’s book on my shelf titled “If you’re not from the prairie….” This book was shared with me many years ago by a dear friend. As she read the book to me, I fell in love with it. It captures so well how I feel when I’m on the prairies (hence the title of my blog!)Here is a page from the book; “If you’re not from the prairie, you don’t know the wind, you can’t know the wind; our cold winds of winter cut right to the core, hot summer wind devils can blow down the door, As children we know when we play any game; the wind will be there, yet we play just the same, if you’re not from the pairie, you don’t know the wind.”(If you’re not from the Prairie;David Bouchard and Henry Ripplinger;Aladdin Paperbacks Copyright 1995)

I’ve always felt God’s presence on the wide open prairies. There is just something so incredibly holy about the prairies. I am reminded of the many families who have farmed the prairie lands. I think of my uncle, dad, and grandfather who daily work on the prairie. As a teenager, I loved driving in the tractor, taking in the vastness and holiness of the prairie.
Recently my new aunt was commenting on how she has been loving the wide open prairies but has noisy neighbors (the cows!). I said to her, “There is just something so incredibly holy about the prairies. Its hard to explain unless you have experienced it for yourselves.”

The prairies allow me to see the sky as wide and as far as I can see. In so many ways, it reminds me of how wide and vast God’s love for us is! The prairies allow me to feel the wind and remind me of the gift of the Holy Spirit (Can you tell I’m working on a Pentecost sermon for Sunday?) The prairies are the one place I go to–to be refreshed! The prairie always will hold a special place in my life. In so many and various ways, the prairie is “holy space” for me!

I love how the children’s book closes. It truly captures how the prairie makes me feel. It reads “You see, my hair’s mostly wind, my eyes filled with grit, my skin’s red or brown, my lips chapped and split,I’ve lain on the prairie and heard grasses sigh, I’ve started at the vast open bowl of the sky, I’ve seen all those castles and faces in the clouds, my home is the prairie, and I cry out loud.”(If you’re not from the Prairie;David Bouchard and Henry Ripplinger;Aladdin Paperbacks Copyright 1995)