William Least Heat-Moon wrote “Blue Highways”and for Christmas I received another one of his books “PrairyErth” (a deep map) for a gift of unusual substance from my husband.
Transposing the details of a topographical map into a visional, a living landscape, is a hard task for me. My brain doesn’t compute the beauty of any landscape I see into lines and symbols on a page to scale. Although I get “it’s easier to comprehend where someplace else is than where you are.” The ending of 2016 spurs a new beginning, but first I must remember. The metaphoric “quoins, ledgers, winds, creek meanders, gravestones, and stone-age circles” make me pause and think of my birth in Southeast plains of Kansas, during the flood of 1951. I have wondered why my parents traveled away from our hometown. My best guess is dad went to find work. Maybe, his cousin convinced my dad to leave Missouri with his pregnant wife, nine months pregnant with me, and drive his old Crosley to Chanute, Kansas.
There are many things I will never know for certain. I will never know why the cave myths and Osage American Indians appeared on paper in my manuscript “Boston Mountains” before my research. Why I named my protagonist, Carly Redmund, in “Well of Rage” and later through genealogy found my maternal line contained a long Irish history of Redmunds, Redmans, and Redmonds on both sides of the political spectrum? What is hidden in our DNA that makes us roam, discover, war, seek the divine, and tell stories?
In “PrairyErth” I learned panthers roamed in Kansas not so long ago. In 1806 Zebulon Pike and his soldiers entered Kansas, the land belonging to the Kansa and Osage tribes for thousands of years, and saw panthers, buffalo, elk, and antelope. I wonder how it would feel to stand alone on a hill and hear nothing but nature. In my imagination I see and feel it, and then I write and world build. Somewhere within me I understand “to know a place in any real and lasting way is sooner or later to dream it.”
**All the quotes are from PrairyErth by William Least Heat-Moon, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston 1991**