Driftless Terroir: My Driftless Alphabet

By Sara Lomasz Flesch

Sara Lomasz Flesch

A is for alfalfa, alphabet county roads, artists from here and there, August Derleth, Audrey Christie, Aldo Leopold, Allen Ludden and Betty White, Amish, Argyle, Avoca, Arena, Aldebaran, American Players Theatre, Alley Stage.

B is for bats, bedrock, burdock, bur oaks, Blackhawk, barns (standing, collapsing, gone), Brewery Creek, bald eagles, badger holes, butter burgers, bumblebees, Bob and Edgar, Bruce Howdle, Barneveld, Baraboo, Boscobel, Blue River, Ben Logan, Blue Mounds, bleeding hearts, bluffs.

C is for contoured farming, crevices, coulees, columbine, cheese and cheese curds, corn, Cornish miners, cattle guards, chicory, chickens, chickadees, cows, crabapples, Clyde, Cave of the Mounds, cranes, canoes, Charlie Curtis, Cooke’s Woods.  

D is for Darlington (what a Darling-ton), Dodgeville, dark skies, deer, Dairyland, Devil’s Lake, dolostone.

A prairie milkweed spells the letter “E.” Tim Wright in his course on Visual Literacy at Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, taught how seeing is inseparable from looking. “Unlike the way a camera sees a landscape without a brain, a predator’s brain bends its eyes to successfully see the prey.” Predatory looking allows us to find letters in nature if we are looking for them. Sara composed “My Driftless Alphabet” in a Shake Rag Alley creative writing workshop called Between Contoured Lines: Reading and Writing the Driftless.

E is for Erik, everywhere I look.

F is for Frank Lloyd Wright, ferns, farmers, farmers markets, Folklore Village, Frank’s Hill, foxes, Fennimore, Federal Spring, floodplains, fluvial geomorphology, forsythia, Foundry Books. Max and Ava Fernekes.

G is for geology, Grandma Flesch’s farm (or what used to be), golden gravel, Gribble Creek, groundhogs, Global View, Governor Dodge State Park, grapevines, galena.

H is for Ho-Chunk, hay bales, Hook’s cheese, Hilltop, horses, hollyhocks, history, home.

I is for inclusive when it’s not being exclusive, interrogatory, ice lanterns, ingots, Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota, too.

J is for Jane Farwell, jack-in-the-pulpit, our June anniversary, Jonesdale.

K is for Kickapoo River and Valley Reserve, kayaks.

L is for limestone, land, lilacs, lead, La Crosse, Lancaster, Lone Rock, Longbranch Gallery, log cabins, lethal currents.

M is for minerals, Mineral Point, mining, Merry Christmas Mine Hill, Mississippi River, morels, Muscoda, monarchs, milkweed, Marion Nelson, mounds, mosquitoes, museums, Mazomanie, Mamah Cheney.

N is for Native American tribal history I am still learning, New Glarus (the beer and the village), New Diggings, nuthatches.

O is for outcrop, oxbows, organic architecture, one-room schoolhouses, Old Helena, Orion, oasis.

P is for Paleozoic plateau, Pleistocene, petroglyphs, prairies, Prairie du Chien, Pecatonica, pearls, peonies, Pendarvis, plein air, Platteville, Pleasant Ridge, pigs, Pine River, pasties.

Q is for quartz sand grains, quarries.

R is for ridges, red-winged black birds, rhubarb, roller-coaster roads, Robert Gard, Rollo Jamison, Rachel, racism, Rural Musicians Forum, Richland Center, Red Rooster, Roland Sardeson, Romeo and Juliet, refuge.

S is for sandstone, sandbars, sandhill cranes, swallows, Shake Rag Alley, Spring Green, The Sh*tty Barn, silos, Sauk Prairie, Sweet Gadlin, stone masons, spiderwort, sumac, sacred.

T is for Taliesin, Tan-y-deri, Twin Bridge Road, tractors, tobacco, thunderstorms, tornados, tuckpointing, tents, tourists, trout, Tower Hill, Tom Kelly.

U is for Upper Mississippi River Valley Mining District, unglaciated, Uplands (the geography and the cheese), Unity Chapel.

V is for valleys, violets, Viroqua, Villa Louis, Voice of the River Valley.

W is for water, watercress, Wisconsin River, Wyoming Valley, Welsh Unitarians, weeping willows, Wyalusing, wildflowers.

X is for Xehaciwinga of the Winnebago tribe, also known as Mountain Wolf Woman, whose name means to make a home in a bluff or in a mountain, as the wolf does.

Y is for years of yearning to be here tucked into these hills, hollows and valleys.

Z is for zinc, Zona Gale, zero glaciation.

Sara Lomasz Flesch is the executive director of Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts, and, together with her husband, Erik, publishes Voice of the River Valley from the home in Mineral Point that they share with Cosmo the Irishdoodle. She can be reached at sara@voiceoftherivervalley.com.