Coming Home: Stark outdoors provides comfort in confusing world
WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- The sun is rising over the hills outside my window. Everything is brown now except the leftover bullberries clinging to branches in the thorny brush patches, feed for birds and wildlife in the cold and snowy parts of winter....
WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- The sun is rising over the hills outside my window. Everything is brown now except the leftover bullberries clinging to branches in the thorny brush patches, feed for birds and wildlife in the cold and snowy parts of winter.
It's so quiet here this morning. There's not a lick of wind. Not a dog barking or a cow bawling or the moan of a truck kicking up dust along the gravel road; just the sound of my fingers clicking on the keyboard as the light streams in, illuminating dust floating in the air and steam rolling out of my coffee cup.
Illuminating a life so removed from a world of suffering.
I could turn on the television, but I've heard enough for a while. I could flip through the news on the Internet, but it seems there's more heartbreak than comfort there today, more questions than answers.
And we're human, so we need answers. We're the only species on this planet that operates this way -- on instinct coupled with philosophy and passion, rage and love and hope and revenge. All of these emotions, piled on top of hundreds more, pulse through our veins as we close the doors to houses we've built to keep us safe from this world where the birds fly exposed to the sky without a drip of worry.
Because they are birds.
I stand in the stream of light coming through the kitchen and watch the horses graze on the hilltop above the barnyard, creatures that don't know the definition of hatred, worry, terror or religion, but who share with us the instinct of fear and affection, perking up their ears at an unfamiliar sound, leaning in for a scratch between the ears or nudging a newborn to its feet, concerned only with the business of being horses.
If only being human were that simple.
As a kid growing up out here surrounded by these brown hills, when the world got confusing, when someone was taken from us, or my feelings were hurt or the news on the television had me worried about our future, I would walk along the creek bed that winds behind the house. I'd let the crisp air nip at my cheeks and the leaves crunch under my boots. I might have sang a bit to myself while the oaks creaked in the wind. I might have been quietly captivated by the water in the stream, how it continued to travel, to babble, to smooth rocks and cut into the landscape day in and day out despite my heartache and despite any human ever there to witness the good work the water was doing.
In the summer, I would lie down in the tall grass in the shade of those trees, look up at the clouds and let the bugs land on my arms. To the grasshoppers, ants and tiny spiders, my giant body was an obstacle too big to notice on their way to fulfill the mission of grass eating, hill building and fly catching.
And it taught me that this world is something different to every creature on it.
And if the thunder cracked and the sky opened up and poured rain or hail or piles of snow on this landscape, I found some odd comfort in knowing that there are plenty of things, like the bugs and the formation of the clouds, that humans will never control.
Out from behind the doors of houses, away from the neon blaze of the television screen, is where the world has always made the most sense to me.
Because while the natural world is brutal in its own right -- a herbivore dies to feed a carnivore and the circle of life becomes shockingly fierce -- in nature, not one action is performed out of hatred or intolerance or in the name of a God.
And every morning, regardless of the pain and suffering we inflict upon one another, the fear found in an uncertain situation, or the love and peace we find in togetherness, every morning that sun peeks up over the horizon, illuminating barnyards and skyscrapers, anthills and birds' nests in bullberry branches, one sun, our sun, rising for the sake of the Earth and every creature on it.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at email@example.com .