Where I Live: Slice of Life 2/31 #sol17

slice of life

When I first moved to South Dakota, I felt physically oppressed by the landscape. Gravity felt somehow stronger here. The wide open space was a weight on my shoulders.

I could literally see for miles, and I didn’t like it. I felt nervous, exposed. The land was vast and empty. The vegetation was brown and yellow, shades of ugly.

I missed trees, their shades of green, their shade, their smell. South Dakota smelled dry. Sometimes you could see the dust in the air.

I missed the way I felt within the trees. Hidden. Protected. The world seemed small, and I felt large within it. The world seemed full, and I never felt alone.

I don’t remember when the shift happened, when this landscape that felt anxious gave me peace. I don’t remember when I realized how beautiful it is where I live. But I know the shift that had to happen first in me. I had to learn how to look, how to see.

I drive sixty miles across prairie to work each day. The landscape I used to find flat and empty is extraordinarily varied and busy.  Any morning I may spot bald eagles, coyotes, antelope, wild turkeys, hawks, elk. There are always deer. Once, there was a badger.

The ground swells and dips, rises and curves. Now I can see it for what it is: an ancient seabed. If you dig for fossils, you may find seashells.

14 thoughts on “Where I Live: Slice of Life 2/31 #sol17

  1. Elisabeth — This is so beautiful. My boyfriend is from South Dakota, and I am from the East Coast and the first time I visited his family, I was struck by the vastness, the openness. When I was there it was the winter, and white snow stretched as far as the horizon only to meet similarly colored grey sky. It is striking, and beautiful. Looking forward to reading more of your writing!

    – Leah

  2. I love your shift in thinking. I have never been there. When I first read your post I was thinking I shouldn’t go but as I continued to read you convinced me with the description that South Dakota might be a great place to drive through to enjoy the scenery.

  3. Wow. Beautifully written. From hidden, protected, and small to open, soaring, and wide. Sounds like a metaphor to me! 🙂 I’ll be visiting South Dakota on a bucket list trip with my mom to see Mt. Rushmore. I’m excited!

  4. The woods of Missouri are always a welcomed sanctuary. I can’t imagine what it would be like to move to a place like South Dakota. Your thinking explained at the beginning of the post seems like what it might be like for me too. Along the same lines, my sister moved to Oklahoma. This fall, while visiting at home, she commented on the trees changing colors. I replied that Oklahoma should be ahead of us in the fall-time-leaves-changing-schedule, and she reminded me that “Oklahoma doesn’t really have trees.” Interesting. Thanks for sharing your beautiful place with us.

  5. We are tied to our landscapes in deep ways. Adopting a new landscape as your own may take letting go of the other homeland. I’m imagining your commute has been a big part of that transition.

  6. Your last line is brilliant attached to the images you have created. I appreciate your observation that the shift had to happen first in you. Makes total sense. I would love to see where you live.

  7. I didn’t know people moved TO South Dakota. I thought everyone who was there already lived there. I’m not trying to be funny either. I guess I always thought of it as a place people were from as opposed to a place they went.

  8. My mom found great solace and wonder in the spaciousness of Arizona. Unlike you, the world of a forest has never seemed small to me. Just the opposite. I feel small; that’s a forest’s beauty. That, and the moisture that makes everything so green. Thank you for beautifully vulnerable words. I will certainly take these words to heart: “I had to learn how to look, how to see.” This is excellent advice, whether you’re driving across the plains of South Dakota or walking through a forest.

  9. I have been to Chadron to visit my long ago transplanted friend. I have walked the campus where you teach. The landscape is so different from the sprawl of my Southern California home that I was quite intrigued by it. I enjoyed reading about your shifting perspective.

  10. What a picture you paint with words. “Gravity felt somehow stronger here.” I wonder how often our inner feelings color what we see. I’m sure at first the move was hard, but as you found your place was it easier to see all you had missed before?


  11. If you dig for fossils, you may find seashells. Fascinating. I love how you have come to this appreciation of your place.

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