The ink pen slashes across the words in the list. Done that, done that, haven’t done that. My day is composed of black and white scribbles posing as goals. Sometimes my list—endless lists—feels too controlled and too domesticated for the yearnings scratching in my soul. I remember, as a younger girl, responding to the need to get into nature. I would saddle my horse and ride into the woods to feel part of something bigger than my small purple and white room. Those days are in the past, but in reach of my memories.
I no longer have a horse or easy escape. Time comes in measured increments and stolen moments laced rancid with guilt. How sad that I feel rebellious when I take time to visit the sanity of wilderness. Nonetheless I go.
The wind grabs the excess material of my jacket and snaps it like a flag waving defeat. Belatedly it occurs to me that a hat would have been a good idea in this open expanse of prairie, a reclaimed area showcasing nature’s palette of bronze, gold, and muted purple. I push forward through waist-high grasses; arms outstretched, hands open, and allow the seed heads to tickle my down-turned palms. I feel incredibly alone. Even the birds have gone silent on this late afternoon leaving the wind to play taps, unaccompanied, to the dying sunset in Wild River State Park.
My senses are open to the experience. The air is fresh smelling, yet not quite alive. My steps crunch dried weeds and shatter crusted sand ripples. I take in the obvious and the ordinary…leafless trees marking the fringes of land once farmed…an anemic sun backlighting a blizzard of gossamer milkweed tufts…but I want the unexpected to appear. A land this open wreaks havoc in my imagination. I pretend I was here centuries before; that I was a witness to earthly cycles and connected to wilderness yet unbroken by plows and progress. I will my sleepless dreams to see dusty buffalo grazing and milling in the distance, unaffected by the intrusion of modern times, certain in their right to exist. I gaze at the sky, now a watercolor blue, and wish it was charred black with birds in frenzied migration. But no, those things are alive only in my mind’s eye. My wilderness is equal parts fantasy and reality.
A sharp pinprick brings me back to the present. A sandbur has pushed through my stocking and into my skin. I pull it out and look around as if I’m waiting for…what exactly? The park is quiet. Shadows grow longer and I accept the uncertainty of darkness. I stand in solitude, a tiny speck of life as nature falls asleep.