Our Turn At This Earth

Thursdays at 6:44 p.m. during All Things Considered
  • Hosted by Julene Bair

High Plains Public Radio will begin airing all new episodes of Our Turn At This Earth, beginning this Thursday at 6:44 p.m. CT during All Things Considered. 

Every week in Our Turn At This Earth, author Julene Bair ponders the questions she began asking as a young woman working beside her father as a fourth generation High Plains farmer: How do we honor our families’ past while also honoring the land and water beneath our feet? How do we ensure that our children and grandchildren will have a future during their turn at this earth?

Julene Bair is the author of One Degree West and The Ogallala Road. For links to her books and other essays visit www.julenebair.com.  

Our Turn at This Earth is a production of High Plains Public Radio, written and voiced by Julene Bair and produced by Angie Haflich. 

Our Turn At This Earth: Seeing Is Caring

Sep 24, 2020
https://www.pexels.com/photo/bird-eggs-killdeer-nest-1008618/

“I learned a new shorebird today!” my partner, Al, announced.

“What kind?” I asked.

“Killdeer.”

“You’re kidding? Killdeers aren’t shorebirds.”

Our Turn At This Earth: The Magnificence Of Being

Sep 15, 2020
https://www.nps.gov/deto/learn/historyculture/early-exploration.htm

The early frontiersman Ricard I. Dodge wrote that “the first experience of the plains, like the first sail … is apt to be sickening. This once overcome” Dodge continued, “the nerves stiffen, the senses expand, and man begins to realise the magnificence of being.”

Our Turn At This Earth: Fire Season

Sep 10, 2020
https://www.needpix.com/photo/1511354/fire-field-bushfire-agriculture-smoke-wildfire

The first thing I noticed when the power went out was the silence. It seemed deeper than could be explained by the mere absence of the refrigerator’s hum. The house also seemed a little darker than could be accounted for by the loss of one reading lamp, the only light I’d had on at three in the afternoon. I remembered the same sensations from childhood afternoons when thunderstorms caused the power to go out.

Our Turn At This Earth: The Magic Mirror

Sep 2, 2020
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Family_watching_television_1958.jpg

“The Magic Mirror.” That’s what Admiral, one of the TV manufacturers of the 1950s, aptly named its top-of-the-line model. My family’s less showy Zenith was housed in a blond wood cabinet that stood on four splayed legs. During the day, its opaque screen reflected only ghost-like images of an empty couch and chairs, arranged around it like seats in a theater. 

US Fish and Wildlife/http://www.publicdomainfiles.com/show_file.php?id=13978004415374

“Malaysia to Send 3,000 Tonnes of Plastic Waste Back to Countries of Origin.” So read a recent headline.

Apparently, the Malaysians are tired of being a dumping ground for the world’s trash. They are not alone. China, which used to take 70 percent of the hardest to recycle plastic, is refusing it now too.

Julene Bair

What if you discovered that a genius, a visionary thinker who could string thoughts and words together that make you believe in your own potential and that of all humanity, had been living practically in your back yard for decades and you never even knew he existed?

Our Turn At This Earth: It's Just Common Sense

Aug 13, 2020
geralt (pixabay.com)

I grew up with a healthy respect for a form of intelligence my mother referred to as common sense. Ever since that Kansas childhood, I have equated the place, and the people in it, with that theory of knowledge, which holds that you can know in your bones a whole lot of  stuff without having to be taught. If it starts raining, then you know to take shelter. If you open a pasture gate, you close it behind you.

Our Turn At This Earth: Fences Of Our Own Making

Aug 12, 2020
https://www.pxfuel.com/en/free-photo-xgnrg

One of the most heartbreaking essays I ever read was by Alice Walker, about a lonely horse named Blue. One joyful day, a mare arrived to share his pasture, and Blue entered a brief period of bliss. A few months later, after a trailer came and carried Blue’s best friend away, he galloped “furiously” around and around his pasture, “whinnied until he couldn’t,” and “tore at the ground with his hooves.” He was so distracted by grief that he wouldn’t even take the apples Walker offered him anymore.

