Long ago, reading
a couple of biographies of painter Georgia O’Keeffe,
I was struck  by the fact
that, despite her famous paintings of the New Mexico landscape,
her transplanting to and long-standing home in Abiquiu, New Mexico,
she said her spiritual home
was the Palo Duro Canyon in Texas.
In that, I felt a connection to O’Keeffe:
I’ve always felt my spiritual home
is the ocean.
And yet, I was born on the prairie
and, though I have lived closer to an ocean,
have returned to the prairie,
repeatedly.
Knowing that the prairie
had been ocean,
repeatedly,
for millions of years,
and that the curved white stones on our hill
are ancient dried ocean mud flats,
is a connection—
but not the quite the-same-as,
without that wide, endless expanse
of water,
the unrelenting sound of waves lapping shoreline.
Too, I have found a connection
in the horizons, ocean and prairie,
and even the human-made structures—
lighthouses
and grain elevators—
intersecting the boundless, gentle curves of both landscapes.
And a connection,
in the Kildeer,
a shore bird in the Plover family,
that lives on this prairie,
of the savannah family.
Kildeer have long, thin legs
and scuttle over grass-less parts of the prairie—
roadsides,
pond shorelines, or, these days, dried ponds—
just like Sandpipers,
their thin, tall legs scurrying from waves on the shoreline
of the ocean that still has water.
Kildeer find the closest thing to sand—
gravel, often, too near traffic paths—
to build their nests and lay their spotted eggs.
Their call
stops me in my tracks,
always:
a plaintive, gull-like cry
carried on the ocean air.

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Kildeer on edge of farm pond

So,
on a prairie walk recently,
it was a thrill to look out across the grassland
and spot another pair of thin, even taller, legs—
a different shore bird—
atop a post,
next to another post with another bird on top.
Can’t tell what the other bird is,
prairie, or shore, or both.
Don’t know the name of either bird,
but I was content
to stand with them, there
on the endless gentle curve,
in the heady air
of prairie/ocean/prairie,
grass waving,
waves lapping,

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