Monday, July 15, 2013

Prairie and Sky

flower bed at Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Society, DeSmet, SD

How can it be mid-July? Today marks only one month until my younger daughter's birthday--the birthday that always seems sooooo far away when summer vacation begins in early June.

I dropped by my elderly next-door neighbor's house yesterday to deliver some homemade treats and she remarked that she'd hardly seen me for a week. More, actually, because the week before that we were gone, but she meant last week, when we were back, but I was doing the solo-parenting show while Christopher was at a conference in Ohio.

She's right! We were so busy. We went to the pool nearly every day. The girls went to their little parks-and-rec class. I took them to their first movie in a movie theater -- a nearby suburb runs free kids' movies one morning a week all summer, and last week's was "The Lorax" -- and to the candy shop and to the farm. They played at friends' houses, and we had another friend over to play and to stay for dinner and ice cream sundaes. We were almost never home, and when we were home, we were busy: the chores, the playing, the usual.

So here we are another week later. It's high summer and I love every second. The sun, the heat, the humidity--I don't mind any of it. I keep thinking of last winter, and how I wore sweaters and three layers and scarves and gloves until well into "spring," and I wish I could bottle up this summer-ness and tuck it away in a closet to pull out next November, next January, next March.

So remember? We went on a great family trip. I've shown you some photos already, and likely most of you don't care to see more. But I did promise my mom a bit more of a recap, so either enjoy or scroll down (or click away).

The short story is this: Our family went on a driving trip to visit the historic Laura Ingalls Wilder sites in DeSmet, SD. DeSmet is just one of several historic Laura Ingalls sites in the Midwest, but it's where the famed author lived the longest in one place, where she spent the bulk of her growing-up years, where the majority of her books are set (By the Shores of Silver Lake all the way through These Happy Golden Years), and where her parents, Charles and Caroline Ingalls, lived out their lives and are buried (along with others from the family).

DeSmet was fantastic---almost magical, to explore the actual prairie homestead (expansive, gorgeous, peaceful, with endless grasses and fields and sky) and the house in town, see the annual outdoor pageant, visit the cemetery plots, and experience all the related sites (which my parents took my sisters and me to when we were little). But on our way to SD, we also visited two other historic places--sacred Native American sites in the southwestern MN prairie--that were equally fascinating. At Jeffers Petroglyphs, we discovered ancient Native quartzite carvings that are 7,000 to 10,000 years old--mind-boggling! And at Pipestone National Monument, we saw the quarries of pipestone that have been mined for thousands of years by Indian tribes that consider the stone precious and holy. Those places were beautiful too.

At the end of our trip we went to the lovely sand-bottomed pool at Flandrau State Park in New Ulm, MN, where our best friends met us for a day trip of picnicking and swimming. It was a perfect summer day.

I'm not even going to tell you more about tent-camping on the prairie. As the one disaster of our vacation, I'd prefer to put it out of my mind. (No, not really. By 8 a.m. we had already turned it into a relatively humorous adventure, but suffice it to say that those homesteading pioneers were tough, you all. Because those prairie winds are nothing to sneeze at. They will keep you awake all night long with their deafening roar, and then whip off your tent's rain cover....right before a rainstorm moves in. And you will end up in your car with two small children at three a.m., trying to sleep upright in your seats. At which point you will marvel at the pioneers who not only didn't have a car to escape to, but who withstood the wind and the noise and much worse every single day for years on end.)

Happy Summer. Long live family vacations--and family vacation memories.


At the Petroglyphs.....



At Pipestone National Monument...



At Zesto Drive-In in Brookings, eating butterscotch dip cones as big as their faces (size small)...



At DeSmet...


 At the Ingalls Homestead outside of DeSmet...




2 comments:

pasadena said...

Hi! I'm reading your book and i really really like it! Thank you soooooooooooooooooooooooo much!

Shannon said...

Hello and BIG THANKS, Pasadena! It is one of the biggest joys of my life to hear from readers who have enjoyed and appreciated my book. Hugs to you!