The North Dakota Humanities Council distributes a publication called On Second Thought that features a different orienting focus for each edition. I love these publications and I try and read them cover to cover. Each new edition offers an eclectic mix of articles that are both distinct and thematically woven together.
It was in the Sense of Place (Spring 2012) issue that I was introduced to the writing of Karen Herzog. Karen is a North Dakotan who in a thought piece about North Dakota identity answered the question that so many of us have been asked about North Dakota, “why don’t you leave?” I found Karen’s explanation so beautiful and memorable that I kept the magazine with the notion that I would one day share some of Karen’s words on my blog. In the harshness of winter the time seems exactly right.
I give you the words of Karen Herzog:
“But for those who stay, despite it all…well, sometimes people love the thing that tests them to their limits. Because to survive in a hard and contrary place, you must learn to know it intimately, so thoroughly, that it becomes part of your skin.
With time and close acquaintance, you morph into a creature of the prairie, as much as the badger or the fox. This place teaches you and feeds you and so it is your parent. It depends on you and is nurtured by you and so it becomes your child. It is with you in sickness and in health, and so it becomes your spouse. It takes you beyond yourself into the unknowable and the ineffable and so it becomes your religion.
The God-feeling is there in the deep satisfaction in a full silo, contented cattle grazing at twilight, the cry of the killdeer, the chickens safely a-roost. It’s in the chevrons of barking geese, the smell of alfalfa, ducklings paddling in their mother’s wake in the sloughs, heavy heads of wheat nodding in the wind, the sting of November sleet, the ringing silences, the long view. The meadowlarks exaltation on a spring morning.”
Indeed, Karen…perfect answer.
Day one thousand three hundred and seven of the new forty – obla di obla da