A Walk in the Grasslands

  • 3/30/2021 1:02:29 PM
0350fe04-93f0-4e3a-bb94-09e44d723d33 By Chad Love

“We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were. I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.”

 
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that old Joan Didion quote.
 
Over time we evolve, grow, shed the skins of our past, and become new people, different people. We change, because we have no choice but to. That’s what it is to be human.
 
But sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can change back.
 
At one time I was happiest simply roaming the prairies and plains, alone, with a camera and a pair of binoculars; no agenda, no itinerary, no plan beyond putting one foot in front of the other and seeing where the line took me.
 
Over the years, however, as life got in the way and tugged me in different directions, I gradually stopped being that aimlessly wandering soul. I still roamed, but usually with a purpose, following a dog looking for birds, or carrying a fly rod looking for secret water. I rarely wandered for the sheer joy of getting lost.
 
I, as everyone inevitably does, had changed.   
 
That is, until this year — this weird, unsettled, year — when, for whatever reason, I felt an insistent little tug from the long-buried ghost who used to be me.
 
He kept tapping me on the shoulder and whispering in my ear that there were still things to discover out there in the void, things both within myself, and without, and that I don’t always need an objective or a reason to do so.
 
The uplands are like that. Given the chance, they have many things to offer beyond birds; solitude, solace, peace, a sense of grounding in a world that often seems to drift. And they offer all these things whether your personal uplands are found under a Georgia longleaf pine, in the middle of an Illinois prairie, a Kansas plain, or the desert scrub.
 
So I listened to that old ghost. I laced up my hiking boots, slipped into an old backpack, and took a long, lone walk on the prairie this weekend. Just me, a camera, a pair of binoculars, and the wind.
 
I’ve missed it, and I’ve missed my old exploratory, walkabout self. I connect with something out here that is still inside me; something primitive and intrinsic and essential, something I now realize that I don’t always need a gun or a rod to connect with.
 
So here I am once again, prairie drifting, putting one slightly older foot in front of the other and taking that old, familiar unknown line. Looking inward by roaming outward.
 
I suppose my point in all this personal wool-gathering is this: You don’t always need bird season to enjoy the places where birds are found. Sometimes it’s good to get outside and walk the grasslands outside the boundaries in which we sometimes tend to place them.
 
Try it this spring or summer. Throw a camera, a pair of binoculars, and maybe a field guide to two into a backpack and start roaming your favorite piece of the uplands,  if for no other reason than to simply enjoy the richness of their existence, and yours.
 
You may discover that seeing the uplands from a completely different frame of reference, at a different time of year, and with a different set of objectives, gives you a whole new and layered appreciation for the places far too many of us cherish only in the fall.

Chad Love is editor of Quail Forever Journal