This summer I traveled by car through a significant portion of the American Midwest. While I
have been through most of these places in the past, these more recent travels struck me differently. I
found myself frequently captivated by the geography and history of this area, and how those two
things have worked together to change both the landscape of this place, and the larger history of our
country. This piece is intended to capture the complex emotions that I felt while experiencing the
geography and history of these places.
The Great Plains are vast, and have a deeply violent history. Yet for many people they represent
a kind of peace and simplicity not found elsewhere. The agricultural industry in this area has
reduced what was once the largest contiguous ecosystem on the continent by 98%, so that now only
a tiny portion of this area still exists in its natural state. Yet, this same agriculture accounts for
billions of dollars of food, national wealth, and exports. The Great Plains represent man’s perfect
dominion over nature, yet their very vastness, and paleontological and archeological richness, speak
to the impermanence of that dominion. The culture and development in this part of the country is a
modern veneer that has been laid over an ancient and resilient landscape, so that one is constantly
having the experience of seeing something new in contrast to something from the ancient world.
The title of this piece comes from the Old Testament, Isaiah 40:6. Generally the intention of this
passage is interpreted as meaning that corporeal life is fleeting and impermanent. While I believe this
is true, grass itself is anything but. Grass is one of the most resilient and abundant life forms on
our planet. Further, grass is entirely responsible both for the native biological and mineral diversity
found on the Great Plains and for the bulk of the region’s agricultural production (wheat, corn, and
barley are all species of grass).