When the walls of day-to-day life feel like they’re closing in on me, I head to a place where my mind has space to unwind. For me that’s the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas.

It may appear monotonous and monochromatic from a distance, but if you hike in and stand quietly, its colors, smells, and sounds seep into your consciousness: the gentle rustle of the ocean of grass and the hum of bees in the violet wildflowers; the songs of meadowlarks that daintily perch on the slenderest of twigs; the aroma of hot earth, dry grass, bee balm, and clover.

On one solitary winter day, I grew so contemplative, hearing only the wind and the crunch of my boots on the frozen ground, I didn’t even notice I had wandered perilously close to the preserve’s resident bison herd. They were tolerant, though, and mellow, giving me the merest glance and returning to their bison business. It was just me. Nothing to worry about.

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