Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Writing Retreat at Annunciation Monastery

"Life's pulse is gained in the hollows, the intervals between must discern these spaces. This requires leisure, the chance to sit and contemplate, and the opportunity to respond to inner urgings.

If you can find a place to retreat, you can make a life where Tao will flood into you. Out in the woods, or in the mountains, or even in small villages where times are slow paced and the people sensitive to nature, there is the possibility of knowing the deep and the profound. Only when you have the time to accumulate an unshakable belief and faith can you glimpse the Tao in which there is restfulness and a natural sense of what is right." 365 Tao: Daily Meditations (pg. 142)

This past week I was immeasurably blessed by a personal retreat of my own devising at the Annunciation Monastery, on the southern edge of the campus of the University of Mary.

This place is filled with the presence of the holy and the sisters here are most assuredly living out the Benedictine value of hospitality.

I found space in which to read and to write. They provided me with a silent room and any meals I cared to attend, in the sun-drenched dining room. Every single one of the sisters was kindness personified: gracious, kind, funny, and interesting. The institutional memory here leaves me awestruck.

Several of the sisters have been here since the Monastery moved from St. Alexius in downtown Bismarck, relocating to what is now the Benedictine Center at the University, the first building here. In later years, the new monastery was built and they moved there. One sister told me that there were only dirt roads here and people thought they were crazy to move so far away from Bismarck.

Lay people are often confused that a place where nuns live is called a "monastery," as they tend to associate this word with monks and men. The definition that I find on the internet is a "house for persons under religious vows" and, yes, mostly "men". Here is an article on that topic if you care to delve deeper.

The renowned architect Marcel Breuer was engaged to design the first building, what he later called his "gem of the prairie." He designed the (now) Benedictine Center, a gorgeous building, the walls constructed from the area's native rock, with inspiring and open spaces and sightlines everywhere. Sister Gemma remembers Breuer well and speaks with great reverence about the stonemasons who built the building, lamenting that it has become so difficult to find someone who will do this sort of labor.

Some years ago, my friend Paul (born and raised in Bowman, ND) was visiting his father in Bismarck and I took him canoeing on the Missouri River. I'll never forget his expression of shock as we came around a bend in the river and I pointed out to him the University of Mary buildings on the bluffs above us and told him that Breuer had designed the first building. He knew about Breuer but had no idea that such a man had designed this building and in Paul's childhood home state. After we had taken the canoe out of the water and secured it to the Jeep, we drove up to the Benedictine Center and walked around. He took dozens of photographs and was in awe of the space.

Breuer insisted that no trees be planted around the building. Sister Gemma said that he would come to the site and just sit quietly on the prairie to get a feel of the landscape. To this day, architectural students come to the campus to study these buildings and future leaders have been very careful to design new campus buildings to incorporate elements of Breuer's original design, including the native stone.

Each day while I was there, I luxuriated in the quiet with no distractions of dog, and cooking, and cleaning, and such. In the first two days, I went to town for my yoga class and for some research at local libraries, as well as one personal appointment I could not reschedule. Thereafter, I canceled every temptation on my personal calendar and just stayed put. This was a luxury I was unwilling to squander.

The only bird I saw this week was one lone bald eagle, which flew overhead as I drove up the hill to the campus.

A storm and bitter cold blew in on Wednesday, just as forecasted, and, although I had planned to perhaps do some cross-country skiing here on the open prairie, I didn't even budge, except for a couple of walks in the biting cold along the river bluffs (I checked out the beautiful library nearby) and to poke my head out the door late at night to look at the stars. Orion shone there above, along with Gemini and the Pleiades. I looked into the valley of the mighty Missouri River whenever I had a chance.

Mostly, it was me, with an explosion of papers around my room, and my laptop. I limited my social media time. I went to evening prayer each day. I had coffee and a granola bar in my room in the mornings, only emerging for the mid-day meal. After lunch, I read the Bismarck Tribune in the Monastery library. When I came down with a cold early in the week, Jim and Chelsea brought out a humidifier and got a short tour. Shortest duration of a head cold I've ever had. Hmmmmm.......

Every day there was freshly baked bread or buns, along with a wide variety of delicious hot food.

