Autumn Walks on the Prairie

A week ago, I took myself out for a walk on the prairie. Billowing, slate-gray clouds rolled across the sky, so I knew I had to hurry. It’s a lovely drive from town out to the biological preserve, and I kept the windows open to let the cold wind blow through the car as I sang along to the radio.

It was a joyful day. Spending the afternoon with just me, the wind, and dozens of leaping grasshoppers was refreshing and invigorating.

I was surprised by the fall colors in the grassland. After all, what’s an autumn without the maples and oaks that blaze the New York hills into color? But the reds, the yellows, even the oranges were there! They’re more subtle here than in the Northeast, but the prairie was so beautiful. I finally feel that after a year of living here, I’m starting to appreciate the beauty of the rolling plains.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves!

“I don’t want to be a minotaur if my horns have to be short and stubby.”

Here in Kansas, my friend Bryan runs a weekly game of Dungeons and Dragons that consists mostly of graduate students from the math department.

I’ve never played D&D and in high school I was pretty close-minded about it. The kids who played were the same kids who hung out at the public library and who competed on the Envirothon team (looking back, I think, “Shit! Those kids had a lot of fun.”) But after talking to a few of my¬† friends who regularly play D&D, I have to say, it sounds pretty bad-ass. So I’ve been bugging Bryan to let me in his game since I moved here last year. This semester, a spot opened up, and I was invited to join the group.

“Great! Let’s go,” I thought. Oh, no no no no no! You don’t just jump into a game of Dungeons and Dragons. You have to learn about the world. You have to learn about the campaign you’ll be joining. You have to create a character. As an adventurer of the imagination, you need to be trained extensively before storming castles and saving maidens. Bryan is preparing me by telling me the back-story of the world he’s created. A natural storyteller, he’s has created a complex world with a rich history and lots of juicy characters. For my D&D lessons, he had the brilliant idea to go for hikes while he fills me in on the history of this world. Last week we went on a river trail and ended up walking over 10 miles while talking about tower mages, dragons, and wizard battles. I get a kick out of seeing people’s faces as they walk by and hear, “Void magic is a particularly arcane and dangerous brand of magic, but Baraytus was able to manipulate it so that he could cross the Great Chasm by stepping on the souls of lesser mages.”

Yesterday morning, we went for a second hike. The equinox was earlier in the week, and autumn is finally falling upon Kansas. The day was beautiful; the sun was warm but gentle, and the prairie wind, so often ferociously blowing pollen in my eyes, was pleasant and cooling that morning. We walked around for about two and a half hours before heading back to town and grabbing some pizza for lunch. It’s such a great way to get away from campus for a few hours. I get to be outside, get some exercise, and be totally wrapped up in a story that takes me away from my daily responsibilities. I always love hearing stories being told out loud, it’s a nice change from reading. But I think the best part about all of this is that I’ll be able to actually weave my own character into the world! How often do you get to do that? I mean, unless you’re in the Neverending Story.

Anyway, I’m beginning to piece together a character for myself. My first idea was a minotaur… some really massive, muscly guy that hauls around a humongous hammer and gores people with his horns. Unfortunately, the back story necessarily limits the types of characters that can play. In Bryan’s world, magical creatures have been oppressed for centuries, and if I want to be a minotaur, I’m gonna have to be a subtle one. As in, shave down my horns and cover them up with a turban. But what’s a minotaur without his horns? A crotchety cow.

Do minotaurs wear pants?


Okay. So a minotaur might not be the best choice. Maybe I’ll be a valkyrie…