Raw, idiom: 14a. in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.

Spring has sprung, and with it my inability to sit inside while the sun beats down and the wind blows and the sidewalks reek of blossoms. There is definitely some kind of buzzing creative energy out there. I feel like I can hear the buds popping and the leaves greening if I just stand still and cock my ear to listen.

And all that has me thinking about the West, and land, and the wilderness, feeling outdoorsy and itching to be lost on a hillside somewhere. The Chron had two good pieces earlier this week that just fed that hunger.

First, there was a conference recently in Point Reyes honoring Wallace Stegner, the environmentalist activist, writer and general badass. Stegner was a fierce voice on behalf of the preservation of the West, someone who saw the beauty and rawness of the natural resources and all-too-prophetically warned how quickly that beauty could be devastated in service to industry. Read about him here.

And then Sunday's Magazine had a beautiful travel feature on the tallgrass prairies of Oklahoma. Most of you know by now that I will always have a special corner of my heart way up there on the lefthand upper quadrant or so reserved for the prairie writ large. This piece is a nice little ode to the miles of blowing grasses and whistling winds and buzzing insects and dusty wildflowers. Read it for some decent background on the stripping and subsequent restoration of the Great Plains. It's nothing you didn't learn if you were a sixth-grader in Nebraska, but if you weren't, it's worth a read to catch up on all the bison and Native American and colonization gossip.

Here's a little blurb. (I totally started nodding when she writes about how the smell of grass is intoxicating):

Early one fall I had fallen in love with this landscape when the grasses, which can grow to 8 feet or more, had reached a zenith. It was a deliciously hot day and silent. The clearing of every tiny bird and insect throat rang out like a great bell. Lured by the rustle of wind through the feathery leaves and seed heads, I stepped into the undulating ocean of grass.

Big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass, compass plant - they all surrounded me in susurrant curtains. I was quickly hemmed in, my path into the bluestem sea erased with each new footfall. Grass has a sweet, delicate smell that was inebriating. The voices of my travel companions receded, and I was lulled into a false feeling of safety. Many things hide in the tallgrass. Snakes, stinging insects, ticks and a host of other creatures like me find its cover irresistible. Very quickly I caught myself losing all sense of time, distance and direction. I waded back to the road where the others stood talking, little realizing how the encounter would haunt me.

Recalling Stegner - And Worrying About Ecology (SF Chron)
Into the Bluesteam Sea (SF Chron)


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