I lie on my back in crisp grass. My pillow is a flat rock that once served as a foundation block for Theodore Roosevelt’s North Dakota ranch.

I drove almost two hours through prairies, oceans of rolling hills with wavy hay, and spiky cliffs striped with bands of saffron, ash and apricot. The last town I passed was an hour and a half away. Fifteen miles of dirt road dead ended at an empty trailhead. I opened the door to silence.

“So this is the place.” I thought, taking it all in.

I swung my left foot out. Dry gravel crunched, and bronze baby powder wafted from beside my shoe.

The clunk of my truck door interrupted the soft whisper of leaves rustling in the 100+ degree breeze. Rhythmic footsteps lulled me towards a waist high metal gate, the passageway between two slumped barbed wire fences, their tangles stretching in both directions.

The gate opened with a sad creak. A kiln’s breeze tossed curls against my neck as my footfalls continued. The jolt of an iron clank let me know I was in.

“It was here that the romance of my life began.” – Theodore Roosevelt.

These words in faded white paint on a warped and splintered wooden board mark the start of a thirsty path through parched grass. A beige alley for one, cracked with jagged crevices that beg for rain. The path clicks with loud sharp snaps from grasshoppers as they give way.

I walk in wonder and float on waves of emotion as I feel the serenity and silence that inspired a regular man. Gratitude bubbles up for a man I never met, who died before my grandparents were born.

I arrive and lie down here, my head resting on the flat foundation block, my computer propped up against my knees as words spill out
My soul wants to share. The richness effervesces from fingertips to screen.

I am grateful for this place that inspired that man. I am grateful for mountains and streams, for sandy beaches and forests, and for deserts that have inspired me and millions more. I am grateful for foresight and possibilities, and keeping untouched nature, untouched.

A week ago I didn’t know this place existed, and now it is a coming home.

I am grateful I landed in this dusty sanctuary nestled between the Little Missouri River and the tall orange and saffron striped bluffs that were once Roosevelt’s front and back yards. And I am grateful that, at last, I realize the significance his legacy has had on my life.

“It was here that the romance of my life began.”

These words lie beneath every road I’ve driven and every path I’ve walked or will walk again. In this space, this place… it is here that the romance of my life begins.

As I type these words the wind stops. Silence floods in. It’s as if nature held its breath in acknowledgment, nudging me to notice the stillness that speaks louder than words. And with that thought a gust of dry sauna air whips in, and bending blades of golden grass tickle my shins. Cottonwood leaves rustle in a whoosh of melodies.

Roosevelt didn’t know I’d lie in his living room a hundred and thirty years after him, only feet from where he rocked on his front stoop. He didn’t know a girl lost and adrift would find herself in the lands he fought to conserve. Roosevelt didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him. But then again, we’ve always known each other well.

We know each other in gorgeous rugged landscapes that point us to who we are. We know each other in open land where we get to be with nature in that special way. We know each other in the grandiosity of a bison’s saunter and the simplicity of a ladybug sunning on a wildflower.

An invitation home, whispered lifetimes ago, tickles my soul, once again.

Maybe, by exploring paths blazed by those who walked before, my light will reflect a glimmer of possibility on lifetimes of beginnings, waiting to be lived.

This article is also featured on Thrive Global

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