The prairie has a lot to say.


The photograph of HWY 18, a South Dakota two-lane hasn’t let me go yet.  My apologies if you’ve had enough.  Actually, not really.  I write and create art for me and my hope is that something I write maybe resonates for you too.  If not, well, that’s OK.

I created this series while thinking that the imagery of the road is both going AWAY from somewhere and TOWARD someplace else.  For the early part of my life the road represented away from someplace and now it’s shifting.  This image is my childhood home in Burke, South Dakota.

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When I started working on these images I was trying to tell a lot of different stories.  Why kids leave small towns.  Why they should go back (I’ll still write about that).  Why I left South Dakota.  Why, at fifty-years-old, I would now consider going back to South Dakota.  How small towns or wherever our upbringing was shaped us as adults.  I’ve created so many images all telling different stories.  I had to narrow my message.  So, I decided to get more personal and less about rural development.

I’ve lived in Vermont since New Year’s Day 1990. I moved to Burlington with a friend, Melissa from my Sioux Falls College days.  Three weeks later I met my husband, Jeff.  Now, almost twenty-seven years later I’m deeply rooted here in New England.  I never expected to be here this long.  If had put a limit on my time in Vermont, well, it wouldn’t have worked.  I was in love and adaptable.  Isn’t life wonderfully unpredictable?

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I understand the rhythms of the sea, and yet…South Dakota just won’t let me go.  The ocean and its vastness gently reminds me of the expanse of the prairie.

I’m longing for spaciousness, freedom and simplicity.  I crave all of this more now in middle age.  As the poet e. e. cummings wrote, “it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are”.  I had to allow myself to get quiet enough to listen to my inner voice.  As a younger partner, mother and artist, I wasn’t such a good listener.  I’m grateful the prairie won’t let me go now, she clearly has a lot to say lately and I’m listening.

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vermont-lillibridgeThis image is the backyard of my home in Burlington, Vermont.  We’ve lived in this house since August 1991.  It holds many memories and has been through numerous renovations.  I love the house, but I’m restless.  I desire some change.
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This piece is layered with one of my paintings. My need for change isn’t always easy on my family.  I’m trying to be more understanding about how they feel.  They are trying to do the same.  Inevitably though, things will change and we will all adapt just fine.  I know that my work is to keep listening and trying to understand what messages I’m receiving.

5 thoughts on “The prairie has a lot to say.

  1. I love reading your articles! I’m from Herrick originally and now live in Oneill, Nebraska, so not so far away! Still have family in the Burke area. It does call you home, in my younger years I probably wouldn’t have said that but now at 54 I feel the need to return occasionally to get my ‘home fix’! So keep writing away I so enjoy it!

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  2. I love this!! It resonates so deeply with me, the prairie won’t let me go either- this will always be “home” to me…. we will move back in a few years when we retire. The sky is so large here… the prairie grasses are breathtakingly beautiful… the people are so kind. The Missouri River Hills as wild and remote as they were hundreds of years ago. My ancestors lie in this prairie land and my soul is enriched and calm here in Burke, South Dakota.
    Kim McKenzie Wipf

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  3. It’s that big sky, the prairie grasses and that sense of spaciousness is what is calling me too. I’m not sure where our kids will land, but I know I will be spending more time out there. Thank you for reading. I’m glad the prairie has a hold of you too, Kim.

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  4. Oh Lisa – you have sparked, articulated and imaged buried yearnings that have been surfacing for me at an increasing momentum. I am thinking about those dresses planted under the prairie grass – their deep roots are sprouting. Yes – the vast painted skies and waving fields of grain… thank you and your readers for for this sweet dreaming of home. Your images and words are evocative poetry – good medicine indeed.

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