When driving through the plains of South Dakota, the flat surface and high speed limits of the roads cause us to cruise past our surroundings without pause. We are not here to see, to look, to gaze but to go. We are driving to a place that is not here and do not stop to see what “here” looks like. So we continue on; we drive by. Therefore, many of us only see Dakota from inside our cars. We scoff at our surroundings and allow our perspective to be altered by bug-covered windshields.
The black top allows us to cut through the prairie landscape without so much as touching a blade of grass. It is this restlessness that turns Dakota into a “drive-through state”. However, the land occasionally protests and disrupts our speedy journey by changing the terrain into dirt and rock. Gravel roads slow us down and allow us to explore areas that we would have otherwise driven past. In order to participate in the land, we must slow down. We must recognize the value in the path we are on, not simply the place we want to go.
What strikes me the most about this road near Humboldt, presented in this picture, is that it goes on. The fields trail alongside its dirt path as they both run towards what cannot be seen; most importantly, they move forward together. The distinction between nature and road becomes indistinguishable at the horizon as they are blended by the horizontal. By uniting with the surrounding nature, the dirt road embraces its creation and the place where it has been constructed. Rather than asserting its man-made dominance by cutting through the land, this road uses materials from the earth to become a part the countryside. Here, the purpose of a road is not only to connect two places together, but also to connect us to the natural surroundings that we wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.
My name is Lauren Sim and I am from Maple Plain, Minnesota. I am currently a senior at Augustana University majoring in English and Religion/Philosophy with a minor in Classics. I’ve had the pleasure of working on this project as Ann Pederson’s Teaching Assistant and hope to incorporate collaborative projects of this nature into my future work as an English professor.