Iowa Writes

JONATHAN G. ANDELSON
From Letters to a Young Iowan


Dear Young Iowan:

Don't be afraid to get mud on your boots. Or what I really want to say is: get some mud on your boots. If the most fertile soil makes the best mud, then Iowa has some of the finest mud anywhere. That soil took thousands of years to make. Every year the prairie grew in the spring and summer and into the fall, then in winter died back to the roots. The litter decayed and sometimes burned, and the richness was returned to the soil. Every year, for thousands of years. For most of that time there were people here, helping the process. Then, three lifetimes ago, other people came, saw that the land was good, and began making new lives for themselves on it. Sadly, they took out most of the prairie to do it, and we've lost a lot of that rich soil. But you can still get some excellent mud on your boots, and that's a good start in connecting yourself to the land.

Dear Young Iowan:

Don't be afraid to get mud on your boots. Or what I really want to say is: get some mud on your boots. If the most fertile soil makes the best mud, then Iowa has some of the finest mud anywhere. That soil took thousands of years to make. Every year the prairie grew in the spring and summer and into the fall, then in winter died back to the roots. The litter decayed and sometimes burned, and the richness was returned to the soil. Every year, for thousands of years. For most of that time there were people here, helping the process. Then, three lifetimes ago, other people came, saw that the land was good, and began making new lives for themselves on it. Sadly, they took out most of the prairie to do it, and we've lost a lot of that rich soil. But you can still get some excellent mud on your boots, and that's a good start in connecting yourself to the land.

There are a lot of ways to do it. Come with me and do a little rambling through the remaining bits of prairie. (Do you know how to ramble? A lot of people these days don't seem to know how, but it isn't hard. Just look down and put one foot in front of the other.) In the prairie different blowers bloom every week during the summer and early fall, and some of the prairie grasses are six or seven feet high. We might see butterflies, beetles, bluebirds, grouse, prairie crayfish, even a coyote or fox if we're lucky. I keep hoping to see a prairie chicken. With some friends and neighbors I am also helping to restore some prairie, to bring a little wildness back to Iowa.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


JONATHAN G. ANDELSON

Jonathan G. Andelson teaches anthropology and directs the Center for Prairie Studies at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, where he joined the faculty in 1974.

Editor Zachary Michael Jack compiled Letters to a Young Iowan (Ice Cube Press, 2007) by inviting prominent Iowans to contribute their advice to the next generation.

Ice Cube Press

This page was first displayed
on January 25, 2008

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