The glorious archetype of a prairie

Driving north to south through the middle of Texas this week, it was easy to look out the window and be reminded why I love this landscape so.

istockphoto.com photo of prairie field with path

istockphoto.com photo of prairie field with path

In an earlier blog, I wrote about harbors, one of the landscape archetypes identified by Julie Moir Messervy. She describes these seven archetypes this way:

·        The Sea - Withinness
·        The Cave – Inside to Outside
·        The Harbor – Enclosure with a View
·        The Promontory – At the Very Edge
·        The Island – Awayness
·        The Mountain – Upness
·        The Sky - Beyondness

But for those of us who live in the central United States, there’s another outstanding archetype that Vermont-resident Messervy missed – the prairie or savannah.

The Native Prairie Society of Texas photo here is a wonderful illustration of the archetype that I would call Expansiveness.

Little bluestme prairie - Native Prairies Association of Texas

In this landscape, the viewer is intimately connected to both closeness and distance. The landscape seems to hold potential. The edge of the world is visible where land and sky connect. The distant appears reachable, walkable even. The earth is solid and substantial beneath the feet, yet the grasses and forbs are in almost-constant motion.

 All possibilities for the future are encompassed here. The full experience of climate variety – breath-grabbing heat and wind, “blue norther” fronts that drop the temperature 50 degrees in 6 hours and encase the grasses in ice, thunderstorm cloudbanks that slowly enlarge to fill the view as they hover closer and closer – is part of this world.

So how can you bring a prairie into your ageless landscape? And why would you want to do so?

A prairie-looking landscape can bring movement into your yard with plants such as ornamental grasses carefully selected for your site. And it can draw your attention to the middle distance and the horizon.

Even as eyesight changes with age, broad sweeps of plantings that mimic prairie shapes and spaces remain enchanting. This landscape can entice you outside to touch tall grasses, to walk along a mown path, to be reminded of expansive experiences in the prairie.

Have you seen and loved the prairie, too?