My mind and body crave air, wide spaces, big sky. So we go, the kids and I. We go to where the wind rushes loud in our ears and where our hair blows tangled. Where the sun sets hot and grasshoppers ping off our legs and caterpillars munch milkweed into kaleidoscope designs.
We go to the grassy plains.
I press the pedal close to the floor as soon as the Capitol fades blurry in the rearview mirror and roll down the windows, wind whipping, boys laughing. When we arrive the preserve is empty, save one photographer buried beneath a camouflage tarp, a mammoth lens protruding like a periscope from the folds.
We meander. Truthfully I trudge while the boys skip. But with each step, my body lightens, my breath evens and my limbs settle into a rhythm.
The boys capture soldier beetles. The yellow bugs are easy prey, bumbling slowly in flight like tiny blimps, gathering in the mossy brown center of a sunflower, lazy drunk on nectar. Whole families picnic in those petal-framed circles, and as the stalks pitch and bow in the wind, I imagine it must be a little like dining on the plunging pirate ship ride at the state fair.
At the top of the hill we stop and turn, facing west as the dry wind gusts fierce and the sun slides low, pond glinting like mica. “It looks like the land goes forever,” says Noah, and we talk about how this was the way Nebraska used to be, before acres of corn and soybeans, before grain elevators and downtowns and cul-de-sacs. When wagon wheels lurched over uneven ground toward promise and hope.
Noah spots a stick bug, spindly twig delicate against waving grass.
Rowan finds a katydid, emerald treasure buried deep in goldenrod.
Cottonwood leaves sizzle in the wind like bacon hot in the pan, grasshoppers sing loud, sunflower leaves rustle as the clouds light up a Monet display. Each moment is more spectacular than the next as the sun inches lower, shimmering the grasses in gold, and the whole earth is filled with his glory.
It’s getting late. The wind stills and the grasses sing louder with nighttime sounds — crickets’ steady song, gulping frogs, a splash of something into the pond water. I cajole the boys back to the van. Rowan lingers, leaping to catch a hawk moth between clasped hands, and I call him in from the draping dusk.
We drive the back roads home, dust billowing a Hansel and Gretel path behind us. I turn the van onto the pavement toward the glittering city. Out the dust-streaked windows, a sailors’-delight sky fades to grey.
The Luthers are killing me this week, so I’m dipping into the archives again today with a post from September 2010. Some weeks I just can’t blog and write a book at the same time, so thanks for giving me a little wiggle-room so I can focus on Martin and Katie. Yup, we’re on a first-name/nickname basis now.