The prairie has a lot to say.

The photograph of HWY 18, a South Dakota two-lane hasn’t let me go yet.  My apologies if you’ve had enough.  Actually, not really.  I write and create art for me and my hope is that something I write maybe resonates for you too.  If not, well, that’s OK.

I created this series while thinking that the imagery of the road is both going AWAY from somewhere and TOWARD someplace else.  For the early part of my life the road represented away from someplace and now it’s shifting.  This image is my childhood home in Burke, South Dakota.

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When I started working on these images I was trying to tell a lot of different stories.  Why kids leave small towns.  Why they should go back (I’ll still write about that).  Why I left South Dakota.  Why, at fifty-years-old, I would now consider going back to South Dakota.  How small towns or wherever our upbringing was shaped us as adults.  I’ve created so many images all telling different stories.  I had to narrow my message.  So, I decided to get more personal and less about rural development.

I’ve lived in Vermont since New Year’s Day 1990. I moved to Burlington with a friend, Melissa from my Sioux Falls College days.  Three weeks later I met my husband, Jeff.  Now, almost twenty-seven years later I’m deeply rooted here in New England.  I never expected to be here this long.  If had put a limit on my time in Vermont, well, it wouldn’t have worked.  I was in love and adaptable.  Isn’t life wonderfully unpredictable?

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I understand the rhythms of the sea, and yet…South Dakota just won’t let me go.  The ocean and its vastness gently reminds me of the expanse of the prairie.

I’m longing for spaciousness, freedom and simplicity.  I crave all of this more now in middle age.  As the poet e. e. cummings wrote, “it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are”.  I had to allow myself to get quiet enough to listen to my inner voice.  As a younger partner, mother and artist, I wasn’t such a good listener.  I’m grateful the prairie won’t let me go now, she clearly has a lot to say lately and I’m listening.

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vermont-lillibridgeThis image is the backyard of my home in Burlington, Vermont.  We’ve lived in this house since August 1991.  It holds many memories and has been through numerous renovations.  I love the house, but I’m restless.  I desire some change.
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This piece is layered with one of my paintings. My need for change isn’t always easy on my family.  I’m trying to be more understanding about how they feel.  They are trying to do the same.  Inevitably though, things will change and we will all adapt just fine.  I know that my work is to keep listening and trying to understand what messages I’m receiving.

ego vs. heart

Somehow folks, photographs of Herrick, South Dakota struck at the heart of many people…actually WAY more people than had ever read my blog before.  So, at first it fed my ego.  I was obsessively checking the number of viewers I had for those Herrick photographs.  (Obsessively is almost too small of a word for my behavior.)  I kept thinking about the comments of people who grew up in Herrick and moved away.  A former babysitter of mine wrote and people were connecting about their love of Herrick and rural South Dakota.  That was a blast for me.  Thank you.

This morning in my NIA dance class we did a move that protected our hearts and then we gave them out to the world.  Arms closed and wrapped in protection across our hearts then opened wide. It made me think about EGO vs. HEART—protecting the way the world sees me vs. vulnerability & social risk.  I was thinking about the volume of traffic I had to my site and then it all went straight to my heart.  Arms wide and then crossed.  Try it, it’s kind of a cool way to get a sense of vulnerability and protection in your body.  I’m not surprised that my pictures of Herrick, South Dakota sparked so much interest and dialogue.

I think the geography of our upbringing is in our bones.

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“…voluntary settlement to a frontier area tends to produce individualism.”  Geographical Psychology; Exploring the Interaction of Environment and Behavior edited by Peter J. Renfrow.  Cool, huh?  I often think about the freedom and spaciousness I was allowed growing up on the prairie. It was awesome AND I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Burke.  To quote Joni Mitchell, “I got the urge for going”.

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My settlement in Burke was involuntary at my birth, however, it did produce a sense of individualism in me.  I suspect in many others too (judging by your response to my photos, shut up ego, let the heart take over).  In the book I referenced it suggests that people in frontier areas are naturally more suspicious of outsiders because of the potential to spread disease.  Fascinating lizard brain stuff, huh?

For many reasons “pioneer & frontier thinking” has been bouncing around in my head a lot lately.  Last week a relative sent me this article about my Great Grandfather, Lowell Stanton Lillibridge, pioneer banker. These few paragraphs tell a great story about pioneer life in South Dakota at the turn of the century.

I’m grateful I have a different lens to view the landscape that informed who I am.  I’m not wild about some other middle aged issues, but I do appreciate the wisdom.

I haven’t lived in South Dakota since 1989.  I moved to Vermont on New Year’s Day 1990, and yet an image of a South Dakota two-lane highway is my constant muse.  Funny how different things look with a quite few more years in the rear view mirror.

