On the flat land

I do not think I could live well in the flat lands.

My husband and I just got back from driving 4,690 miles on this North American continent, the longest single road trip I have ever taken. Some of that driving was through the flattest country I have ever seen.  I would gaze one direction for miles into the horizon and only see the top half of a distant tree or the upper arms of a wind turbine above an expanse of grass, crops or harvested ground.  Flat but for the curve of the planet itself.  I did not take a photograph because I have a bias against flat.

The truth is we only crossed the plains to get from one set of mountains to another. Standing on the endlessly level ground, I was out of balance.  Dwelling in mountains, or at least hills, all my life has shaped my perspective, molded how I walk, sculpted my definition of adventure, of beauty.   I am prejudiced, while I gratefully admire the farmers who dig in their heels and plows into such a place as this in order to feed a large number of people in the world, including me.  I still wonder: how, if necessary, would I, could I live here in the flat lands?

This is what I imagine.  That I, eternal optimist, would try for a time.  That I would, given a snippet of garden, make small hills in this flat place and poke pumpkin seeds into them.  Then the long season it would take for them to ripen into the orange, ribbed globes would hold me to the level land for awhile.  In the waiting I would water frequently, research how to make pumpkin (not apple) butter, and collect my canning jars.

Biding time through mid-summer, I would sit down in the prairie grasses and blossoms on a windy day, watch the eye-level horizon of waving plants—all that is left to me—and listen to the swish of stems brushing each other, tease the grasshoppers into jumping.

And if I discovered a cluster of trees, I would make plans to walk there on a late afternoon.  As the sun hangs low, I would turn my back on it and the trees, watch instead the shadow, like a mountain, unfold itself on the ground and remember.

At night, since the unlit plains uncover stars in greater numbers than I have ever seen, I would take the opportunity to learn the names of the turning constellations and, amazed, peer into the depths of the Milky Way.

I would try all this.

That is, until the evening I hear the Canada geese flying high in formation, streaking black across the star impaled sky, calling their traveling itineraries to one another.  That might do me in.  My imbalance might take over.  So I would stagger my way back to the kitchen, light the candle scented like white pines, breathe deeply and mix bread dough.  With each kneading press of my greased palm, I would let my mind climb the winding trail, step by step, past the lake where goslings are raised, to the ridge where we discovered the best wild bushes.  Then, loaf baking, I would reach for those blueberries, now shelved and encased in jam.

Yes, I can only imagine living in the flat land for a season.