Across the Wide Missouri

Another quiet day, here, but one spent outside instead of in.

Erin, Wendy, my mother-in-law Rosemarie and I got in the car and drove about six miles west of Pierre, and across one of the dams across the Missouri. We found a stretch of land of yellow prickly grasses, a prickly pear or two, steep rolling hills, and not a single house or building within sight. The only sign of human habitation was the gravel road we were on, the huge artificial lake at the back of the dam, and a stretch of power-lines on small wooden poles.

Wendy brought her canvas with her, and set about to paint. Erin and Rosemarie walked to the beach, and I stayed with Wendy to write a letter to Martin. The sky was cloudy, and that kept the temperature down to a dry 80'F. The wind blew constantly, which meant that letter writing was the only thing I could do, rather than story revision.

It was a good, meditative experience, even if I did feel a bit like an interloper watching Wendy paint the arid bluffs. I got to see a painting from blank canvas to 95% complete, and I think that's something special. Then Erin and Rosemary returned and we drove back down to the beach.

A portion of the beach was almost a moonscape. The level of the lake had dropped, and a large chunk of the ground had dried up. The clay had cracked and peeled, like the bottoms of dry lakes in the Australian desert. It was the first time I could take a clod of this earth and break it to dust in my hands.

Tomorrow, all five of us are heading to Rapid City, where we will spend two nights looking around the Black Hills (well away from the parts that are burning). I hope to see the Crazy Horse memorial, and possibly even nip into Wyoming and check out Devil's Tower.

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