By Marissa Jensen Photo by Logan Hinners
When the city lights and noise surround me, when life becomes consuming, I find myself longing for the tall blades of the grasslands. It is here where I find solace, within the land’s embrace, and allow myself to become swept away in the tides of a bluestem prairie.
The daily responsibilities of my life, like many lives, creates a longing for escape, to seek somewhere to disconnect. So I go to them, the uplands, and with every flutter of the wind or wing stroke of the quail, I become aligned, synchronized to the land with every beat of my heart.
For what was almost the entirety of my life, I felt consumed – no, paralyzed – by the boundaries of state lines, until I discovered the uplands. Once found, it was as if the very breeze which flows through them filled me with breath and gave way to new life and meaning. It was here where I gained a love for this land, one I was previously unaware of, but have since discovered I can no longer fathom living without.
This land knows no lovers, nor is it partial to another; instead it’s untamed and raw, promising only what one is worthy to take from it. Blisters, blood, sweat and insecurities; the uplands tear everything away, leaving me bare and at the mercy of her hands. In return, I lay open my heart and pour out the contents from within. When I surrender on the other side; I’m changed, awoken and reborn. What once meant everything no longer matters and is indeed all too easily – and happily – forgotten.
How can one string together words in an eloquent enough fashion to describe a land such as this? What words exist that can define the colors that brush across the surface with the hint of early morning, or the light that illuminates from the dusting of hoarfrost against the tall blades of the grassland?
There is a magic that lives within; constantly whispering to those who are willing to listen. This enchantment is woven deep throughout the tapestries of the sandhills and the towering cattails of the wetlands, where the trill of the red-winged blackbird calls out, the breath of its song visible in the crisp autumnal air.
The inherent beauty of such a place cloaks everything else in shades of grey. When away, I am tethered to the land, feeling the constant pull of her siren call. But this land is not for my enjoyment alone; it exists for everyone and all species with which we share this common ground.
What I seek from the uplands is more than just a casual walk or bird in hand. I search for meaning to all life’s proverbial questions, and answers to the constant barrage of thoughts that infiltrate my mind. Each subsequent trip to the uplands narrates a story, begging to be read aloud, and with every turn of the page their words become ingrained as history. All that is endured in their presence becomes part of who I am; in return I carry the uplands with me, as part of me, always.
So, I urge you to seek your own refuge within this land and find a way to preserve that love which continuously soothes us all. For it is here, if you allow it, where the land becomes one with your identity and tempers a growing disconnect from all that we know of the wild.
In return for such refuge, the uplands ask for very little – almost nothing – except to occupy residence in one’s memory and be allowed the freedom to exist and grow. Don’t forget this land, or worse, ignore it. Instead share the beauties that lie beyond the harvest, the quiet of an early morning one can revere alone, and the solace one can experience on the other side of the uplands.
Marissa Jensen is Education and Outreach Program Manager for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever
This story originally appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Quail Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to read more stories like it, click on the special offer below to become a member today!