|At the Nebraska-Kansas border. Webster County, NE|
During the two years that I lived in Lincoln I took a weekly, day-long road trip. If I couldn't swing a whole day, I'd at least go for a few hours to blow the cobwebs of a week's worth of academic work from my brain-housing-group. I'd head out--usually west or north--and drive until it felt like it was time to turn around and head home. No maps. No time table. No list of things to see. I'd just drive down roads, turning here and there as the mood struck me and stop at interesting places along the way. I never tired of the landscape and took pleasure in watching the changes from season to season.
Most people consider Nebraska as nothing more than fly-over country or they complain that driving through it is the pain you experience before getting to the pleasure of the Rockies, but I absolutely love the Nebraska landscape. I always tell friends to get off of the interstate, drive a country road, and really see the landscape. But although they look, most people can't "see" the landscape in an appreciative light. Scholars and writers have explained how early explorers and more recent visitors to the plains and prairies can't really see the landscape because they compare it to their own more familiar landscape and judge the new landscape as lacking those things that they appreciate about their own, preferred landscape.
|Reno, on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada Range.|
Do you have a preferred landscape? Is there a landscape that you find psychologically unsettling?
I needed a Nebraska landscape-fix and so last week I took four days off and headed west. I had a few places that I wanted to see again such as Red Cloud, Willa Cather's childhood hometown, and a couple new places like Bess Streeter Aldrich's home in Elmwood. They'd just opened Aldrich's home to tours before I moved from Lincoln to Reno, and I'd never made it there when the house was open. It was nice to finally go inside and do more than peek in the windows.
For the rest of the month of March I'll post the book-related highlights from my trip. In addition to Cather's and Aldrich's hometowns, I visited libraries in Beatrice, Hastings, Plattsmouth, and Red Cloud and one of my old favorite bookstores, Bluestem Books in Lincoln, and (thanks to the recommendation of my friend Missy) a new favorite bookstore, The Haunted Bookshop in Iowa City, IA.