Category Archives: Prairie Journey

Prairie Photographer

While on vacation this summer,
I drove by Prairie Petals,
traveled down a  Prairie Path,
and gave my friend, Janet, a Prairie Pedicure.
I
We’ve traveled through tears, tares and turds, horse, that is.

Today we tackle Prairie Photography.

When I was rebuying maternity clothes and a new diaper bag at 38,
with my precious 6th baby,
my high school friend, Janet, was celebrating emtpy nest syndrome,
so started a photography business
 and started toting a camera bag.

We both loved our different bags and the lives they symbolized,
but laughed at the opposite paths our lives had taken.

In her photography business,
Janet uses creative settings and props

to enhance and highlight the personalities of her models.
High school senior McKenzie,
yes, we went to school with her parents,
wanted her first pictures taken with her best friend.
 A walk down the gravel road to set the stage.
It is amazing to see such a common scene,
the weedy patch next to a house, a girl and her horse,
become this.
It was fun photographing the photographer.

I had to be in one picture.

I loved watching the moments unfold.
Janet allows her clients to suggest poses,
as McKenzie did here,
and adds tips that would make the pose succeeed-
lift your feet, tip your head, don’t fake smile,
suck in your tummy, relax,back straight, lean this way,
weight on the front foot, chin this way.
Some moments unfolded better than others.
This is one pose you won’t see on Janet’s website.
Yea, it’s a pic nobody would choose to pass out to their friends,
but it marks the spirit of the photo shoot.
It was just fun.
Where else would a girl named McKenzie
want to pose for a picture?
This truck was parked out behind the house.
You know those old rotting country bridges other that people just drive over?
Janet likes rustic appeal for pics.
Since people expect to wear the prom dress inside the studio,
Janet likes to take them outside to contrast the setting.
When Janet showed her how to move her hand to her hip,
this sassy pose was created.
For further shock appeal,
how about sitting in that crick in your rhinestone studded dress?
It was worth it.
Before a shoot, Janet often scopes out the area,
seeking out interesting backdrops.
This building is in a small town a few miles away
made Janet’s pic turned out great.
With a  few mouse clicks from the photographer
and you have Kenzie reflecting her horse dreams.
Into her studio for more clothing changes
and more chin up, turn your head.
Simple sheers add splashes of color,
the huge “umbrellas” are part of her light system.
Advice from Janet Schill,
Prairie Photographer,
for great home photography –
“I think the most important thing for the home photographer
 to do with kids is get down to their level.
You’d be surprised at how many people stand
 and point the camera down on their kids.
When you look at the world from their level,
everything takes on a whole new look.
Watch which direction your light is coming from.
Don’t shoot towards the light,
have the light behind you or from the side.
Window light is great light, use it.
Also, if shooting outdoors, use open shade or cloudy days if possible.
It elimates harsh shadows and gives you great soft light.”
Be inspired in the images you capture of your children.
Shoot under the horse,
under the bridge,
and outside the box,
just like the Prairie Photographer.

Prairie Pedicure

If you’ve been traveling with me on the Prairie Journey,
you’ve viewed Prairie Petals
walked the Prairie Path,
and experienced my Prairie Pain.
Now, after walking through the Prairie,
you probably need a fresh pedicure.
When I first arrived at Janet’s farm,
 citified and primped like a city girl,
I had to help pick peas for hours.
OK, it felt like hours.
My makeup was melting,
the Fuschia Bling Bling on my toes was getting dusty,
and I actually was sweating.
It was hard to believe that only six short years ago,
I was a country girl.
I could hardly remember how to pick peas.
I’m kinda’ used to buying them now.
Because I had to do a “farm” thing with her,
she promised to do a “city” thing with me.
Janet didn’t know what she was agreeing to.
It had been in the 90’s in Dakota Territory,
OK, it’s actually been North Dakota for a few years,
and we had to deliver this stock tank to the pasture.
It needed to be filled up, obviously.
She looks like a fireman, because she is one –
 a volunteer for one of those little towns
you all drive through and wonder who would live there.
Yea, she calls herself a fireman.
She doesn’t need to be PC, because she is respected for what she does.
We returned later without hubby,
because he just wouldn’t understand.
I think he had to check the crops,
or check the weather,
or something farmery like that.
The pedicure process has been adapted to fit her prairie lifestyle.
Remove boots.
Don’t they look like they could just walk away on their own?
Maybe ya’ didn’t know,
but a cowgirl’s boots rank right up there in affection
with her husband and her horse,
 but not always in that order.
Soak feet.
Splash because you are having some crazy fun.
Notice the horses were scared away?
Use the finger-nail clipper your city-slicker friend
carries in her luggage purse.
Walk carefully through the pasture,
making sure a lot of mud gets on the bottom of your feet.
Before you go “eww” you should read up on the benefits of mud packs.
Mud is used to treat internal malfunctions,
 acne,fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, sunburn and prickly heat,
just to name a few.
On the internet, you can order mud with various mineral contents
and varying benefits from exotic countries.
Or, you could save the high fee, shipping and handling,
and walk through my friend’s pasture,
avoiding the freshest horse doo-doo.
Yes, she is exfoliating with hay imported from the mowed ditch.
It might be straw.
Not sure if I know the difference.
Exfoliation is necessary to remove older skin and promote cell growth.
It also gets the manure off.
And you thought fenceposts were just for holding onto the barbed wire.
Let your friend push back cuticles,
did out some ND permadirt and gumbo,
paint on some stunning color,
apply decals,
and top with a clear coat,
so it will last through harvest.
Sit back and put your feet up on your desk and admire
the Prairie Pedicure.
It’s almost enough to keep a country girl from putting her boots back on.
I said, almost.

