I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful area, at the base of mountains with pine forests all around with both cities and plains just a short drive away. I always think I prefer the mountains and forests to the prairie mostly because I forget how pretty the prairie can be, especially if it’s allowed to just be grasslands. I guess I’m too used to seeing the blank, weedy, non-grasslands that surround so many of our Suburbias On the Plains; the developers come in, dig their holes, tear everything up and leave. They don’t bother to reintroduce grasses so weeds grow – scratchy, itchy things jutting up out of pebbly dirt, looking mean and stunted. It makes my brain think prairie land is ugly.
But it’s not. It’s full of life. There are gajillions of birds, bugs, and other critters. When it rains, everything blooms. When it doesn’t rain, sages and other chamisa thrive because they know how to live without water. The landscape becomes a soft, silvery bluegreen.
Sunsets are amazing in the flatlands, especially with the mountains to the west. You can see everything for miles. I’ve been watching the rainstorms gather in the north and west each afternoon, I follow their progress as they travel down the range flicking lightning through their dark blue blottiness and I feel like a little bit of magic is thrown my way when the sun breaks through the upper clouds. The people under the rainstorm can’t see it but I’m far enough out that I can. It’s a heavy, yellow beam, the color of the sunflowers that dot the landscape.
When those storms come out here, it’s not quiet and romantic; it’s violent. There is lightning, rolling thunder that growls for tens of seconds, wind whipping raindrops into the windows, into the few trees, onto the ground. It’s dark and loud. Then early the next morning, there’s a low-hanging mist over everything and suddenly you can’t tell that the horizon goes on for miles. You’re socked in, all sounds are kept close, everything feels damp and heavy. It’s a good time to pull up a lawn chair, grab a hot drink, and watch the fog dissipate while the dogs lie quietly at your feet.
That’s how I remembered that our plains are anything but plain.