A Prairie Lament

     I thank my friend Jeanie for forwarding me the following short essay.  And I thank the piece’s author, Karen Ott, for permission to reprint it here.  Her writing evokes for me a chilly, beautiful, autumn evening on the prairie.

A PRAIRIE LAMENT
by Karen Ott

For the past week I’ve hurried home from the tire shop, changed into my work clothes and headed, hay fork in hand, for the harvested bean field behind the house. I’m not interested in the pale cream bean straw littering the dry, clod-covered ground; I’m after piles of nightshade.

The cursed plants sprout mid-summer and mature, hidden beneath the bean foliage.  Come harvest, there’s nothing to do but separate them (by hand) from the beans before the crop is combined.  And that’s what we did…pulling the stringy weeds from the bean windrows and tossing them in piles between the rows…..hundreds of piles.

Now that the beans are combined, my job is to fork the noxious piles into the John Deere gator and haul them to the ever-growing ‘haystack’ in the back-yard to be burned.

It’s a tedious, dirty job……and I love it.

No television, phones, piles of paperwork, or childish demands, just me working a dusty field in the warm silence of a hazy Indian summer evening, where time slows to the pace of my footsteps, and cares of the day flutter to the ground like falling leaves.  Little by little and pile by pile, I’m soon me again….a woman who loves the land and the life she’s chosen, a gleaner of sorts who collects sights and sounds instead of stray pieces of grain to sustain her through the winter’s grey days.

Walk with me and see what I see…hear what I hear.

A skein of geese, silhouetted against the blushing sky, flies low overhead, wings whispering in the stillness like a prayer, while a meadowlark‘s call drifts on the dying wind, a plaintive farewell song to summer, a soulful goodbye to the prairies of his youth.  He’ll soon take wing; as much as he might like to stay, instinct urges him south…to warmer climates where snow and ice are mere fairy tales, and life is sweet.

The far-away rumble of a combine, muted by distance, intermingles with the raspy rustle of corn leaves, voices of autumn comforting in their familiarity.  I’ve heard them for as long as I can remember, and they are as recognizable as my mother’s voice. The field I walk grew pinto beans this year, but it still holds the distinctive sugar-smell of beet harvest in its heart.  The voices of generations past, farmer and work horse, however, can only be heard in one’s imagination.

One day my voice too will be stilled, my footsteps only a memory on this farm I love, but that’s of little consequence because once I was here.

And that’s all that matters.

photo by Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

photo by Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

 

 

 

2 Responses to “A Prairie Lament”

  1. Diane Artz Furlong Says:

    A heartfelt expression from a lover of place. So familiar because my roots are deep here in my “place”. There is such comfort in knowing somewhere by heart.

  2. Joan Brundage Says:

    How beautiful! Thanks for sharing this piece.

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