Every time I go to the ocean or sea I think of where I grew up. Mountains in their majestic reaching for the heavens are beautiful. Forests brimming with greenery and a thick growth of trees are lovely. Sprawling canyons surrounded by arid, desert bloom have a foreign intrigue. But water, rolling and churning as far as the eye can see, makes me think of home.
Some consider that odd since I grew up on the prairie. But I find it necessary every now and then to get somewhere I am able to breathe. When I stand by the water and am able to look until the earth curves, I feel a sense of freedom, a deep breath builds interiorly that needs to be exhaled as all that confines falls away. And though the ocean and sea embody an exotic newness that I’ve never fully explored, they also contain within them a sense of home.
The other day I was driving and spent a long time marveling at how the tall prairie grasses rolled so wave-like under the ever-present prairie wind. The pliant bending of the grasses followed by their rebounding over and over again was simple yet lovely. It made me want to tell my neighbors that the reason I mow so infrequently is because I love our prairie heritage and would love to see the oceanic movements in my own backyard. Instead, I drove on as I gratefully took in the ebb and flow of the grass, resilient and fierce despite the slender bowing.
This need to breathe and to have the space to do so is one of the reasons I couldn’t last long in a big city. As it is, the city I live in causes me to feel slightly suffocated, something I don’t realize until I’m driving into the country and feel myself unconsciously breathing deeper and freer. I thrive on the flat prairie, a gaze that goes on and on with a vastness that yearns to be appreciated.
Dorms in college took a while to get used to and I recall talking to my mom on the phone one day early in college, saying, “Mom, there are people everywhere.” Although not crazed, I was a little thrown by not having a single place I could go to where I wouldn’t discover people. Not to mention, it was my first time living in a town and I was utterly boxed in by people. In addition, the hills that surrounded my college town felt a bit stifling.
In my study abroad semester, I experienced some of the greatest beauty of Europe. I lived in the foothills of the Austrian Alps, surrounded by beautiful vistas and ancient newness. While in Europe, I traveled to the Swiss Alps and took planes and trains across the continent as I sought after Beauty and Truth. Yet only a few days after my return Stateside, I found myself pulling over to marvel at the glory of a cornfield lit by the evening sunbeams. In seeing a mere glimpse of the world’s beauty, I find an innate desire to be where I can breathe. Whether it is the flat countryside or the expanse of the sea, I relish the space and freedom that these places afford.
“Is it odd that the ocean reminds me of the prairie?” I asked my friend. I wasn’t too concerned, but I wondered if anyone ever felt the reverse when journeying from the ocean to the flatlands. Within myself there was an affinity for the wideness of the water that a prairie girl had no reason to experience so deeply.
Standing beside a friend at the coast of the chilly Atlantic, traipsing alongside the Caribbean on a Honduran mission, feet pressing into the damp sand on the Irish seaside, or frolicking in the breeze at the Oregon coast are all moments where I felt a sense of home in a place I had never before been. A time when the watery horizon that stretched before me became as lovely as the grasslands that wave across my homeland. The delightfully unexpected joy of home in a place so far from home.
Photo by Mathyas Kurmann on Unsplash