Julene Bair

Anyone who’s lived under a Midwestern or Great Plains sky knows that we see lightning before we hear its crack and thunder. But on a vacation last August in Alaska, while paddling in the Kenai Fjords National Park, I still found it very strange to watch giant chunks of a tidal glacier plummet into the sea well before I heard the crash.

Our Turn At This Earth: The Farm In The Girl

Jul 9, 2020
CC0 Public Domain

When I was sixteen, my family left the farm where I grew up and moved into town. The house, along with all of the outbuildings and the corrals and pastures that used to hold a thousand head of ewes, several horses, a few cows, and some chickens and pigs, were eventually torn down.

But that western Kansas farm still lives within me. It shaped my values. By “values,” I mean not only how I believe I should conduct myself in life, but what I most treasure and wish to preserve.

Our Turn At This Earth: Joy

Jul 2, 2020
Courtesy/Susan Davis

As a young woman, I met a guy who consulted the I Ching whenever he needed to make a decision. When he consulted that ancient Chinese book of divination about me, the result seemed beyond coincidental. The answer he got fell under a heading that, in English, meant “The Joyous, Lake.”

It thrilled and flattered me that the oracle had made that connection. The greatest joy in my life was swimming in mountain lakes.

Our Turn At This Earth: A Moment To Relive

Jun 25, 2020
Julene Bair

If you could relive just one moment throughout eternity, which one would you choose? I asked myself that question a few weeks ago, as I watched After Life, a movie by the Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda. In this movie, people who have recently died are instructed to choose a moment from their lives that will then be recreated on film and replayed, again and again, forever. On each viewing, it would be as if they were experiencing the moment for the first time.

Our Turn At This Earth: The Source Of All Life

Jun 18, 2020
Julene Bair

Almost all of the watercourses on the High Plains are fed by the Ogallala Aquifer. Each one of them creates its own paradise. Red-winged blackbirds trill from their perches atop tall reeds. Deer, pheasants, wild turkeys, and other wildlife wend through thick meadow grasses. Cottonwood and hackberry trees shade the water, which is usually so clear you can see fish swimming in it.

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/239031/leslie-marmon-silko

Until I read the Native American writer Leslie Marmon Silko’s essay “Landscape, History and the Pueblo Imagination,” the word “landscape” had strictly positive connotations for me. Hearing it, I imagined broad vistas of land and sky. I grew up enthralled by such vistas and still am. But Silko’s essay rang so true to me that, ever since reading it, I can’t come across the word “landscape” without questioning the way that my culture looks at the world.

https://jooinn.com/farm-house-at-night-under-sky-filled-with-stars.html

In my mid-thirties, while living back on my family’s Kansas farm after spending many years away, I couldn’t stand the automatic dusk-to-dawn yard light that blinked on each evening. In my childhood, we turned our yard light off some evenings just so we could gaze at the stars, and we always turned it off before we went to bed.

Our Turn At This Earth: Could This Be Why We Are Here?

May 21, 2020
https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/news/black-hole-image-makes-history/

I don’t think I could have been any older than ten. I remember I was crossing our farmyard, in shorts, my legs, bare above my cowboy boots, slicing forward in a purposeful gait. Perhaps I was headed to the barn corral to catch one of my horses.

USGS usgs.gov/media/images/areas-high-risk-nitrogen-contamination-groundwater

Almost invariably, at meetings on the future of the Ogallala aquifer, the only issue discussed is the dwindling quantity, not the quality, of the water. And the only attendees are usually farmers and owners of ag supply companies.

That’s why, at one such Goodland, Kansas, meeting, I was impressed by the participation of a man whose family had run one of the town’s home service businesses for as long as I could remember.

Our Turn At This Earth: Too Much Of A Good Thing

Apr 2, 2020
usgs.gov/media/images/areas-high-risk-nitrogen-contamination-groundwater

A friend of mine once wrote an essay recalling an annual visit to a shoe store when she was a little girl. On this particular trip, her mother told her she could buy as many pairs of shoes as she wanted. In previous years, she was allowed to choose just one pair of Sunday shoes and one pair of practical Buster Browns. Choosing the Sunday pair had always been the hardest. But this time she didn’t have to anguish over whether to get the shiny black patent leather shoes with the pink bows, or the shiny white ones, or the sparkly pink Cinderella slippers.