This morning at mass, it came to me that it was interesting that I would begin my retreat on the Epiphany, and prepare to leave this afternoon on the first Sunday of Ordinary Time, returning to my ordinary life, refreshed and renewed, with a big chunk of the first draft of a manuscript written.

I arrived at my warm home to find my husband was making homemade chicken noodle soup in his new crockpot, complete with his homemade noodles. The Springer Spaniel won't leave my side. I made many new friends this week, wonderful nurturing women who I will visit again and again. I was am very blessed.

"...imagine! imagine!
the wild and wondrous
still to be ours."
Mary Oliver

Friday, January 12, 2018

A State Champion Tree--In Our Yard!

A State Champion Tree—In Our Yard!

Hello from Lillian AND Jim. We sat down this week and wrote about one of the coolest things that have happened to us in a long time, and we’re posting it on both our blogs—Wild Dakota Woman and The Prairie Blog. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we enjoyed writing it.

On summer evenings in the early 1970s, you could find Birgit Smeenk in her front yard with a garden hose, pouring water onto a spindly little oak tree she had stuck into the ground in 1976 in hopes of one day having shade for the front of her house at 920 Arthur Drive in Bismarck.

It takes a long time for an oak tree planted out here on the prairie to provide shade, even with daily waterings. Birgit’s daughter, Jennifer, watched her mother water that tree every day. “For a few years, it just didn’t do anything,” Jennifer told us on the phone from her home in Washington state the other day. “Then one year it just took off.”

 Birgit’s constant attention worked. She didn’t live to see it, but today, more than 40 years later, that little stick is now North Dakota’s State Champion Red Oak Tree—the largest Red Oak in the state. So says the North Dakota Forest Service.
We bought that house at 920 Arthur Drive in Bismarck in late October of 2009, becoming the home’s third owners, and we moved in a few weeks later, so while we took notice of that big old bare-branched tree in the front yard as winter approached, we didn’t give it a lot of thought until the next spring, when it started to leaf out and we saw the familiar shape of oak leaves.

Neither of us had ever owned (or been owned by) an oak tree that big before, and we inquired of Tim Kingstad, from whom we bought the home, about the tree. Tim, the home’s second owner, told us it was a Red Oak (Quercus Rubra), and that the Bismarck City Forester said it was the only mature Red Oak in Bismarck.

There are a lot of other trees in our yard, probably 10 varieties. The Smeenks and Kingstads had been pretty attentive to trees, especially when the kids brought home seedlings on Arbor Day each spring. Some of the evergreens, planted early in the Smeenks’ time here, in the early 1960s, were taller than the oak, but none as spectacular, as we watched it through that first full year of seasons, from bare branches to green buds, to big green leaves, then yellow, then reddish brown, holding its leaves to be the last tree to go bare in late fall.

Our longest-lived neighbors, both in time on earth and time on Arthur Drive, Dave and Myrna Blackstead, who live across the street, have watched that tree grow all of its life. Myrna thinks it was transplanted by Pieter and Birgit Smeenk from a lake cabin the Smeenks frequented in Minnesota, probably in the late 1960s.

Myrna recalls this was their second try at an oak tree, after the Smeenk boys accidentally broke off the first one, much to their mother’s dismay. The boys’ older sister, Jennifer, isn’t sure. She thinks maybe her parents bought it somewhere. She vividly recalls her mother out there with that hose every night, though.

Well, thank you, Birgit and Pieter Smeenk.

Pieter and Birgit Smeenk were immigrants, he from the Netherlands, she from Denmark (we believe that occasional flashes of bad karma which erupt in our now mostly-Norwegian household from time to time, are the result of too many years of Danish presence—nothing personal, just institutional).

The Smeenks dedicated their lives to the children of Bismarck. Birgit was a physical therapist and worked with BECEP, the program for pre-school children. Pieter was a much loved Bismarck pediatrician, and finished his career as Medical Director for North Dakota Crippled Children’s Services, serving in that job past his 80th birthday. To this day, frequently when we mention to someone that Dr. Smeenk owned our house at one time, the response is “Oh, my, he was my doctor when I was little. I loved him.”

Dr. Smeenk died in 2000, at age 82, his wife in 2014, at age 85. Their children have scattered. None live in Bismarck. Upon their parents’ death, they composed beautiful obituaries.

Of their father:
He received three things in life that are of basic importance:
Someone to love
Something to do
Something to look forward to
And he was thankful.

