... was years ago. Probably fifteen years ago at least. It was fall, and the prairie was pale gold. I was amazed at how the land spread and dipped in sudden folds. Somehow I had imagined that it was literally as smooth and uninterrupted as the ocean. As a Yankee I found the unlimited horizon to be both exciting and alarming. My psychological environment includes more hills and trees, interrupted views. More boundaries. More people. Out there, I had a sense of myself the way a child draws herself standing on the earth -- a tiny stick figure jutting up from a sphere. In other words, something that blemishes an otherwise perfect globe. You know, the whole dwarfed-by-nature thing. In the thickly-built environment of the east, it is easy to enter the fallacy that things are the other way, that the earth is dwarfed by humans.
It's good to be reminded of it. I imagine that some people are frightened by it. Others exalted. This was largely the inspiration for my sodbusters novel of the Dakota Territory, Black-Eyed Susan. Of all my novels, this was the one that -- for whatever reason -- was the easiest to write. I knew with perfect clarity what it was I wanted to say, and how I was going to say it. I know I could not have written had I not actually experienced the prairie for myself. I am really pleased that, this week, I will be going back there for the South Dakota Festival of Books. I can't wait.
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