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  • I can't count how many days I've watched end this way. Sky blue swept into the nectarine, saffron, and ash gold. Air cooler as lavender light stains the clouds. Sun beams scaling down like blinds closing shut. Every grass blade sheared with a wistful, fading resonance. The glow of the setting sun pulling gently on my skin.

    I've known this land since I was born. Among these hills on the bend of a creek, before my father, aunt and uncle inherited it, my grandfather and his brother had their homes. Before them, my great-grandmother and great-grandfather lived here. Since the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887 granted each head of household acreage on the reservation, we've lived here. Even before that, the creek was known to tribes in the region.

    I often wonder if those older generations appreciated the sun's exit from where I stand. If they watched it go down past the same hill in the distance. Connection to this place and history is important to me in a world of uproot and forgetting. Here, I can walk along the creek and find stones from sweat lodges from an old camp that used to stop here. Many of the barbed wire posts my grandfather set up to run cattle twenty years ago are still sturdy. An old wood stove my great-grandmother used sits in a storage shed. Everywhere I go is an echo of persons who came before.

    I think that feeling of connection to place and history is something modern society finds hard to understand. People of our age tend to be of the land of Nod. Always moving through an eternal revolving door of persons and scenery, yet barely registering anything in the blur of it all. Life in this age, the nature of relationships in this age, reminds me of train station socializing. Everyone's on their way to someplace else, so no one really notices the people around them. Maybe, if heading the same direction, some conversation will get struck up out of convenience. The important thing is never connecting with someone, everything is secondary to getting somewhere.

    Yet outside the chaotic motion of the world, I'll stand here and think as the sun goes down, of the past, of today, of tomorrow. The setting sun, the exit of light, is a metaphor you could probably find in the earliest of human philosophizing. Something universal and primal, an ancient anticipation, electrifies the bones with the onset of darkness. I find the twilight a pumice for all the petty worries that tend to cake on the soul. Something about the slow fade in of moon and stars is antithetical to the illusions that get placed on a pedestal in a selfish, zombified consumer society.

    In many ways, my thoughts at this closing hour are probably not so different from any other 25 year old man plodding toward a college degree. In other ways, they're probably colored by the specific place I come from

    I wonder if that education will mean much in a country where advancement increasingly seems impossible. I see the old ladders toward improving your station in life burning. Labor and its reward more and more seem rigged and lopsided. A game where quid pro quo, cronyism, and being born at the top of society are going to get you further than hard work ever will.

    Tribal elections are coming up about the same time as national elections. I wonder if this will finally be the year we get some change for the better, or if it will be another two years of stagnant status quo.

    I wonder what purpose I should craft for myself, what sort of things I should devote myself toward in the long term of life.

    I wonder about the reservation. I see so much talent and goodness here, amid the harsh realities that the world knows us by. I wonder if all that talent and goodness will come to fruition more in this generation than in generations past.

    I think about my youngest brother going off to college in the fall. The woman whose presence seems to knock away my ability to speak intelligent about anything. The speaker at a march to protest police hiring practices.

    Those are the sort of things on my mind when the prairie sun goes away, the thoughts that trail off into the dark. A person learns what night truly is on the plains. Star clusters are no longer kept at bay by street light halos. No skyscrapers cut the immensity of space into smaller, tamer ribbons. No neon glares pollute the undulating velvet skyline. Nothing in the whole world is like watching that last ray fall. The feeling of total isolation is overwhelming, also transformative, and powerful. The return of night brings a catharsis, a letting go. Also a reminder to do more with the next day that comes.
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