And of their mother:
She knew herself to be a child of God and lived her life with the joy and radiance which this awareness gives. She plucked thistles where she saw them, and planted flowers where she thought they might grow.
Grace was in all her steps
Heaven in her eye
In every gesture dignity and love.

We know Birgit loved that tree, and we’ve taken good care of it. A couple years ago, we started noticing in the mornings some sap on the Jeep, which we park under the tree. About the same time, Myrna stopped by the house one day and said she’d been watching our tree from her perspective across the street. “I’m a little worried about your oak tree. It looks a little peaked.”

She was right. There were a few small dead branches, and the leaves weren’t as thick as they had been the year before. We called the City Forester and the Extension Service for advice. We were told we needed to treat it with a special chemical we could buy at Runnings.

Well, we weren’t very excited about that—we’ve taken great pains to build up an organic yard, and Lillian’s hundreds of hostas and daylilies, and Jim’s prolific vegetable garden, are a testament to our success at that. First, we tried a release of a huge number of ladybugs to go after the aphids, but that didn't take, as these critters disappeared within a day.

But this tree was important, so early one summer morning Jim drove down to Runnings and snuck into the store before anyone else got there so he wouldn’t be seen, and bought a couple of those big blue bottles of Bayer Crop Science chemicals and came home and held his nose and mixed it up and poured it around the base of the tree, being careful not to spill on the hostas.

Well, as much as we hate to say it, let’s hear it for modern science. The roots of that big old oak tree sucked up that chemical, and sent it shooting up the tree, and killed all those little aphids that had been eating leaves and spitting all over the Jeep, and one day Myrna came over and said “Well, whatever you did to your tree, it worked!”   

The tree and the house have become inseparable—it’s not possible to imagine one without the other. To cement that bond, we’ve named our house “Red Oak House,” and we use that name on our fledgling business cards and our website (, which doesn’t really have anything on it yet except a bunch of photos and links to our blogs:, and There’ll be more one day. We have time.

We learned of the North Dakota State Champion Tree Registry a few years ago and wondered how our giant Red Oak measured up. So this fall we went out and measured it according to the specifications listed by the Forest Service on their website, and sent in an application. Within days, the Forest Service responded, and sent a technician to verify our measurements—a fellow named Joel Nichols who, we said, has the best job in North Dakota. He agreed.

A couple weeks later we received a letter in the mail from Glenda Fauske, Coordinator of Information and Education with the Forest Service (the second best job in North Dakota) that started “Dear Jim and Lillian, I’m very pleased to announce your red oak (Quercus rubra) at 920 Arthur Drive in Bismarck is the new first place champion red oak!” (Here is the list for the entire state.)

Along with the letter was a certificate for framing and a news release, which has generated interest from the Bismarck media. We’ll likely be in the paper next week. We’re not sure how we’ll handle the fame. We’re also not quite sure how our neighbors will like the steady stream of onlookers and gawkers on our quiet little street, which has an average daily traffic count of 12.

But what the heck, if you’re interested in seeing the largest Red Oak in the state, come on over. Arthur Drive is one of those little streets off Ward Road that doesn’t go anywhere except to the houses on that street. We tell people that if somebody hits a really bad hook off the No. 6 tee box at the Tom O’Leary Golf Course, their ball could end up in our yard.

But wait until June. Our oak is the last tree to leaf out on the street (oaks are just that way) but the wait is worth it. If you want to stop and visit and examine the tree up close, bring wine. And we’ll toast Birgit and Pieter Smeenk for planting that tree. And Dave and Myrna Blackstead for keeping a close eye on that tree all these years.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Red Oak House Winter Notes: Owls

Here at Red Oak House, in the wooded Highland Acres neighborhood of Bismarck, we like owls very much. We frequently have Great Horned owls and Eastern screech owls in our large blue spruce and green ash trees.

Many years ago, my brother, Thomas, took me to Yorktown, Virginia, where I bought this wonderful wooden Snowy owl at street arts and crafts fair. (Thomas looked at my a little sideways that I would buy a hunk of wood, but it "spoke to me" and I've never regretted the purchase.)

