Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Morning Thanks--poetry in the view


Road is - to be honest - mere euphemism here, a figurative expression, a sort of poetic license; as for a highway, there was none or just a trail. The boundless prairie lay spread out before us, and driver and horses knew their course. 'Twas a ride not without its peculiar enjoyment. True: it was bitterly cold in the wind which swept unobstructed from the North. I could only imagine how very different things must be in summer when the thick, soft carpet of dark green grass appears dotted with flowers of all colors; but even so, despite the barrenness, wildness, and monotony of the scene, yea by reason of these, there is some thing grand and awe-inspiring in the landscape. Nothing impedes or interrupts the view, whithersoever one looks. No hill or rock, not even a house or tree, not a single sharp line. Nothing, absolutely nothing but the vast, broad prairie! And yet it is somewhat different from the single horizontal line which describes our low, level meadows in Holland: an endless succession of irregular, undulating slopes which seem to extend one's circle of vision indefinitely.
There is an inexpressible charm, something solemn, mysterious in the nature of the landscape which speaks to the imagination and even to the heart. It awakens a consciousness such as that aroused by a view of the ocean; yes, in a certain sense it is even stronger here. There, in boundless space is the unending monotony of restless water; here, over the vast but motionless waves, petrified as it were, reigns a deep, solemn stillness, emblematic of peace and immortality, but also of fresh, free, invincible power. Indeed, there is poetry in the view, and I realize now why the Arab waxes enthusiastic over the desert; I understand now why the poetical soul of such a person as Miss Currer Bell loves the monotonous heath of North-England more than the most picturesque landscape. I can almost explain what people here say of a settler of the prairies, who complained of being stifled when he caught sight in the distance of smoke rising from the chimney of a "neighbor" who had located twenty miles away!*

I wish those words were mine, but they belong to a man named Dr. M. Cohen Stuart in Zes Maanden in Amerika (Six Months in America).  Dr. Stuart, from the Netherlands, visited Pella and the then developing world of northwest Iowa in 1873, when hearty Dutch-Americans were first putting down roots in the far corner of the state.  To his countrymen a century ago, he's describing the landscape in which I live.  

This morning, I'll simply go with what he says for my morning thanks. 
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* from Jacob Van Der Zee, Hollanders of Iowa, Iowa State Historical Society, 1912, and available here.

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