Estimated read time 4 min read

People who live on water know that voices carry, they can distinguish the sound of the lark from the wren, and know when to venture further out, or come closer to shore and pull back in. They live a life that ebbs and flows.

Mountain people have secrets they hold close and keep deep inside, you have to dig to get to know them. Dark woods swallow sound, pulling everything in and down. They live a life that is close to the ground.

Plains people see far and wide, they can calculate the distance to the horizon. They were the first to fly and the future know. They live life in the open and reap what they sow.

Like a fish out of water Thadeus—Tadd—passed his time on the plains flopping around and gasping for air. Used to a fluid environment, he felt parched and anchored. His ocean-blue eyes—deep and changing—constantly sought focus in the expanded vista but found only a slight color shift, an inconsequential blurring between earth and sky, leaving one indistinguishable from the other. And with nothing for his eyes to grab onto between here and there except Mary, that is where his eyes stayed, and happily so, as Mary was lovely and her voice melodic.

Plains people care about the portents of the sky. When the clouds form hills and valleys above the flat terrain, tomorrow comes the pouring rain. Water people watch, too, the signs above them—red sky at night sailors delight, red sky at morn sailors be warned! Mountain people watch the creatures and listen to the wind. When the breath of an owl’s wing whispers, beware the fingers of the reaper are grim.

Nolan felt like a caged buffalo. His darting brown eyes, in contrast to Tadd’s liquid blue ones, had always looked toward the horizon to get his bearings, to understand his place, and to plan his future. A big sky gave him comfort. Constantly looking up, his feet fumbled over roots and rocks and other such mundane things, quickly earning him the nick-name Tango—loosely translated as “one-not-sure-of-foot”. Although his horizon-seeking made him a far-sighted person—a future thinker—it aided him in no way on this mountain where skill at discerning details was valued over vision. His eyes continually searched for Mary, no easy task far away in these woods, although her striking red hair and green eyes would be easy to spot.

Mountains create pockets of space, in contrast to the wide-open of the prairie. Mountain living shelters resolute loners in good times, and creates tight-knit communities that aid each other in times of difficulty. Tough to traverse, mountains provide a barrier—a reef—that separates, no matter how short the distance.

Plains people know they are connected because they can see the neighboring village or town. As you ride or drive a vehicle across the plains, you are surprised at how far the distance traveled is—you can see the lights and practically hear the gossip of the townsfolk, even from many miles away. Whereas mountain folk approach as if by ambush, sliding in from behind a rocky Craig or outcropping. Surprise attack!

Kendrick was feeling his legs after being transported from his safe hidey-hole in a cozy mountain home, to the vapor-filled obliqueness of a village on the waters edge—an impressionist painting filled with fisher people. ‘We’re a small drinking community with a bit of a fishing problem,” his neighbor told him on their first encounter. Kendrick swished his stale beer in the warm can and wondered if he could be at home in a place that smelled of salt and fog. He longed for the fresh scent of pine. His college friends, Tadd and Nolan, wrote long letters crying homesick blues. Why had they decided to trade places? Kendrick figured he’d better get used to prawns for breakfast, and learned quickly to tie knots in rope. It helped relieve the knot in his heart. Mary was all he longed for, Mary of the prairie…


Author, photographer, cat herder.

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