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Home is in the Fields

Along Soldier Creek near Fort Robinson State Park grow thickets of honeysuckle in the summer. The smell grounds you in the moment and solidifies the memory.

Often as a child I would accompany my dad to work. This gave me so many experiences in the pastures in the sandhills of Western Nebraska. As an adult, I still love going to work with him whenever the opportunity arises.

Crossing the grasslands on foot to find a lush patch of trees near a stream or lake or riding in the truck on dirt roads and sneezing from the yellow clover in the ditches are places in which I find comfort.

The smell of the honeysuckle and the beautiful yellow blooms were not the only thing present that day. I had crawled over fallen tree trunks to get closer to the water where the yellow blooms were the thickest when my dad came to see what I was doing.

I had been so engrossed with capturing the perfect angle of the the most perfect blooms I didn’t even know what Dad was pointing to at first. He said, “Look,” and as I did in the direction he indicated, it took a moment, but the bull snake came into sharp focus camouflaged on the fallen tree trunk.

Now, I am not afraid of snakes, nor most other things, but I don’t like being startled. I think a lot of people would have reacted the way I did upon realizing a three foot snake had been watching your every move from a short distance away. I ran. I ran straight up the bank and out of the trees.

Cottonwood leaf in fall.

It’s not just the smell of honeysuckle that permiates my memories with Dad. The photo of the cottonwood leaf is another I can smell and evokes even stronger memories. It takes me right back home. The leaves collect on the ground in the fall and have an earthy smell. Those still in the trees make a distinct sound when joined by the rustling of aspen leaves.

The smell and sound remind me of gathering firewood; learning to use a chainsaw. A skill which has become handy due to the strong Nebraska winds and the adventures of home ownership.

Dad has taught me so many skills which have become the foundation for my success as an adult. Sometimes the lessons were a little gruff, but even that taught me to pay attention and get it right the first time.

So, with that, I would like to wish the dads here a happy Father’s Day. I hope you create memories today.

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A Cherished Day

I love where I’m from, but even more so, I love my family. Western Nebraska hasn’t been the sole source of information for my life, but my upbringing gave me a solid foundation and a springboard.

I say a springboard because I have an incredibly adventurous mom. I am grateful to have inherited her best qualities and I have never been afraid of “becoming my mother.” I hope I do.

My mom worked hard to make sure my two brothers and I had an understanding of the world and all the options and opportunities it offers. The year after I graduated high school, Mom encouraged me to study abroad. I was excited at first, then terrified. By the time June rolled around and I was facing getting on the plane alone to live for a year with a family I had never met in a country where I didn’t know the language, my mom had changed my mind and grown my confidence.

Remember how I said she is adventurous? She joined me the last month of my stay in Peru and we traveled the country together on trains, planes, and automobiles. We hiked to Machu Picchu, stayed in a hut in the rainforest, and swam in the Amazon River. We had a big adventurer together that month, and though this day was a small adventure, it was very significant.

On this adventure with my mom, we visited Toadstool State Park and the surrounding area. Just my mom and me.

I was getting ready to go overseas with the Air National Guard and was a bit nervous and not in the best mood. My fun-loving mom fixed that by running through my shots of the sod house windows below. It’s one of my favorite moments with her. She helped me forget how nervous I was and, again, instilled in me confidence in the days leading to my departure.

Through the Sod House Window I and II truly show the beauty of Western Nebraska and places you in a mindset to imagine living in a sod house. The hardships to get there were treacherous and the isolation of the land challenging, but the beauty around astounding; something not many take the time to see.

On the way home, Mom spotted a giant female snapping turtle. The kind that seems to smile at you but has no problem biting off your finger. She was very old and at least a foot and a half wide; draped in moss from the nearby lake and contemplating crossing the road. We stopped and moved as close as we were comfortable to avoid the reach of her long and hidden neck and I caught the moment shown above.

This is only one great experience in my life I have had with my mom and she is always finding ways to create more. I am so grateful to be her daughter and have her love of adventure.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to my phenomenal mom and all the other mothers out there dominating motherhood.

My mom always knows what to do to make “it” better.

By the Artist