The older I get, the more reflective I become. I think it happens to the best of us, doesn’t it? Some of the things I find myself reflecting on most these days are the things which ultimately shaped my chosen profession and which had lasting impact on my psyche from the time I was a child. Some of the most profound influences I had, though I don’t think I fully realized it until later in life, were my childhood surroundings. The great prairies.
Like most children, I absorbed the world around me like a sponge–especially the natural world. The pulsing, rhythmic heartbeat of Mother Nature ran through my veins like the elixir of life. Nowhere was this feeling more prevalent than on the open plains of Kansas, where the prairie grasses danced and nodded in the continual breeze and the sunflowers painted the roadsides, hills and valleys–faces upturned–greeting the heavens with a sunny yellow smile.
It was this magnificent, untouched, ever-changing prairie that fed my spirit. The warm breeze caressing brown, summertime faces and the bitter howl of winter’s fury that could all but knock you down and take your breath away with a single, frigid gust. It was the gentle rain that fell and made slow-moving rivers through roadside ditches where neighborhood boys floated boats made of lumber scraps and the ominous thunderheads that towered miles into the sky, forboding and black, a warning to those who were wise enough to take heed. It was the timid prairie dog–burrowing, watching, waiting–ever vigilant; their guards on high alert in the knowledge that one misstep on their part and SNAP!, the loss of a loved one to the talons of a red-tailed hawk on silent wing.
Some say you can’t go back. I disagree. When the day is long, when work provides more stress than comfort, when the world begins to spin faster and faster out of control–the prairie is still my calming force. It is home. It is where I return in quiet solitude, in meditation–the prairie of my childhood–and all is right again with the world.