I encourage you to think about what specifically speaks to you about the geography you experienced growing up.  What’s your “South Dakota two-lane”?  That image got me through some rough dental work last week.  You might want to consider a landscape as a sort of meditation…a “go to” place when you need to settle your brain down.

Thank you for reading.  I’m truly grateful for your time.

Herrick, South Dakota

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The week before Thanksgiving I was in South Dakota visiting my family.  I had an afternoon to drive around and shoot some photos.  I headed to Herrick, just east of Burke, listening to korn country 92.1. I love Keith Urban’s song; Blue Ain’t Your Color.  If you don’t know this song, it’s a damn shame.  Here’s the video.

I spent a lot of time in Herrick growing up.  I “worked bees” two summers. That was highly educational, messy and sometimes painful work.  I got stung 17 times one day (my forearms looked like Popeye’s). I played softball in the field behind the truck.  I think I might’ve even knocked back a few beers at parties in the outfield on occasion. I had a friend who lived on a farm in Herrick and since I was a “city kid” riding the bus to Anita’s farm was a grand adventure.  We could drive at fourteen.  We didn’t have to ride the bus too long.  So, I had a blast driving around Herrick in beautiful, autumn, late afternoon light and thinking about my Herrick Days.

Next time, perhaps a whole series of photos devoted to Bernie’s Inn, the historic watering hole in Herrick.  Would that be a possibility?  Let me know.

Prairie beauty. 

There is a unique beauty the prairie possesses. The starkness out here is as rugged as the frontier spirit.  This is a part of the world that would prefer things stay known, steady and traditional. It never does. Shifts occur. 

I’m visiting my family in South Dakota now. I can see both the independence I reveled in as a teenager AND the uncertainty about how the world is changing.  Understanding this duality fosters my curiosity about things unknown. I like that. I’m grateful for both my independence and my deep roots here. 

Life is a puzzle, people are puzzling and sometimes all we can do is keep looking between the cushions or under the couch for the piece we’re missing. 

Let’s all keep seeking understanding and looking for the missing pieces folks. Let’s ask more questions of eachother than lecture. I do believe a little curiosity can change the world or at least your holiday table.  It will be a much shorter drive home from Grandma’s if everyone felt heard and respected. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you, Leonard Cohen.

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Anthem

by Leonard Cohen

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

seek love, beauty & kindness today

“I’m big because I’m connected to the universe, and the universe is connected to me.” —Neil deGrasse Tyson

We are all BIG.  We can all affect big CHANGE even in the life of one other being.  We are so much bigger than this election.  We are bigger than we can possibly imagine.  The hardest part is BELIEVING this is so.  WE can solve the biggest issues before us and our families, it’s not our government.  It’s not ONE person.  It’s US.  It’s ALL of us working together.  The AMERICAN SPIRIT has proven this over and over.

We all want to THRIVE and to do so it takes TEAMWORK. 

SEEK LOVE, BEAUTY & KINDNESS TODAY.

We’re all going to be just fine, no matter what the headlines are tomorrow.

I’m so guilty..

of being way too serious way too much of my day.  I started out this morning reading the New York Times and all of the crazy political news.  David Duke is back, really?  Then I landed on this piece about “cognitive closure” and it really struck me.  I was so interested in this concept that I read it to my highly disinterested 16-year-old daughter, Lucy.  My husband, Jeff kind of listened to me, but he really just wanted to work on the 1970s song “My Maria” and play his guitar while our cat, Karen watched him adoringlyClearly, I need to lighten up. Goofing off more lessens the anxiety of those around us too.  Our cat was trying to show me what to pay attention to this morning.  Oh the wisdom of Karen.

I think culturally, we just gotta lighten right now.

This political season is making us nuts.

AND YET…I still couldn’t quite help myself.  “Dr. Kruglanski is best known for his theory of “cognitive closure,” a term he coined in 1989 to describe how we make decisions. “Closure” is the moment that you make a decision or form a judgment. You literally close your mind to new information.”  By

Changing habits is hard, fun is coming—I promise.  Conceptually “cognitive closure” is something to consider, especially when you feel unable to see the options available to you and a choice needs to be made.  The middle path always allows us to see a lot more options.  But, it’s much harder to do.  Our brain wants to shut down our options.  It’s way easier than considering new information.  I told you I’m guilty of being way too serious. Good Golly, Lisa enough about cognitive closure (no matter how interesting of a psychological concept this is)…it’s time for fun.

So, after I read this piece I searched for FUN and landed on a country music video about HANGING OUT.  Here’s my gift to you today.  Thank you LITTLE BIG TOWN. You guys clearly know how to lighten up.

Back this hitch up into the water
Untie all the cables and rope
Step onto the AstroTurf
Get yourself a coozie
Let’s go

Enjoy this video, I hope your day is filled with lots of laughs and goofiness.

Watching this video reminded me that we used to hit golf balls off the front of our boat when I was in college.  Oh, we really knew how to play then.