One way or the other, you gotta love it.
I will be honest here: never in a million years would I ever have pictured myself living in Nebraska. I came up in Chicago, New York and L.A. Nebraska was the drive through state en route back to Emory University from my parents' home in L.A. My recollection then was of a rolling hills, wheat-filled state. Now, I live here.
I will admit that knowing it is the Republican stronghold is disconcerting, if any of you have read my anti-Bush articles. But short of South Dakota, my husband's home state, this is a beautiful place. I mean deep-down geologically and aesthetically, beautiful.
It is hard to describe the feeling of peace that washes over me as I drive down the same old back road at 5:45 each morning and encounter herds of antelope, deer, and what seems like a million baby bunnies peeking out of the high grasses along the road. Or literally hundreds of doves taking flight in groups of ten at a time; the lemon-yellow of the meadowlark's breast as they sing on the fenceposts; or the sheer size of a spotted eagle perched on a telephone pole scoping the prairie for prey. One old-timer had a head that was the size of a young puppy. Having those golden eyes zero in on you as you pass takes one's breath away.
The green of the grass snakes sunning themselves is iridescent and amazing. I understand as well how large rattlers can become. The last one I saw was nearly six feet long. There are also huge bull snakes and garter snakes. And don't get me started on the frogs - I love frogs and toads. I still chase them around.
Prairie dogs, chipmunks racing with their tails stright up, and squirrels provide comic relief. And I actually saw a weasel or mink standing on its hind legs peering over the grass at the car which, no doubt, made a hideous rumbling sound that startled it.
Moths become jurassic here - late in the summer the huge tiger moths come out and man are they a sight. SO very beautiful. And I saw white moths as well, delicate antennae laced with feathers. They hang out on the side of the house. There are the ubiquitous beetle bombs aka june bugs and the destructive pine beetle. Stink bugs come out in the early fall and mess up the dogs usual scent. I think the pups harbor a secret stinky dog desire to get blasted. Pew.
And the blue herons I came to adore in California are right at home here. They fly over the road at the same time each morning, their huge, slate-blue wings flapping, long legs straight out behind them.
The buzzards love to fly in packs. They soar with the eagles and red-tailed hawks on currents that carry them to dizzying heights. Sparrow hawks and owls are regular attendees at the prairie varmint feasts at dawn and dusk, too. Coyote cries and birdsong is deafening in the early morning hours. And the chill moon brings silver light to buttes covered in pine trees untouched by last summer's wildfires.
Wildflowers bloom crazy all over the place. Spots of bright white, blue, purple, yellow and red blaze in fields and on hillsides. Dogs are everywhere, especially one we dubbed, "creepy dog" who bolts out of a ditch as one passes, smiling as he scares people into near wrecks. Hell, on a good day, creepy dog is more exciting than a roller coaster with the adrenaline rush he inspires.
Buttes rise in the strangest places and holes and hills dot the landscape all cut through by creeks, streams and rivers. You can find the coolest rocks and fossils since this place's geologic past is pretty intense. Silver-grey cottonwoods, long dead, stand like silent sentinels over the now-dry wadis their skeletal branches offering rare shade for cows and horses.
And the people are really nice. They say hello and wave. Some are buttheads, but that is everywhere. I have lost a bit of crustiness here and I am not certain I miss it all that much. Other than gas, you can buy a house for a reasonable price, and the quality of life is stellar.
But I guess people who grew up here think it's boring, blah, nothing to do. Well, that's true if you don't care to open your eyes and appreciate what's around you. Crickets sing at night and the wind rustles through the pines and ash trees covering our hillside; and on the breezes coming through the house is the sweet fragrance of lilac and other blooms from trees. So sweet and idyllic.
I think I had better move back to Jersey and get recrustified before I decide this really is an awesome place where I want to stay for a good long while. After all, how can one wax sarcastic in the middle of such...zen. Ish. I need to get a life, eh?