I suspect that there lies within each of us a vague landscape, imprinted in our earliest years, which flickers up from time to time with a sense of loss and of promise. A place whose wonder gets lost in translation, because that wonder is sourced more deeply than words.
For me, it's the stark and sere landscape of northwestern Nebraska, a land of buttes and canyons, sagebrush and tumbleweeds, cattle and long barbed-wire fences whose fenceposts are capped with wornout cowboy boots. Open sky, towering white clouds against bright blue. Nearly deserted highways edged by brown and pale green, small sometimes empty creekbeds that wind into the distance and sometimes disappear into small canyons. Small scattered towns with wide streets and two-story buildings of faded brick and memories.
I was born out there, and lived there only the first three years of my life. So my empirical memories are few, but it's the sense of openness and prairie wind that frames my recollections. I lived out there again for a year after college, and felt for that entire year that I had returned home. For reasons that no longer make sense to me now, but had to do with immediate demands of family and finance, I left and have never returned, save for two visits. It's a hard place for strangers to take root, and my passport, premised on only three years of infancy, was of dubious value.
Sometimes I miss it more than I can say. Like this morning, as I sit here at my desk and glance over my right shoulder at the photo of a pair of buttes I spent more than a few days climbing and exploring.
I hope to get out there again at least once more. But if not, I suspect I will pay it at least a brief visit in my journey to my next world; or perhaps I will settle there, realizing, finally, that it is "God's Country" after all.
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