I loved the Little House on the Prairie books when I was growing up. I don’t know what the draw to them was, but it was strong. The family unit was intimate, and life was hard but wholesome, simple, and earthy. I loved how real everything was, and how memorable: a piece of candy on Christmas was spectacularly special: it came only once a year and there was no sense of, “Whaaaat? Only an orange and a peppermint stick in my stocking?” Kids in my life get those things every day.
But also there was the prairie in those books. Like Lonesome Dovelater, and O Pioneers!, and any other novel filled with sweeping vistas of golden wheat, or sweet heather, warm and grass-smelling in the sun, the prairie was a place I always fantasized about and romanticized. It represents the wild frontier, the families rough and raw and strong, who planted themselves on land that went on forever without trees or wind break, just flat open land covered in a sea of grass, grassland as far as you can see, and they planted themselves in it and wintered in the bitter cold of winters in sod houses or hand-built log cabins that wind and snow whistled through the cracks of. Winters that I could barely stand in a modern house with solid, double, insulated walls, and plastic-sealed windows.
There were grasshoppers in Little House — a plague of them — and glass windows were an extravagance. There were sod floors and people lived close to the earth, working the land, appreciating every small thing it provided. And they made their own clothes and pies and furniture, and Pa played the fiddle, and they read the Bible.
So when we moved to Minnesota, I wanted to visit the prairie. It was a mythical place to me, wholly unlike the coastal seascape of my childhood. And it was everything I imagined it to be, only better because I could smell it. It smelled of warm grass and wind, of sunshine and dirt, and of ozone as we watched the lightning storm and its black bulk crawl over the vast grassland toward our campsite.
For the month of April, I will be publishing a 10-minute free write each day, initiated by a prompt from my prompt box. Minimal editing. No story. Just thoughts spilling onto the page. Trying to get back into the writing habit.