October 12, 2010

Endless Prairie

Posted in Children, Travel tagged , , , , , at 7:01 am by Liliana


Endless Prairie

Endless Prairie


Now that my children, nieces and nephew are growing up and moving to interesting places, I travel to parts of the country I might not naturally venture to on my own.

My world is expanding.

Last Thursday, my sister Branka and I visited my niece Nicole for the parent weekend at her school. Her small, liberal arts college is located in the middle of the Illinois prairie, on the very edge of the Great Plains. This is Abraham Lincoln country.

On a sunny, Indian summer day Branka and I drove more than seven hours to our destination. As we hastened past Chicago, trying to avoid the rush hour traffic, we talked and laughed.  The colors of the leaves were vivid and intense but the landscape so familiar we hardly paid attention to the scenery.

We quieted down and looked in wonder the further west we drove.

All around us, as far as the eye could see, stretched acres and acres of shimmering wheat, dried corn husks, green grasses. The land stretched out flat, treeless; a rare farmhouse or barn roof became visible now and then. The sky – domineering, colossal, limitless, was the main character in this terrain. The eye constantly wondered up, to the intense blueness, to the gauzy whiteness of the clouds.

I didn’t want to drive. I wanted to look without thinking, to soak it all in without distraction.

We delighted in wordlessly pointing to each other points of interest.

An ancient, abandoned barn with bushes and trees growing from the inside out. Clouds. Rows of wheat frozen in windless atmosphere. A minuscule elevation with a compound of farm buildings and a silo. A white farmhouse on the side. Islands of green wild grasses on idling farmland. A stretch of rotting wooden fence. Horses grazing. Cows grazing. Clouds.

We floated in our car for hours, and saw no people.

We had seen this world before – in cowboy moves, in American landscape paintings, watching “Little House on the Prairie” on TV. But those visions were experienced on a small screen. To our European eyes, tamed by old cities and narrow cobblestone streets, it seemed impossible that this vastness exited in a landlocked domain.

This coming Thursday I am traveling to New York City. Can that urban, crowded realm really exist in the same universe as this vast, quiet, golden sea?

I will let you know.