It’s blowing so hard dust swirls in a cloud across the gravel lot, raining grit on the windshield and coating the van. The sign says the nature center doesn’t open until noon, but the kids beg and plead and we’ve driven 25 minutes from town, the wracking wind bullying us across the yellow dotted line.
I stand on the rise, hair tangled across my eyes, and I shake my head, laughing, because it was exactly this – this wide open land, this vast space I called “nothingness” – that I’d dreaded so much. I didn’t cry when I first heard I’d be moving to Nebraska. I was simply quiet with a sick dread. I had deemed Nebraska among my top five worst places to live – third behind only North Dakota and Nevada. How would I survive life in a giant rectangular state filled with nothing but corn and cattle?
And now? Now I can’t get enough of these huge skies and low clouds, rippling grass, flash of gold wing, hot wind.
The boys skip, each with a bag of baby carrots in his hand. Noah spots scarlet on black, and a red-winged blackbird trills from the willow. Rowan crouches, tall grass itching his calves, to watch a caterpillar on a balance beam blade. I tip my head back far to glimpse a dipping, soaring, wheeling hawk, graceful daredevil of the plains.
He doesn’t move. Neither do we. I resist the urge to hurry the boys along. A hot summer day on the prairie seems like the perfect time to break a bad habit.