Prairie Pain

If you’ve been following my series on Prairie Journeys,
you first read Prairie Petals, where I revealed the weeds of my youth.
Then, you followed me down Prairie Path,
where I retraced life in my hometown.

Today, I am traveling with tears,
as I write about Prairie Pain.
**********
There are always memories we like
 to bring back to our hearts and minds.
Like a great cup of coffee or
an amazing hand-dipped chocolate,
we savor them,
relishing and
 remembering.
Other memories are too painful to recall.
We like to push them aside,
denying them entrance back into our hearts.
But, with facing pain comes growth,
acceptance, and then, finally
healing.
When memories involve death,
there seems to be a
bittersweet rage and range of emotions.
We cherish the memories,
but struggle to go on with life.

Today I travel to a place I haven’t wanted to go for a long,
long,
long
time.
It was an unplanned journey for Janet and me.
As a local photographer,
she was asked to take pictures of her church’s cemetery.
Since I was visiting, I tagged along.
I say unplanned,
but nothing in life is ever a coincidence,
is it?
It was the cemetery where her mother and sister
were buried a few short months after we graduated from high school
and I had been a bridesmaid in Janet’s wedding.
My Dad had called me with the horrifying news of the accident,
and I couldn’t begin to fathom or understand the pain or the loss.
I had nothing to say,
nothing to offer.
I cried in confusion
as much as anguish.
I wanted the pain to just go away.
It was too ugly,
too unbelievable to really be happening/
It was the first unexpected death I had faced
 of people who were young and healthy.
I just didn’t understand.
I was 19.
I was facing my own new college life.
I was in Wyoming on a trip.
It was a long ways from ND.
I didn’t think it would really matter if I were there or not.
I had a lot of excuses, but no real reasons,
for not attending the funeral.
I was wrong.
Really, really, really wrong.
Through the years,
living with that decision has grieved me
 as much as living with their loss.

This was the first time I had seen the grave,
although it was with much regret in my heart.
Months after the funeral,
Janet loved me enough to be honest about her feelings.
“You weren’t there when I needed you.”
Then, I understood.
I should have made it about her, not me.
Because of her loving honesty,
I have never missed another funeral for a friend or relative,
if I had the ability to be there.
We have talked about their deaths
many times through the years,
and her openess has touched me and taught me.
Now, I  really understand.
At the cemetery,
I  wanted to lay on the ground and weep.
Tom and Janet raised two kids without Gramma and Aunty.
Their two kids got married and
each have one child so far.
The funeral was only the beginning of a lifetime
of “without yous.”
Because I knew if I didn’t laugh,
I would never stop crying,
I snapped this picture.
I had to find some way to ease my
Prairie Pain.
**********

Prairie Path

If you missed the first day of the Prairie Journey,
please read Prairie Petals.
********
Nine miles north, three miles east.
I traveled this path to my North Dakota home on the
Olson farmstead thousands of times.
Yes, my family bought the ten acre farmstead,
complete with barn, house, chicken coop and granary,
but it was still always referred to as the Olson farmstead.

My high school friend, Janet, drove
nine miles north and three miles east,
to my former home on the prairie.
The road stretched before me with anticipation,
as it did when I first moved to ND from Montana
 after I finished 7th grade.
 Our family had been so excited to buy a farmstead. 
We wanted to garden, have animals, fix up the house,
and entrench ourselves with the people of the small town.
It didn’t happen quite that way.
We gardened and raised some animals,
but never quite were able to find our place in the
farm community.
After about seven years, my parents moved back to Montana.
My family’s best memories always revolved around
our beloved old Farm House.
My friend tried to break the news ahead of time,
but, it was still a bit of a shock.
Our house had been razed, grain bins stood in its place.

Janet is walking down our old driveway,
the road I learned to drive on.
It’s also the road I chased the runaway cow down in my high heels
on the mornings he got out before I went to work.

