Place Where You Live:

Augustana University, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

The first seeds were sown in the prairie restoration plot in the autumn, around the time of the first snow. Then the winter began, and there was waiting.

The spring came, and many of the seeds did not grow, or they sprouted and died shortly after.

By the next autumn, there were more seeds in the ground, along with grasses that had been transplanted after the first frost, facing months of survival without growth, waiting for spring to put forth leaves.

In the prairie plot, there is mostly waiting, hoping that something will come of it all.

I once explained to a child what the prairie used to be: a boundless ocean of waving grasses, filled with flashing birds and humming insects, grazing herds and hunting packs. It was full of life, I explained, and beautiful.

“I never knew that,” he responded. “I thought the prairie was just some crunchy brown grass.”

We have erased the prairie from our collective consciousness. And this consciousness is the real soil in which the prairie must now be reestablished.

My prairie restoration plot covers 0.04 acres. It will never have a measurable effect on water quality, save an endangered species, or achieve carbon drawdown. That was never the goal. But if this prairie sinks into the collective consciousness of my community, if it fosters biophilia and the love of land, if it sparks ideas in other minds, then the restoration will be successful.

You see, the real garden is not in the soil in this corner of Sioux Falls. The real garden is in the mind of every person who has paused to look at the prairie as they walked past, who has helped to scatter a seed, or who wonders why the rest of our lawns have not yet been replaced with wildflowers.

I do not know if this symbolic garden will flourish. I have no more control over those seeds than I have over the physical grains that lie under the snow. They will put down roots in their own time. Like the prairie, the result will be an untamed creation.