Free Hit Counter

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Plains person, forest person

When I lived in Iowa, a art professor told me that students from Iowa could see more subtleties in the landscape that students from Colorado. The open, flat landscape of Iowa required more discernment of differences.

I have always been a open plains or prairie person. I've spent most of my life in the open landscape of the Midwest United States. When I lived in Iowa I had a west-facing front widow that gave me a great view of the on-coming storms. Driving across the open land you could see the rain falling from clouds in the distance. Roads were laid out in the grid pattern on this flat landscape, marking the edges of the fields whose rectangular shape originate in the rectangular survey system. Streams and rivers were lined with cotton wood trees, associated with the hot, summers of the open prairie. Pennsylvania, with its winding roads and trees, was just too disorientating and made me claustrophobic.

A few years ago I took a sabbatical in New Zealand. The trip home was a nightmare. We ended up in Auckland overnight because our flight was delayed. Then when we got to L.A. the next day it was too late to catch a flight home so we had a night (actually 3 hours) in a hotel in L.A. From L.A. we flew to Denver. When we took off from Denver and headed out over the Great Plains I could sense my body relaxing. The open plains. Home.

I have now lived in the hardwoods of West Michigan for 14 years. When I first moved here I NEEDED to go back to the prairies at least once a year. I needed to see cotton woods, open landscapes, storms rolling in across the flat expanse. I needed to be able to SEE. I even grieved over the fact that my daughters would probably be forest people rather than plains people, leaving behind 150 years of family history.

Last week I spent a few days in Abiline, Texas. Abiline is about 150 miles west of Dallas. It is open country. But it felt like the middle of no-place! As I was coming home and landing in West Michigan I saw the green trees of the landscape and the changing colors of the fall. It looked lush, green, and wooded. And it felt like home.

I have acclimated.