Last February, at the suggestion of our friend Alan, who is a great owl enthusiast, I rounded up our friends, Jeff and Linda, to help me build three owl nests, to encourage the owls to stick around our yard. Jeff and Linda opted to not take a nest home because they had Cooper's hawks nesting in their yard the previous summer and did not want to risk conflicts, so I gave the extra two nests to friends, Mike and Bill. So far, no nesting in any three of these nests.

Just before Christmas, Jim and I took out the ladder and put some beef soup bones into the nest in an effort to encourage the owls. We laugh at the thought that we give our neighbors something to scratch their heads about, wondering just what we might be up to now, messing around in the tall green ash tree in December. Our Springer Spaniel, Lizzie, was quite perplexed as to why she wasn't getting these meaty bones. When one dropped to the ground, she seized it and we relented, knowing she would snap at us if we attempted to take it away.

For Christmas, I gave Jim a wonderful screech owl nest box and today, while there was a break in the weather, we mounted the box, at the opposite side of the backyard from the great horned owl nest. We had to use both ladders and I held the box while he secured it, as suggested by the craftsman who created it.

When I was a young mother, two of my children's favorite books were Owl Moon, which I've written about before, and Owl Babies. To this day, my children and nieces and nephews can recite the lines from this charming book, the story of three owlets who grow alarmed when the mother owl leaves to hunt. Here is an animated reading of the book.

Our friends, the Suchys, are as fond of owls as anyone I know and they have many nesting owls at their ranch in Morton County. Linda Suchy has formed a powerful bond with her great horned owls. I look forward to her owl reports, including sightings of the grand Snowy owl. This PBS Nature program on Snowy owls is a great delight and I give it my highest recommendation.

A few years ago, there was a big irruption of snowy owls in North Dakota and we drove around the rural roads in Morton County finding many. At this time, our daughter, Chelsea, was a student at Dickinson State University, so I met her halfway between our two towns for a day of Snowy owl watching. We must have seen about nine that day, her first sightings.

Another memorable Snowy owl day for me was that same winter. My friend Valerie had not yet seen these thus we went hunting southeast of Bismarck and found one, perched on a power pole. Valerie was thrilled, and I was equally as thrilled to have been able to find one for her.

One winter, Jim and I made two separate trips to northeastern North Dakota, once to see a hawk owl and the other time to see barn owls. Many a night we've laid in our tent listening to owls hooting above us at campgrounds all around the country. When we were living in Medora, we found a tiny western screech owl perched in a juniper at Cottonwood campground at Theodore Roosevelt National Park and it was quite a delight to take Chelsea to see it, blending into that juniper in a magical way.

Several times I have participated in northern saw-whet owl banding at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, led by the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, and, once, took my daughter, Chelsea, with me. You can see the joy on her face when she got to hold one of these tiniest of owls. She says it is one of her happiest memories, she who loves the Harry Potter books and movies so. The banding programs have added greatly to the knowledge of saw-whet owls. Turns out, the Little Missouri River valley is a major migration corridor for them.

Owl folk art holds a prominent place in the Library of Red Oak House, with this trio of wooden owls on a top shelf looking down upon us

and a beautiful white woolen mother owl with her owlet in a pouch which I purchased in Winnipeg some years ago. It is called an "owl packing doll" and was handmade by the Canadian Inuk artist Fait a la Main, from the community of Holman, in 2004.  When I saw it on thestore shelf, I fell in love.

In the future, I hope to see two other species of owl: the elf owl and the great grey owl, both of which will require some travel. A trip to Manitoba, Jim?

I leave you with this poem "The Owl" by Edward Thomas

Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved;
Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof
Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest
Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.

Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest,
Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I.
All of the night was quite barred out except
An owl's cry, a most melancholy cry

Shaken out long and clear upon the hill,
No merry note, nor cause of merriment,
But one telling me plain what I escaped
And others could not, that night, as in I went.

And salted was my food, and my response,
Salted and sobered, too, by the bird's voice
Speaking for all who lay under the stars,
Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Happy birthday, Mother

If there was a geography bee at Edgewood Vista in Mandan, Marian Crook would probably win.  It’s not that she just reads a lot, which she does. And having chased a career military husband around the world adds to her advantage. But a big addition to what she knows about the world is jigsaw puzzles.

You see, jigsaw puzzles are often pictures of places, and Marian has put together hundreds, maybe thousands, of them. And each time, she learns something about the place in the picture she’s just completed.

