I am a place poet. I write about pink interstates and shorn ditches and abandoned homesteads and big rivers and cracked driveways. I write about the way the first golden light breaks over the early prairie as I drive west on I-90 in October. I write about the garbageman who predictably ushers away my recycling every other Thursday. I write about impossibly big pelicans dropping onto a seagull-dense Wall Lake.
If I could, if mortgages and student loans and pawing through JC Penney clearance racks for work clothes and grocery lists weren’t things in my life, I would spend all my time outside, walking the land with my dog, Banjo. In every season, a place poet can find something to write about, but I think I like winter best. I feel more confident about my explorations when everything is snow-covered. Are there sticky cockleburs, badgers waiting in a hole, or startled garter snakes? Doesn’t matter. The snow is a barrier that allows me to step more freely, unthinkingly. Other seasons, I have to walk around water. In the winter, I get to walk on water. I get to stand where blue-winged teals dabble and canvasbacks dive. In the winter, I feel taller. In the winter, I am able to have a wider, unblocked view of the land around me. I can see prairie grass bent and weighted down by white for miles, and I can write with an openness I cannot find in the other half of the South Dakotan year. The sky is bigger, the air is more still, and noise, save for long, ragged strings of snow geese heading south, is muffled. All of this widens my view.
What about you? Where do you find your openness? What places do you write about? How do you get to those places? For me, I get there by putting one tall, insulated boot in front of the other.