Beyond Your Backyard: A Place to Be Broken

Calcareous fen nestled along the hillside in a prairie restoration at Burke Wildlife Management Area in Pipestone County. Photo by Megan Benage.

When I was a little girl and I would get in trouble, I often ran to the forest. My brother and I had a grapevine that hung across the creek that ran by our house. We’d hook it around a tree stump on one side, stretching it out so that when you unhooked it and held on, you’d be sling-shotted across the creek. This is where I would go when my world turned upside down.

It’s normal to feel a sense of wrongness when you’ve been scolded or something doesn’t work the way you wanted it to. As a strong-willed little girl, I found correction difficult. I’m sure my mother found doing the correcting equally difficult faced with such a bull-headed adversary. As an adult, I am equally strong-willed, but thanks to my mother’s patience and guidance have the gift of thoughtful introspection.

My world still turns upside down from time to time and when it does, I often turn to my new love in the tallgrass prairie. The prairie is a place of connection, complexity, and discovery. It still holds so many secrets of how the world works. And now, so many secrets of mine. It’s much more than a stand of grass. It’s a place to be broken. Sitting under the swaying golden and blue grasses, as you contemplate what brought you here.

When I am broken, I turn inward, clasping my knees to my chest, holding myself close and tucking my head into my arms, armoring against the world. The prairie brings me back. As you sit, the quietness that suddenly fell brought on by your abrupt arrival melts away into a chorus of birdsong as life resumes on the prairie. A beetle lumbers by, unhindered by the brief interruption, intent on his journey. Voles scurry in the grass and the wind blows across your face, drying your tears. Reminding me that while I may be broken, I am still whole. Each piece of me is strong. Just like each piece of the prairie is strong and necessary for the whole.

We all need that place, a place where we can be broken. Letting go completely so our soul can be washed clean in the place that holds our secrets, our fears, and our sorrow. So that tomorrow we can feel the joy and hope that our time on the prairie promised.

Where is your place to be broken?