Tuesday, April 11, 2006

back from my Nebraska Sandhills adventure....

This past week I attended a nursing retreat in North Platte NE. I'd never visited North Platte or seen the Sandhills so really enjoyed the vistas. Nebraska is not flat and featureless, as many people imagine in other parts of the country. The terrain is diverse and often spectacular, especially at sunrise and sunset when changing light creates shadows of gold, rose or purple on rolling prairies, sand dunes, or rocky outcroppings. That hills of sand can support wild flowers and prairie grasses seemed impossible to me, until I saw them with my own eyes. Today, cattle graze the sandhills grasses, but my imagination took me back two hundred years when only indigenous tribes, buffalo, antelope, and game of every kind inhabited the region. No fences, just grass and rolling dunes into the horizon in all directions would have greeted human eyes, with wind, rustling grass, and birdsongs the only sounds. Riparian woodlands thrive along each small creek and river winding through the sandhills. Any one who thinks Nebraska is flat and treeless should see these hardwood forests growing in the prairie grasslands.

This time of year the sandhills cranes return to their ancient home along the Platte River. They feed in corn stubble and shelter in trees growing along the Platte. The weather turned cold and snowy during my trip so I didn't get to see the cranes in their natural state. They huddled in the corn stubble, hunkered down against the gusting winds, so I couldn't see how large they are while walking.

The Sandhills Convention Center in North Platte hosted the nursing retreat, which was sponsored by the Good Samaritan Society. If you are ever in Nebraska and near North Platte, the Convention Center is beautiful, peaceful, and pleasantly appointed. The rooms were clean, the food great. My stay there was a joy. I've lived in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky and visited the mountains of central Pennsylvania, both beautiful. But I was born and raised in the plains of Kansas and Nebraska. If you've never visited the sandhills or the central plains, you're in for a pleasant surprise. Open your spirit to vistas that look much the same today as they did 200 years ago.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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