Kathleen Norris described the Dakotas
as the place where “angels drown.”
And yet my daughter was born here,
swimming. I steadied her inside my belly
as we drove through the snow to the hospital.
I wrapped her up in swaddle after swaddle
that winter. And in the spring, we visited
each tree in the yard, touching their rough
bark delicately with our fingers. I told her
about ants and how trees communicate
with each other under the earth.
Norris also saw beauty in the Dakotas, calling
them her monastery, a place of stunning stillness
where life and drought bloom together.
I can already see the prairie roots in my
daughter’s veins, the milkweed crumple of
her hair, and the pine squirrels she will chase
until she runs out of air. She is resilient.
She will laugh at the snow and ice. She will
dance in the dust storm and rainstorm and
pick ripe tomatoes all summer long, allowing
the juice to run down her bare arms.
The Dakotas have been dismissed by the
rest of the country as flyover territory,
out of touch, full of dying towns and
aging farmers who don’t read The New York Times.
But when I look out my window, I see the
school children across the street, playing games
outside in the middle of a frigid December day.
They are bold, shrieking and laughing. Having
put on their coats, they become fearless. They
know how to chase light through the snow
and find ways to enchant the wind. They are
dusty and brave, and perhaps, the best of us.
Cover image by Emma Dau.