This morning, with my mom hat tipped slightly to the side, I went about my work as a visiting author, rising earlier than usual to get started on my hour “commute.” At a time when I normally would be driving my kids to school, I was on a highway heading south, set on ending, first, at the small town of Kulm, ND. Just before my departure, however, I read something that started my day off well. As I’ve shared here before, I’m a lover of quotes. A good quote is like a good cup of coffee. It jump-starts the day, gets the brain engaged, oils the gears. This one came through for me today:
“We cannot tell what may happen to us in the strange medley of life. But we can decide what happens in us — how we can take it, what we do with it — and that is what really counts in the end.” — Joseph Fort Newton
As I internalized those words, a simple morning drive on a two-lane highway in North Dakota turned into a grand adventure. I was completely captivated as I assessed the land around me, seeing the devastating effects of the flooding — piles of dead trees, muddy fields, water where there should be none. Unlike in Fargo, a high water-usage warning remains in effect in this area. The complication of several dams here has caused water levels to remain higher than normal. And so I was transported into this different world for a while; one that quickly called to mind the overflowing of the Red River. But even while seeing this uglier side of nature, soon enough, nature’s bounty came into view as well. The proliferation of waterfowl seemed extraordinary. Hens and drakes of all sorts were out in the potholes, happily taking up residence. I watched a falcon strutting around near the side of the road, and another bird of prey swooping down to disturb some smaller wildlife, leaving a scattering of tiny black birds frantically flying away in its wake. I watched a Canadian goose sitting proudly upon her large, high nest in the middle of one pond, looking like royalty. I watched sandpipers pecking at the shallow areas of the ponds, and ducks with white bills and black feathers preening. I saw pheasants and little black birds with either red or white breasts dancing about. I did not, could not if I’d wanted to, go into a road zone, for all of this wildlife was all around me each mile that I drove and seemed to become more vibrant the further I went.
And then, as I neared my destination, a much larger presence came into view on the horizon — the mighty wind turbines. They seemed to rise up out of nowhere, both out of place and perfectly at home on the prairie. A slower one stood tall in the middle, acting like the elder of the other, more youthful turbines that surrounded it. It was an impressive lot, and judging from my approximate, drive-by count, at least 40 turbines took part in the morning exercise routine, swinging steadily and mightily around, somewhat but not entirely uniformly, like an aerobics class at the Y.
Although the birds come from nature, and seem to be living quite well in part because of the extra water, and the turbines come from man, all these things seemed to be existing quite well upon the same landscape. And I couldn’t help but connect it all back to that eariler quote. I used to hate the wind and how I had to fight against it in the spring, especially while running in track meets. How dare it make me fight so hard! And yet, when I figured a way to harness that wind, to hold back a bit so that the person in front of me took the brunt of it, shielding me, I could use it to my advantage, use its power to carry me through the finish line. We can’t stop the wind, but we can harness it, use it to help us live better. We can do that. Likewise, the birds have found a way to make good on the flooding. I sensed that they view rural North Dakota in the way we might view a private island resort that has been handed to us as a gift.
I got up this morning thinking my author visits would be the adventure, and they were indeed. But who knew that the appetizer before the main course would be so wonderfully presented?