Marian Crook is my mother and a retired nurse.  She grew up on the family farm in Slope County, North Dakota in the Bad Lands of the Little Missouri River, the youngest of three sisters, and, as she describes it, she was “her father’s son,” working alongside him in the fields as much as time permitted when she wasn’t going to school.

Those long days on the tractor and in the grain truck gave her plenty of time to dream about faraway places.  And, like a lot of farm kids growing up during the Great Depression, she learned about responsibility and independence at a pretty young age. She spent many hours by herself on the Slope County prairie, herding sheep. In spite of this, she and her friend Helen Brown (shown in the two photographs below) managed to have lots of fun. They remained close until Helen's death a few years ago.

She also played basketball at Rhame High School. To this day, she tells great stories of her school days and the good teachers she had there.

When she became a military wife, with a handful of kids to look after while her husband was deployed both overseas and in this country during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, she wasn’t intimidated by the challenge of getting ready for the next move, sometimes after her Army husband had gone on ahead to his next post to line up housing for his growing family. And she always looked forward to the possibility of seeing some of those places she had dreamt about as a girl. Like crossing the Pacific Ocean.

Many years after those daydreams on the tractor, after flying from Billings, MT to San Francisco with four young children (one of those was me), she herded us onto a modified Troop Ship headed for Okinawa in order to rejoin her then-husband at his US Army assignment on that island so very far from the United States.
Marian and her first four children on Okinawa
Sea-sickness plagued us all on that “cruise ship.” To prepare her children for their time on the island she told us “remember this is their country,” and she got thoroughly acquainted with the culture and history of the island with her new friends there. She let her children roam when they were not in the military schools or in a boat exploring nearby uninhabited islands with other military friends. To this day she has kept her Japanese skills sharp and can immediately tell you what her street address was in Okinawa – or any of her addresses around the world, for that matter.

Marian loves the seashore and the mountains and birds, and can now be found hatching adventures with her new friends at Edgewood Vista Mandan when she’s not reading books or newspapers, or baking krumkake, or organizing a pinochle or cribbage game with her neighbors, or scheming up a trip to The Owl Used Bookstore. Today, for her birthday, Chelsea and I took her to The Owl.

Her apartment is easy to identify because she has a lifelong love of lighthouses – born perhaps from the time she lived on the west coast near Seattle in her later teenage years. Here she is shown with her youngest daughter.

While living at her husband’s duty station at Fort Bliss, Texas, she trained as an LPN and worked while her children were at the neighborhood schools.  Later, as an older-than-average student after her marriage ended, she returned to college with her youngest child in tow and graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from Dickinson State University. Following that, her career took her to Grand Forks where she worked at then-United Hospital until her retirement from that career just before the big flood of 1997.

Known as “Gram” to her grand- and great-grandchildren, upon retirement she lived a “gypsy” life, traveling and living with her children around the country to help care for her many grandchildren so their parents could work and enjoy some free time by themselves.
Marian and Lillian at Yellowstone National Park near Yellowstone Falls

Lillian and Marian are on the far left. My brothers Andy and Thomas are on the far right.

In addition to travel, she learned to love to camp, and until just a few years ago, well into her 80s, it wasn‘t unusual to find her camping, with or without her family, in her tent and a well-used sleeping bag, in national and state parks around the country. She’d pitch the tent and plunk herself down in a camp chair and read National Geographic or one of the many other publications she still subscribes to.
Marian and her children in front of the trusty station wagon pulling the pop-up camper. Slope County Silbernagel farm
She eventually settled in Mandan and now keeps busy getting to know her neighbors, participating in geography bees, and knitting special scarves for staff and other loved ones. She is a wizard with a needle. She and her mother, Lillian, made this quilt that I treasure. Her embroidered dish towels are in great demand. I have a drawer full and think of her each time I take one out.

She is notorious in her dislike of cooking, but in spite of that, she could easily feed a large branding crew. Growing up, I did much of the cooking and she would volunteer to wash the dishes while I played the family Gulbransen piano. What a good trick to get me to practice! Chelsea played for her today.

Marian Crook, the youngest daughter of tough Scandinavian and German roots, embodies the pioneer spirit and works hard to make her corner of the world a better place. She is truly an inspiring woman.

