I may be on the prairie, but it is anything but lonely! So far today I have seen 5 deer, one Great Blue Heron, one pheasant and several chubby red-colored squirrels, and tons of birds and insects. The mosquitoes were quite friendly tonight as well. And did I mention I have two twenty something roommates? Boy, it’s been a long time since I’ve had one of those! There is one gal and one guy, both are doing internships before they enter grad school. They are extremely nice and friendly. I noticed one give the other the eye when he was about to swear, little do they know I can swear like a sailor with little provocation. I am guessing that they are having the greater adjustment, sort of like unexpectedly having to live with your mother. They were shocked when I asked them where I could put my groceries, as apparently Ramen noodles, Budweiser, various flavors of wine and vodka make up the four food groups here. I should note that I have not seen either of them open a bottle since I arrived. Perhaps they should offer me one and that fear might be allayed also.
Unlike my previous gig out at Agate Fossil Beds NM in Western Nebraska, this place has lots of water, trees and corn and bean fields. The town of Beatrice, that’s Bee-A-Trice if you please, is only 4 miles away. I could walk to town if I had to. It has 3 grocery stores and more gas stations than you can shake a stick at, making it highly unlikely that I will need to walk to town.
What it is missing, however, is rattlesnakes. I cannot say that I am disappointed in the carefree manner in which I can now walk, and in the grass no less. There are two visitors centers here. One is the Education Center which is just across the parking lot from my park housing, where lots of special events are held during the course of a year.
This is the beginning of Prairie Week. Isn’t every week out here Prairie Week? The park system is holding writing workshops for local school kids at the moment. Nebraska is known for the excellence and quantity of the authors and poets it has produced. That makes a lot of sense to me. I imagine the folks out here get a lot of writing practice due to the severity of the Nebraskan winters, as it is just too darn cold to do much else. I am excited to actually be participating in a photography workshop on Thursday. I have never had a class in photography so I am hoping to have a great time learning how to photograph the prairie. The other, newer, park building is the Heritage Center. The architect designed it in the shape of a plowshare, the instrument used by homesteaders to transform the prairie into farmland, then eventually into a dustbowl and with much labor from the National Park Service over the last 75 years, back to prairie again. I think you will agree it makes quite a statement as it rises out of the tall prairie grasses like Big Blue Stem.
I will be making presentations and giving demonstrations in both buildings on numerous occasions during my stay. Each Artist in Residence is required to make one formal presentation about their work. I agreed to set up and work on my quilt tops at The Heritage Center for the next two days. Once the staff saw how easy that was, they asked me to do another gig on Saturday. For me, this one is a little more intimidating. 100 Native American children are coming down from an Indian School in Lincoln, Nebraska. They represent many of the indigenous tribes that were forcibly removed from the Great Plains by the American government. I hope I can do justice to the task, but I have a feeling I will be learning a whole lot more from them than they will learn from me.