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
This is one of the items in the silent auction at the Billie Sutton Grit for Governor event this Saturday, November 18th, in Burke, South Dakota. The imagery of road, earth and sky are meant to give a sense of spaciousness like the prairie. This bag has been sanded, ironed, hammered, painted and sanded again. I like my work to look a little tattered, worn out and yet, still hanging in there.
I wanted this project to reflect my love of South Dakota and acknowledge the road ahead for the SUTTONforSD team. This gubernatorial race requires a lot of heart, courage and grit. I suspect there will be times when everyone is going to be a little tattered…and yet, somehow, still hanging in there.
The road to me is about leaving, coming home, exploring points unknown & so much more. I never get tired of working with road imagery. My creative inspiration for this bag came from Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo (who made a lot of her own wardrobe and accessories) and Calamity Jane (who wore a lot of men’s clothing). These women had a lot of duality and refused to conform to social norms…talk about grit.
Billie Sutton is married to my niece, Kelsea Kenzy Sutton and grew up in my hometown. He’s currently South Dakota’s State Senate Minority Leader (and the father of my brilliant & hilarious great-nephew, Liam). This gubernatorial race is one to take notice of, regardless of where you live. Please take some time to visit their campaign site. The link is below.
Now, won’t election day 2018 be even more fun now that you’re paying attention to South Dakota Governor’s race?
Go ahead, share the link, make a donation & really have some skin in the game.
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.
to my VIDA collection. I hope you like these as much I loved creating them.
Here’s the link to my page.
PRAIRIE MEMORIES and HEADING WEST
SHE KNOWS WHAT TO DO and LOVE OF THE ROAD
“WE BELIEVE IT’S TIME TO REBUILD COMMERCE – FOR THE MINDFUL, GLOBAL CITIZENS OF THE MODERN WORLD.” —VIDA
Last week I had the pleasure of watching the American Masters documentary on PBS about one of my heroes, Great Depression photographer Dorthea Lange. Her work has greatly influenced my abandoned farmhouse hunting and photography whenever I visit my family in South Dakota. Dorthea’s compassion and unyielding desire to tell the tragic and heroic stories of our nation’s poor, interned and displaced through photography woke our nation up. Dorthea’s images prompted more action than print alone could possibly ever have conveyed.
I’ve always found great beauty among the ruins in all forms. Things that are new just don’t give me much creative juice. I like to see everything worn out, faded, distressed and destroyed. To me there’s always a lot more stories among the ruins.
“It is not enough to photograph the obviously picturesque.”
“Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion… the subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.”
You can watch the American Masters documentary online or look on demand from your local listings.
These images I shot with my niece south of Burke, South Dakota in January. I’m guessing someone will recognize the house, my sincere apologies for trespassing. The pull to see what was inside was just too much for us to resist.
There are links to Dorthea’s biography and images if you scroll down.
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.
There is a unique beauty the prairie possesses. The starkness out here is as rugged as the frontier spirit. This is a part of the world that would prefer things stay known, steady and traditional. It never does. Shifts occur.
I’m visiting my family in South Dakota now. I can see both the independence I reveled in as a teenager AND the uncertainty about how the world is changing. Understanding this duality fosters my curiosity about things unknown. I like that. I’m grateful for both my independence and my deep roots here.
Life is a puzzle, people are puzzling and sometimes all we can do is keep looking between the cushions or under the couch for the piece we’re missing.
Let’s all keep seeking understanding and looking for the missing pieces folks. Let’s ask more questions of eachother than lecture. I do believe a little curiosity can change the world or at least your holiday table. It will be a much shorter drive home from Grandma’s if everyone felt heard and respected.
I’m very curious about how our interior geography affects our moods and choices in life. I find myself at nearly 50 years old realizing that I need a lot of spaciousness to feel most comfortable in my own skin. I truly understand how growing up and forming my identity on the prairie instilled an interior geography within me. I want to understand this better.
There is an eternal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.
—Josephine Hart, Irish novelist
I layered these images of flying into South Dakota and the Town Neck Beach approach in Sandwich, Massachusetts. The vastness of the ocean gives me the same feeling of ease that the prairie gives me. It doesn’t matter if I’m driving country roads in South Dakota or kayaking the Cape Cod Bay. The inner feeling is the same.
I just ordered this book: Geographical Psychology: Exploring the Interaction of Environment and Behavior by Peter J. Rentfrow, PhD.
“The research described in this volume indicates that personality, political ideology, well-being, happiness, human virtues, and personal concerns are related to several important geographic social indicators.”
I can’t wait to delve further into more understanding about this subject. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.
My family and I are heading to Burke, South Dakota to see my clan this week for our April break. My days will be filled with my family, the Ponca Creek Bull Sale, hopefully a new baby, old friends and some meandering drives on the prairie roads I adore.
My camera is being cleaned so this trip will be all heart and memory. It feels a little weird to me but there’s nothing I can do. I will have my phone however. I may need to borrow a camera at the bull sale and if my niece’s baby does arrive while we are home. I’m really trying to be “in the moment” and not as concerned with getting the shot. It’s a tough habit to break though.
Here are a couple of old photos I layered this morning while my daughter Lucy was packing.
The first image is main street in Burke layered with a prairie sunrise image from my parent’s back porch. Having coffee on the porch with my Mom is always one of my favorite parts of my time at home.
The second image is a country road layered with a sign I saw in the Las Vegas airport years ago. I’m not sure what “burke in the box” is, but I thought it was interesting.
I hope you find yourself “at home” within yourself whatever your life demands of you this week.