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A Whispering Wind

The wind whispering across the open, flatness of the pothole prairie defines Morris, MN. Sometimes it whispers like an excited child telling a secret, growing louder and harsher with the excitement. Other times it is a bobcat screeching with rage or a lone wolf howling at the moon. No matter the mood of the wind, it is always present, constant in the vast openness that cradles Morris.

                It took me awhile to find a place that pulled me to it, in this open, flat landscape. On a long walk one day, I stumbled on the Pomme de Terre Park outside of town, along the river. At first, the river cuts a small meandering, snake like path through the prairie that rests on either side of its banks which are filled with grasses and flowers, like the yellow heads of golden rod. Occasional boulders thrust up out of the sparkling green, blue, and brown water. The river is a snail moving lazily through the land. Along the way, the river widens into a lake and moves even more slowly. There are ripples now and then where a fish snatches a bug off the surface or when a painted turtle pokes its head up for air. Suddenly there is a large splash, as a carp leaps out of the water and in a split second crashes back into the water. Looking too slowly, I miss it every time, but I know it’s there. A smaller splash reaches my ears as I see turtles gliding off their sun beaten perches into the safety of the water. Along the river bank grow cottonwoods, laurel willows, and poplars. One tree in particular caught my attention, a laurel willow. The thick trunk grows horizontally and parallel to the ground, and out over the river. It appeared that half of the crown was under the water. The bark is grayish brown with some mossy green and smooth to the touch. The tree pulled me to it like gravity, it touched a place inside me, I just had to move closer to it, place my hand on its trunk, climb across its trunk out onto the branches, now hanging over the water. It was like coming home. There, nestled in its branches, I became a part of the tree. Its strength embraced me, gave me comfort and, from it, I received strength. Further mesmerized by the water dancing below me, the occasional honk of a goose, splash of a fish, I couldn’t pull myself away, I didn’t want to. I had finally relaxed, shed stress and worry, hugged, healed by nature’s gentle caress, I belonged. Time stood still, holding its breath. I became one with the tree, water, fish, geese; life finally made sense, this is where I was supposed to be, needed to be. It didn’t last, it couldn’t, life called, it was time to go back. Reluctantly, I climbed back over the trunk and stepped down. The feeling of oneness quickly dissipated, the connection broken, I was human again. I willed myself to turn away from it, with the hope and thought that I would soon return. I walked back the way I came, renewed and looking forward to the day I would return to the willow and the river.

— From the “Experience of Nature” by Bethany Benike 

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