ODE TO THE PRAIRIE — William Quayle, 1905 (quotes) I find myself touching this word Prairie …the name is my delight. My lips refuse to hurry when they touch this word, but fondle it, lover-wise, lingering as loathe to say good bye; pronouncing it Prai–rie, holding on the initial syllable as if some musical hold were written there. When on the prairie you become a son or daughter of the landscape, of the prairie landscape as far as the sky. [photo by Dan Holmgren] The wideness, the delight, the freedom fairly inebriate the spirit. The air is so fresh and keen. The wind scurries like Indian riders, the grasses lean down to kiss the earth, who is their mother, and lift again to catch the wind’s caress and answer it in fitful allegiance; then, race madly, like a thing gone mad, then in moment, without visible provocation, quiet til the calm is like the calm of the high heavens between the dim stars. Prairies lead into the sky. Have you learned that, my heart? It is easier to keep heart when sunflowers are around. Their gladness and aggressiveness are a contagion hard to keep from catching. And to me, alfalfa, millet, timothy, white clover, red clover, I love them and faithfully, but all appeal in lesser passion than the prairie grass. Who will articulate for those who know it not or feel it not, this drench of delight, this rapture of living? Prairies are so free. And the prairie has a sense of unquenchable freedom. The spacious prairie is a helper to the spacious life. Mountains shut us in, prairies let us out! This is a great, strange presence — this intimation of the infinite, this feeling that your journey leads you into a space, that if your feet would walk to the horizon, verge they would thereafter, journey out into the sky. On the prairies you may stand tiptoe and your uplifted fingertips have no fear that they will touch the sky. If you uproot a pine you can plant another, or cut down an oak you can plant an acorn, and so a fruit or flower. Violets have seeds. Prairie grasses die [are plowed under] — no cunning art known to the husbandman can ever coax their radiant greens into life again. Prairie grass is vivid, as if God has just dyed it. Essential surprise is on its face just waking in the dewy morn. And grasses were shooting up tender spears of glistening green, and the sky was dim as beckoning rain. It is worthwhile to lie with ear against the rim of quiet streams to hear the waters; for really, they are telling their secrets, if only in whispering whispers, like words of peculiar tenderness meant for those we love the most. Heaven lies about us always, provided we care for heaven and watch for it. Close to home I will always venture to find a quiet loveliness, nobody can quite describe, yet fitted to fill the heart with quiet laughter. He felt the mantle of solitude wrapping him about and loved the comfort of it. To lie and to drift into dreams slowly, like a receding night-bird’s voice, into the prairie, and sky of sleep… and the prairie has had its way.