“There is not a tree or bush to be seen. The eye may range east and west to a boundless extent over a surface covered with grass. The grass is green at one’s feet but changes to blue in thedistance like athe blue and vastness of the ocean. Man feels here, the thrilling sensation of unlimited freedom.”
In 1836, the artist George Catlin, on his way to Pipestone quarry, looked around the vast prairie and the mirroring sky, and jotted down those words in his diary. Catlin is famous for his portraits of Native Americans, not so much for his American landscapes; but perhaps he knew better. You stand up high on a place like southwest Minnesota's Blue Mound, and you know very well that no camera in the world is going to render what it is you see all around because so much of it seems a broad yawning nothing. But if you stand up there for any time at all, it can be remarkable how satifactorily the soul abides exactly there, where there is nothing, because sometimes where there is nothing, there is eternity.
Blue Mound is a wonderful place, almost an ancient battlefield strewn with odd, pinkish Sioux quartzite in all kinds of sizes, even boulders formed, or so geologists say, from the sand of sentiment left behind by really ancient streams.
I took a camera, and when I knew neither I nor it was really catching the wild expanse around us, I snuck up on wild flowers because it's far easier for them to fill a frame. But it was the vastness around us last night that prompted the reminder of the meager stretch of our own shadows--always, I think, a heartfelt lesson.