For a while people walked by the puddle. Some jumped over it, each person in a different way: jumps, leaps, pointed toes, and landing on heels. Some would come to the edge and stop, looking down and forward, and then slowly stretch one leg across followed by the next. Some would walk through on tip toes. Others walked around it.
Today the puddle is frozen, and much smaller. People walk across; no one has slipped yet. People ride skateboards around the puddle as easily as walking. A group collects on one side, stopping to talk about this or that. Their breath goes up in big clouds against the cool light of the midday sun. Light catches on the edges of their coats and hats, making them glow at the edges for just an instant. Inside the air is warm, and people hurry through the doors.
The holidays have past, and now the cold months of February and March are ahead, though the clear skies keep away melancholy. This interstice is a strange one of empty skies that are not quite winter, and brittle grass that seems to be truly dead. The animals are silent but for the chattering starlings that fly in swarms and groups, and roost together with the blue jays.
I walk through all of this on my way to and from school. I stay at school for a long time, from the morning until the evening, and I watch the people pass by the puddle through the curving windows of one of the large buildings. There is a good view from up there, and a person who looks can see almost all of campus from the third floors’ reading room.
Mostly, the days go by one after another. Some event comes up and passes away again, and I seldom remember all the intricacies of even one day. I step outside in the morning and end up at school. I walk home at night and fall asleep. Days and days go by.
In all landscapes, the viewer has to be open to receive the gifts of beauty that come from the earth. This beauty in the plains is sometimes difficult to see, and is often overlooked. You have to look for it, and not in mountain ranges that flank the plains, or in the way beauty exists in those places. You may find this subtle sort of beauty in the waving grasses and rolling hills, the rafts of migrating birds during the seasons’ change, or when following animal tracks in the snow; in roads that disappear over the hills and horizon, in storm clouds, and in the warm light of the setting sun.
Many eyes can go through the meadow, as Emerson said, and few see the flowers. People walk by these things, these grasses and sunsets, every day. It’s not so easy to stop and watch. To understand this beauty, it takes a trained eye, and a calm mind. But as you spend time in the plains, you learns to see these subtle delights, and your mind becomes calm. And as the landscape impresses itself upon your experiences, you may find that these gifts are some has to offer.
As I walk home from a day at school, I see the sun setting in a reflection. The ground below the windows is littered with construction equipment, and turned up by catapillars and backhoes. In such a place it is difficult to imagine a sea of prairie grass growing, or herds of thousands of bison, or the rolling hills that still exist beneath all of the buildings. But next to this place, growing strongly, are a few clumps of prairie grass, and a sunset stretching across the horizon, reflected in the tall windows.
All that is gold does not glitter;
all that is long does not last;
All that is old does not wither;
not all that is over is past.