The view I used to enjoy out of my bedroom window.
The house had been empty, rented, sold, empty, rented and sold
over and over during the past few decades.
It had fallen into a state beyond repair
and had to be destroyed.
The work my family invested in
remodeling the farm house
was buried beneath ND soil.
Driving back into my hometown, I saw further ravages of time.
The newspaper office I worked at for several years,
had burned to the ground.
The restaurant I frequented had closed.
Almost every business on Main Street was closed or changed.
It was like my high school life had been  erased.
I still am humbled by the reaction to my presence
 at the one class reunion I attended 18 years after Graduation.
Three different people expressed their disbelief
 that I was in their graduating class.
It seems that even memories of me were erased
along with physical evidences of my existence.
I had mixed emotions as I pondered all these things.
  
Although the town has little evidence of my existence,
my existence has evidence of living in that town.
I learned faithfulness.
I cherish the friendship of several friends
who are still a part of my life.
I learned forgiveness. 
 I forgave those who tormented me,
although they never confessed their wrong.
I learned diligence.
Building, fixing, remodeling and gardening were tasks
 that built my character,
even if the work itself was destroyed.
I left my hometown,
but those things I longed to leave behind,
followed me.
I still had to deal with them,
the stench was heavy on my soul.
Whether it was my sin,
or the sins against me,
they had to be forgiven and cleansed,
for me to have peace in life.
The Lord is gracious with His forgiveness,
and so taught me to forgive others.
Psalm 103:12
 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
The sins and troubles of my past,
like my home
and the newspaper office,
have been erased from time,
by a gracious and merciful God.
Now, I can excitingly return to a place I couldn’t wait to leave.
I am blessed to fill my heart and mind with new memories
with my faithful friends.
But, it’s only because the east is so far from the west,
that I can travel back on a path of peace,
that’s nine miles north and three miles east.
**********
next read Prairie Pain

Prairie Petals

I was blessed this summer to travel back to North Dakota with my youngest daughter, Rebekah. 
I was born in ND, but my family moved to Montana shortly after, and I didn’t return again until 8th grade.  High school was a painful experience and after Graduation, I knew I would never live in my hometown again.
But, not only was I born in ND, I was born-again in ND my freshman year of college at the University of North Dakota. The Lord began a healing and maturing work in my heart that He has faithfully continued.
I have returned rarely to visit, I have maintained a few precious friendships, and I have learned to look back and see the Lord’s guidance, presence and purpose through all those difficult times.
Despite the pain and the confusion of those years, I have always loved the prairie and the people of North Dakota.  Join me in the healing journey back…
**********
While driving that last two lane highway north to my hometown, I noticed the ditches were filled with beautiful flowers. Yellow, white, purple, and orange blooms decorated the ditches in the spots not filled with cattails.
If I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get to my friend’s farm, I would have stopped to pick a bouquet.  Their beauty just delighted and enticed me. 
But, I knew deep in my heart she wouldn’t see the beauty I saw, not because she doesn’t appreciate beauty, but because she is a farmer.
She sees weeds for what they truly are- plants that would eventually destroy if not destroyed.
She and her husband, Tom, purchased her family farm and have continued the wonderfully agonizing career both grew up with. Those “flowers”  infiltrate their wheat, canola and bean fields and they exert much sweat and money to battle against them.
They added a fleeting moment of beauty to my life, but hours of agony to hers.

                                   

There are the famous thistles you can’t pull without leather gloves.
This one makes most people sneeze, wheeze,
blow their nose and wipe their eyes.
Don’t let the pure white blooms,
or the delicate petals fool you.
Each bloom that dies produces more seed,
which causes more blooms,
which causes more seed.
Local legend says a woman brought the first
Fairdale daisies to the area to add beauty to her garden.
Even flowers, when they spread like wildfire in farmers’ fields,
are considered weeds.
Farmers daily fight the curse of Adam.
Genesis 3:17-19
Cursed is the ground for your sake:
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”

 At first, when I drove through ND and saw those ditches filled with weeds, and the patches of  the curse dotting grain fields, I saw beauty. I had to be reminded that they are noxious weeds and the farmers can’t be fooled by outward enticement of the colorful blooms, they must kill them.

Then, I saw spiritual beauty.  Those prairie weeds represented all things I once considered beautiful and enticing, but the Lord saw them correctly as sin.

 The curse of sin given to Adam’s race has been conquered by the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

I am proof.

When I got saved at 18, the Lord graciously forgave me my sins and cleared the field of my heart from thorns and thistles. Sins that once looked so beautiful to me, were revealed to be the useless weeds.

And with the seed, the Word of God, planted daily in my heart, He has helped me to bear fruit. The Holy Spirit helps the harvest to be more bountiful, by showing me when weeds of sin have once again taken root in my heart.

Yea, even weeds  preach a message of promised redemption to a fallen world.

Maybe I should have picked a bouquet after all.  That would have been that many less weeds blowing their seed into Tom and Janet’s fields.

**********
next read Prairie Path