Inspiration for writing mods and stories can come from any experience in life. The most profound ones sometimes dive deep into your psyche that make it hard to later identify as they have become so ingrained into your personality and waking thought that you no longer notice. This is a short musing on one such series of events which still impact the way I think about myself, the world, and my place therein.
Desolation is the only way I ever got a sense of a scale of the world. Specifically, the desolation of the Kansas Flint Hills.
For those too lazy to hit Wikipedia, the Flint Hills is a stretch of prairie in eastern Kansas, about two hours west of Kansas City. Known for a bit of oil and cattle ranching, it is about as untouched as you can get. It is also empty. There have been a few attempts at settling it, but those were abandoned when it become unfeasible to keep trucking in the food needed to sustain living. The culprit here is the rocky soil. Ideal for the scrub and grasses native to the region but unworkable in any real sense for food crops.
My old scout troop would go camping out there once every couple of years. It was my first camp-out with the troop, actually. And it was hard, very hard, to not fall in love with the place. That emptiness, that Desolation (capital “D” well deserved here) gnaws at your mind until you finally comprehend your size compared with everything else. Out there you have the scale of the world pressed upon your mind. You see that you are as a flea to the grandness of the Earth. Your import, your ability to affect and shape is only in proportion to your size. And is just during the day. At night you are exposed to the cosmic scale. There are no lights save for those you bring. You see stars that you never otherwise see. You can watch satellites pass with without any telescope or binoculars. The galactic disk is obvious and bright. You see that we are nothing but a mote of dust, clinging to a mote of dust, swirling across the infinite void.
That is how empty it is. And that emptiness weighs on you. The nothingness is heavy enough to crush and sets in immediately as we turned off the highway, starting down those chert crusted roads and into the rolling brown expanses.
We went late in the year, late enough to not bother any cattle or to cause problems with the small derricks dotting the surface. Not that some of us didn’t try to cause a little trouble. People who shall continue to be unnamed decided that the best way to clear some of the debris from around their tent was with fire. In the constant 15-MPH wind, the dry November grass did more than clear out from the camping area. It cleared out several acres, leaving a straight black line across the otherwise dun hills.
But that momentary scratch on the surface of the hills was impermanent. As is all technology in that place. It endures in a way which belittles humankind’s efforts to tame it and to bring it under our control. It is a hard place, it can be an unforgiving place, but those things give it part of its beauty.