In September, my thoughts turn to youth and to going back to school. Each autumn, I return to the Grasslands, my spiritual school. In many ways it's a place still unfamiliar to me. Ranching predominates here. The buttes and the coulees run to limitless skies. There’s a kind of primordial tug to the landscape, sculpted by seas, retreating glaciers, wind, sun and time. I come here to write, to walk with the dog and to work on my cabin.
This is a different kind of classroom, especially now during rodeo season, and with 4-H Achievement Day around the corner. Life here is matched to season. Soon the cattle will be brought home from the community pastures. Birds of every feather are on the wing. Coyotes yip early in the evening. I hear the kids playing down by the Frenchman River after school and long after dusk—making forts in the willows on the river bank.
Kids here seem to spend every free minute outside. You see them biking in small cavalcades, riding their horses into town, practicing horsemanship in the empty lot near the grain elevator. I am amazed by their fearlessness, the energy in their games of imagination. As they do their chores, they practice their talents, learning as much outside school as inside any classroom. They are honing skills that will take a life-time to learn. There is wisdom in this ambitious play, courage too.
I met one such young man at the children’s rodeo, who inspired me to write about one aspect of growing up here. Read the article here.