Our Turn At This Earth: A Prayer For My Grandson

Mar 19, 2020
Public Domain/https://pixnio.com/fauna-animals/birds/duck-mallard-pictures/wood-ducks/bird-duck-water-feathers-swimming-beak

“Are we gonna go ‘splorin’ again?” Indy asked me as he climbed into his car seat.

Thursday afternoons were Grandma time, and he knew he could count on adventuring. I would pick him up from preschool and off we would go.

Courtesy

“Are We the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For?” This was the title of Wes Jackson’s speech at last year’s Prairie Festival, an event held each September at the Land Institute near Salina, Kansas. The question implies that we need to be saved. The irony is that we do -- from ourselves.

Courtesy / Land Institute

What if you discovered that a genius, a visionary thinker who could string thoughts and words together that make you believe in your own potential and that of all humanity, had been living practically in your back yard for decades and you never even knew he existed?

Courtesy / Permission granted by Amanda Wagner, Development Associate, Land Institute.

Often at meetings concerning the future of the Ogallala Aquifer, I have questioned the wisdom of using precious groundwater to grow corn. Farmers who make their livings growing that crop understandably take issue with this point of view. One time, a farmer told me point blank that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

This is it, folks! This week at West Texas A&M University, the Center for the Study of the American West (CSAW) will host the Southern Plains Conference 2020 with the theme “Representing, Modeling, and Imagining Water on the Southern Plains.” The event kicks off this Thursday, February 20th and runs through Saturday, February 22nd in Canyon, TX. The conference will take place on campus at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum (2401 4th Ave., Canyon). So today we welcomed back Dr. Alex Hunt to give us some updates and reminders. 

Pxhere (CC0 Public Domain)

Last year, I bought a 2012 Subaru Forester with only 30,000 miles on it. A great deal – not exactly what I wanted, but I’d been researching cars for months. I’d given up on the notion that a car existed that could tow a hefty wagon, take me far off-road, and get good gas mileage. So I finally caved on the mileage point.

Our Turn At This Earth: The Farm In The Girl

Feb 6, 2020
CC0 Public Domain

When I was sixteen, my family left the farm where I grew up and moved into town. The house, along with all of the outbuildings and the corrals and pastures that used to hold a thousand head of ewes, several horses, a few cows, and some chickens and pigs, were eventually torn down.

But that western Kansas farm still lives within me. It shaped my values. By “values,” I mean not only how I believe I should conduct myself in life, but what I most treasure and wish to preserve.

Julene Bair

As a child, I lived in a big, old two-story farmhouse that my maternal grandfather had built in 1919, the year my mother was born.  It never occurred to me that my family could exist anywhere else. So it came as quite a shock when I was 16 and my parents traded that house and farm for land in another part of the county and we moved to town.

Today we welcomed Dr. Alex Hunt back into the studio to discuss the forthcoming Southern Plains Conference 2020, with the theme Representing, Modeling, and Imagining Water on the Southern Plains. Dr. Hunt heads up the Center for the Study of the American West (CSAW) at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, TX.

Our Turn At This Earth: Ogallala Road

Nov 14, 2019
ANI ESPRIELLA

High Plains Public Radio will be re-airing the past year's episodes of Our Turn At This Earth beginning Nov. 22, 2018.

New episodes will be airing after the new year, so stay tuned!  

Our Turn At This Earth: The Beaver Creeks

Nov 7, 2019
ANI ESPRIELLA

My father pastured his sheep on what could loosely be termed the “shores” of Little Beaver Creek, a dry watercourse that flowed only after gully washers – his term for big rainstorms. Today it amazes me that I could have grown up in that place and never wondered how the creek got its name. Nor did I wonder what happened to the water or the trees that beavers could not live without.

Our Turn At This Earth: The Carbon Cycle

Oct 31, 2019
Wikimedia/Public Domain

Stories about disruptions in the carbon cycle abound in the news these days. But recently, it occurred to me that I didn’t really know what the carbon cycle was.

A few Google searches later, and I will never again see my fall garden in quite the same way.

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