Zen of the Plains
Experiencing Wild Western Places
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of North Texas Press
Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication
Maps, Illustrations, and Diagrams
Although this work mentions few people by name, I could not have completed it without the support and inspiration of friends and colleagues I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with over the years. A heartfelt thank you to enthusiastic, dedicated, and caring personnel...
Prologue: Flyover Country; Scottsbluff, NE
Hot. Hazy. The June sun was glaring down on the dusty brown earth and distant black cattle and my father and me, sitting in a Piper Cherokee, slowly buzzing our way west. It was our fourth day in that little plane. We had begun the trip full of...
Chapter 1 - Shortgrass /Semi-Desert Shrub-Steppe
The wind was whipping fiercely. Grey clouds hung low over a rugged expanse of scraggly sagebrush, sandy arroyos, and the occasional tumbleweed or dust devil or raven swooping by. Because I didn’t yet have the words for “sagebrush” or “arroyo” or “raven” on that cold November...
Chapter 2 - Mixedgrass
Green! Lush, luxurious green! So this was the legendary sea of grass; here was the soft growth of Poaceae; now was Willa Cather’s “spring itself; the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere: in the sky, in the swift...
Chapter 3 - Tallgrass
You cannot make yourself love a place. You can go again and again with different expectations, for different reasons, in different seasons, but you can’t make yourself love a place. You can learn the names of the plants and the colors of the sky, make friends with the deer and come to terms with...
Chapter 4 - Shortgrass /Semi-Desert Shrub-Steppe
could tell you about how I’d seen the place a year earlier, when traveling through on the way to somewhere from somewhere else, and thought, hmmm, I could live here. I could tell you about how circumstances obliged and I moved to southwestern Wyoming—Fossil Butte National...
Conclusion - A Brief Meditation on Expectation and Emptiness
Let the snow fall. Let it cleanse all color, leaving the world sparkling in shades of white. Let it erase all texture, burying the bluestem, burying the sage, burying the rocks the ridges, leaving all swept smooth. Let it negate forms, inverting the play of light and dark, the sense of near and far, any...