Marian, back middle, with her two sisters and her parents, Andy and Lillian, at their 50th wedding celebration in the basement of Rhame Lutheran Church. Shortly after this celebration, Lillian Silbernagel died unexpectedly 
 Happy birthday to my dear Mom.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Father Sherman's Magnum Opus: Prairie Mosaic

With every turn of a page in this fascinating book, Prairie Mosaic, the reader will delve into the rich ethnic history of North Dakota. Father William C. Sherman labored for many years to reveal an astonishing level of detail, down to the township level, and to tell the story of the state's inhabitants.

Prairie Mosaic: An Ethnic Atlas of Rural North Dakota, originally published in 1983, has been published by the North Dakota State University Press in a fine second edition (2017, 151 pages, photographs, maps, tables, index), with an insightful new introduction by Dr. Thomas D. Isern of NDSU. "In 1983 the Institute for Regional Studies, a little-known academic publisher headquartered at North Dakota State University, issued the title, Prairie Mosaic: An Ethnic Atlas of Rural North Dakota, by a little-known prairie scholar, William C. Sherman. Distribution was limited . . . Evident at the time was the dedication of the scholar behind the book, Father Bill Sherman, and the enormous amount of work that must have gone into the completion of the meticulous local complications and cartographic depictions of ethnic immigrant settlements on the northern plains, as well as the author's affectionate familiarity with the landscape and its people. Evident in hindsight, however, is how Sherman's study took place--in the belated development of ethnic studies on the plains, becoming a touchstone for a rising generation of scholars uncovering the region's immigrant past." (Isern, pg. ix of the Introduction)

The maps and their accompanying descriptions are the compilation of an enormous amount of detailed and tedious work entailing "the determination and proper placement of some 50,000 bits and pieces of data." (Sherman, pg. 118) This landmark work takes the reader back to the settlement days and reveals the customs and traditions of these sturdy folk. The strongest undercurrent was the role of the various churches in forming community ties and perpetuating culture.

When I was growing up in Slope County, I would hear folks remark "he is a Bohunk" and it was explained to me that this was a slur for people of Bohemian origins, but I hadn't since then given it much thought, until reading Prairie Mosaic. In Sherman's book, a reader can see just where the people of different ethnic origin settled, including those of Native American origins. I was quite surprised to learn that a group of Japanese homesteaders laid claim to land in western Montrail County. I was also surprised to note that the valley of the Little Missouri River was predominantly inhabited by Anglo-Americans. There are dozens of these nuggets of information on every page of this book.

My only criticism would be that it is a shame that some of the photographs are lacking captions. Readers who are interested in this topic should also look at the excellent website Digital Horizons, housed at NDSU, "an online treasure house of thousands of images, documents, video, and oral histories depicting life on the Northern Plains from the late 1800s to today. Here you'll find a fascinating snapshot of the lives, culture, and history of the people who shaped life on the prairies."

Ron Vossler writes of Prairie Mosaic: "To borrow an idea from anthropology, we can theorize (and hope) that just as ancient Asian trade centers flourished where different cultures rubbed together, places where caravans stopped and variegated races intermingled, so now in North Dakota, now that the spring mud and winter snow are no longer the impassalbe obstacles they once were, and the little Norways and little Germanys are no longer so isolated, and with people like William Sherman giving us research and ideas in volumes like this one, the same flowering will occure here: a transfer of the well-known work ethic to solving social problems, and encouraging intellectual endeavors and social relationships--carrying as great a load in our minds and our hearts as those early settlers once did on their backs." (Book Review of Prairie Mosaic by Ron Vossler in North Dakota Quarterly, Spring, 1983)

The rich heritage of North Dakota holds much to be proud of and everyone will delve deeper into this heritage by reading this book. To my mind, this book's enjoyment would be increased by tucking it into a bag and taking it on a North Dakota road trip, stopping frequently along the way to read the stories of the earliest inhabitants from its pages. Add to the bag, the books North Dakota Place Names by Douglas A. Wick (Sweetgrass Communications, 1988) and A Traveler's Companion to North Dakota State Historic Sites (3rd ed. SHSND 2014), along with a good atlas, and experience a multi-layered expedition, rather than an ordinary road trip. Oh, and be sure to sample authentic food along the way.

North Dakota's landscape is a quilt of many colors that enriches all of our lives.