On the Road in North Dakota

“The true West — the dry West — is usually said to begin at around the 100 [degrees] W, which is the line of longitude that corresponds with an average rainfall of fifteen inches.”
— Jonathan Raban, “Homestead,” from Driving Home: An American Journeym

North Dakota field

“[North Dakota is] the spot in our national geography where the Midwest becomes the West: distances expand, the sky gains dominance over the earth, and the wind arrives unimpeded from beyond the sere edge of the world, a herald of how vast and empty it really is.”
— Reed Karaim, Winter in Anna

It was in North Dakota that I crossed into the Central time zone and emerged from the West into the Midwest region of our country.  It became gradually greener as I drove farther east. Yellow wildflowers lined long stetches of I-94.

It was hazy.  The sun rose red in the morning.  I believe the haze was from wildfire smoke moving down from central Canada.

Sunrise along I-94 in North Dakota

I saw what looked like little flocks of butterflies in the air — could they be migrating?  I passed a few fields of sunflowers — so cheery.

Sunflower field, North Dakota

Like Montana, North Dakota appears almost unpeopled — you drive long distances seeing nothing but land and sky and the ribbon of highway going off into infinity.  You wonder what kinds of people feel at home here.  I think I would feel too isolated, but I admire those who find inner strength in this seeming solitude:

“The land itself becomes a place of worship, in which to rest and meditate, and perhaps escape to, from the complications and noise of our fast-paced modern lives.”
— Michael Kenna, Form in Japan

“Ironically, it is in choosing the stability of the monastery or the Plains, places where nothing ever happens, places the world calls dull, that we discover that we can change.  In choosing a bare-bones existence, we are enriched.”
— Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography

 

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