Several months ago, I enthusiastically announced my acceptance to the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center Residency in Nebraska City, Nebraska. Tomorrow morning, I fly west to Omaha, Nebraska, and, after I meet two other KHN residents, writer Shelly Oria and artist Michael McParlane, the three of us will share a cab (the only transportation option) from Omaha to Nebraska City.
As I wrote in May, I originally planned to use my two-week term,
"to explore Nebraska City and the surrounding land with an eye toward the region's natural history, focusing particularly on the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the legacy of 19th century westward expansion. Most of my time will be spent outdoors, biking and walking around the town's trails, parks, and historical sites. In the evenings, I'll use the provided studio space to conduct research, work on painting studies and drawings, and write essays relevant to the residency."I'm thinking that I'll stick to that plan...more or less. I expect that the "essays" produced during my KHN Center term will be open-ended, unpolished efforts, relatives of the sketches and studies that I'll be creating concurrently.
I'm also hoping that my time in Nebraska City will prove conducive to sustained rumination; I'm packing a number of books. Two of the books, The Immense Journey and The Unexpected Universe, are authored by a native of Lincoln, Nebraska, the anthropologist and science writer Loren Eiseley.
I am also packing:
Erik Reece's An American Gospel: On Family, History, and the Kingdom of God;
William Cronon's edited collection Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature;
David Abram's Spell of the Sensuous;
Tim Flannery's The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and its Peoples;
Wendell Berry's Life Is A Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition;
Doug Thorpe's Rapture of the Deep: Reflections on the Wild in Art, Wilderness and the Sacred.
The constellation of ideas contained in these books should provide me with ample grist for the mill. (Of course, the long list also means that a good deal of my time will be spent reading, but the not-so-closeted academic in me revels at the thought.)
Nebraska City will not be overlooked, however. Best known as the "Home of Arbor Day" and the location of the Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clark Center, the city has a number of unique sites that I plan to explore and incorporate into my consideration of American attitudes toward "wilderness," conservation, and the sacred.
For the duration of the residency, I will provide daily updates on Hungry Hyaena.