No matter how often people assure me that “Nebraska is beautiful,” I fail to see it. We’re supposed to be loyal to “Nebraska — the Good Life,” so I smile and nod politely. But inside, I’m thinking, “Bullshit.”
I read something sad in December 24’s Lincoln Journal Star that seems to confirm my feelings. Tom Lynch wrote, “Scholars tell us that residents of the Great Plains have the least developed environmental imaginations of any people in the U.S. The reasons for it are fairly obvious. The Great Plains has the smallest allotment of public land of any region in the U.S.; and the tall-grass biome is the most degraded biome in North America. So opportunities to experience extensive tracts of real nature in anything like a wild state are hard to come by. The consequence, unfortunately, is that our environmental imaginations are almost as impoverished as the environment itself.”
I would agree with that. Sometimes I feel starved to be out in nature, so I’ll take a ride into the country. What do I see? Parceled-off farms, all neatly measured into squares of cornfields with some scattered trees planted as a windbreak near farmhouses. There’s really no place here to be “in the wild.”
When I lived in Williamsburg, Virginia, I was refreshed by a cornucopia of nature. I could easily drive west to the Smoky Mountains. An hour to the east lay the Atlantic Ocean. The nearby James and York Rivers ran deep, wild, and beautiful. I loved the green trees and lush forests. You could even drive up to Washington, D.C. and New York for a different kind of “nature” — the big city.
Here’s a verse from Twyla Hansen that seems to sum up Nebraska’s scenery:
“Time was: a great plain
plumed with grass
now all gone by way of the
Sometimes, it just makes me want to cry.