HORIZONTAL MYSTERY SHIP when you leave at seventeen rarely home more than two weeks at a time months, years and decades can be surprisingly unreliable markers of adulthood only once in the summer of ‘88 a recent college grad wide-eyed and wanderlust-fueled my tonsils required more I stayed a whole month once healed, packed, and in possession of necessary visas off to the southern hemisphere a young pioneer in search adventure and different stars now, when visiting after a lifetime lived elsewhere grey hairs visible no matter my efforts I find myself sliding into a peculiar second adolescence of sorts driving Dad’s truck windows down, hair blowing mile after mile of expansive, wild beauty the prairie a determined cellular homesteader forever staking a claim in my blood and bones I want to sneak out to the bar play Space Invaders sadly, no longer a standard unlike 1982 drink beer, eat junk food and avoid the endless expectations of being a grown-up Looking back with midlife sensibilities I realize those late nights in high school tenth grade, I believe laser focused, playing Space Invaders provided a surprisingly valuable education initials entered, quarters stacked protect the bunkers, defeat the aliens monitor the horizontal mystery ship with vigilance my peripheral vision unknowingly trained to notice things beyond immediate scope bonus points pinged while friends waited impatiently twenty more minutes, please under a waning August moon only one lunar phase ago I was still my father’s daughter a middle-aged, South Dakota teenager pretending time actually plays tricks wanting desperately to disregard reality one more visit on the calendar one more phone call cheeseburger or ice cream cone one more evening watching Everybody Loves Raymond M.A.S.H. or Mayberry RFD twenty more minutes, please quarters stacked no longer Space Invaders the nearly forgotten teenage relic of a heartbroken fifty-something fatherless daughter once again, I am protecting my bunkers monitoring a new horizontal mystery ship paying very close attention to what's just beyond my immediate scope just twenty more minutes, please
Last week I was in South Dakota for a funeral and a wedding. In between those emotional events I found some time to drive back roads with my husband, see the stunning late August countryside and find some much needed quiet. I’m always reminded of how much the prairie landscape resides in my cells, bones and heart.
This landscape gives me clarity, helps me understand my choices and guides me back to my personal True North when I get off course a bit.
South Dakota is my interior geography, no matter where I am in the world.
Recently, I had to draw a compass at Courage Camp in Bristol, Rhode Island. I laughed at myself because the way I still figure out directions is to imagine I’m standing on the front porch of my childhood home. It’s there that I’m most confident in knowing my directions. (photo below)
Standing on the porch I know which direction the sun sets and how to get to Nebraska. With that knowledge, I can find my way most places.
I often think of my intrepid ancestral homesteaders who ventured West, uncertain of what they would find in the Dakota Territories. However, and more importantly, perhaps they knew they could handle whatever the prairie offered them.
I understand that now, at the tender age of 50, in a way I didn’t when I was younger. I don’t know what’s next, but I know I can count on my interior geography to help guide my way.
As promised, Herrick folks, my niece and I paid a visit to Marilyn at Bernie’s Inn. It was so much fun to see the place and be reminded of childhood memories—working in the honey house, hanging out after games and high school weekends driving around stopping in for a pop. I hope you all enjoy the little trip down memory lane. Be sure to visit next time you are in the area. It’s well worth the effort.
The week before Thanksgiving I was in South Dakota visiting my family. I had an afternoon to drive around and shoot some photos. I headed to Herrick, just east of Burke, listening to korn country 92.1. I love Keith Urban’s song; Blue Ain’t Your Color. If you don’t know this song, it’s a damn shame. Here’s the video.
I spent a lot of time in Herrick growing up. I “worked bees” two summers. That was highly educational, messy and sometimes painful work. I got stung 17 times one day (my forearms looked like Popeye’s). I played softball in the field behind the truck. I think I might’ve even knocked back a few beers at parties in the outfield on occasion. I had a friend who lived on a farm in Herrick and since I was a “city kid” riding the bus to Anita’s farm was a grand adventure. We could drive at fourteen. We didn’t have to ride the bus too long. So, I had a blast driving around Herrick in beautiful, autumn, late afternoon light and thinking about my Herrick Days.
Next time, perhaps a whole series of photos devoted to Bernie’s Inn, the historic watering hole in Herrick. Would that be a possibility? Let me know.
When Elizabeth Bunsen and I were hanging her latest work we wondered what it would be like to project different images onto her eco-dyed scarves. I couldn’t wait to work on this idea and began making collages with her textiles and my photographs in Adobe Illustrator.
Our “prairie stories” collaboration is starting to take shape as Elizabeth and I continue to discuss memories, identity and the geography that has most shaped who we are as adults. It’s no wonder we have a short hand about our childhoods. Elizabeth grew up in Lodgepole, Nebraska (population 319 as of 2013) and I grew up in Burke, South Dakota (population 601 as of 2013). Also both of our grandfathers were bankers. We both have twenty year old sons. And our art and process can provide deep sorry and remarkable joy at the same time.
We’re artists and our storytelling is in the visual realm. Our conversations have been wonderfully insightful, however, if we were only sharing our ideas in a written form, I believe it would feel like we’re only telling you half of the story…or perhaps even less than half.
To me these layered memories feel like I’m looking through the curtains of one of the many farmhouses of relatives and friends I visited as a kid. These memories are readily accessible but also a little hazy like the yellow tint of an old faded Polaroid photo.
The words will come as our ideas evolve, right now the images are coming first. We’d love to hear your ideas about how the interior geography of your youth has shaped who you are today, your choices and what direction you would like move into.
Elizabeth and I are gaining some understanding of how big of a role it’s played in our own identities…give us land lots of land.
We were in the elevator with LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. We enjoyed breakfast on the 23rd floor with Greek Orthodox Priests. Seeing the priests walking alongside professional basketball players in the lobby was just fabulous. I didn’t get that shot. I wish I had. If you’re in Milwaukee…stay at the Pfister Hotel which was the vision of Guido Pfister and his son, Charles. The hotel opened in 1893.
Here are a few of the images that show the beauty of this truly remarkable hotel.
I love the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. There are a lot of things that make this hotel exceptional. The Pfister hosts the largest Victorian art collection of any hotel in the world. There also is an artist-in-residence for a one year stint at a time currently. What a great gig. His work was stunning. See link below.