by Samantha Stark
North Dakota is known to be a dull, blizzarding wasteland. It’s rarely mentioned, greatly ignored and dangling with its only national reputation guided by the film and television adaptations of “Fargo.”
Still, Katherine Meiners, an MSUM English professor for 21 years, sees the city of Fargo as more than a flat and snowy tundra.
She lives for the magnificence of North Dakota’s prairie; devoting most of her personal life to bird watching, wildlife photography and nature writing, spending entire days exploring back roads and quiet byways in search of birds and other wildlife.
“You have to get up early and go down a lot of dirt roads and footpaths to see the rich and diverse birdlife that North Dakota has to offer,” Meiners said. “I knew that many people never see or appreciate the beauty of North Dakota simply because they aren’t up that early and don’t dawdle around the pothole country.”
When she realized the award winning national environmental magazine Orion: Nature, Culture, and Place hadn’t published an article about the state she felt so passionate about, she was appalled.
Orion has a regular section called “The Place Where You Live.” The magazine publishes selected entries submitted online by readers. Contributors may submit photographs and short pieces up to 350 words about the places they live and what connects them to those locations.
Meiners wanted to share the beauty she saw in North Dakota with the nation and break the frigid stereotypes.
“In submitting my entry, I hoped to put North Dakota on the map,” Meiners said.
Meiners knew her article needed to be read by more than online viewers. So she held her breath and clicked the box indicating that she wanted the piece to be considered for publication in the January/February printed edition.
“Soon, the magazine contacted me to say that it would like to publish my photo and short prose piece, much to my pleasure,” Meiners said.
Her coworkers weren’t surprised at the article’s publication.
“Katie’s marriage of photographs and words allows us to see and feel what it means to embrace ecological consciousness,” English professor Thom Tammaro said.
The article speaks from the heart of a true North Dakotan. She appreciates every small thing the state has to offer.
Although surprising to her readers, Meiners didn’t always boast the same love for North Dakota as she does today. Her fondness developed slowly, taking years to see the beauty that so many dismiss as flat and boring.
“At first I couldn’t appreciate North Dakota,” Meiners said. “I felt that other landscapes offered more.”
That changed when her love of nature photography of North Dakota’s water wildlife grew. She became enchanted by the wildlife that inhabits the Prairie Pothole Region’s glacier-made wetlands. The beauties gradually become her inspiration for the photo and article she submitted.
“The slough near Wishek, the pelican and other waterfowl in the early golden light, and the dramatic landscape of the Prairie pothole region of North Dakota were my inspiration,” Meiners said. “The large slough, the pelicans and other waterfowl, the timing of the sunrise — everything came together perfectly, and I snapped the photo of the pelican at just the right instant.”
Meiners continues to photograph the beauty of North Dakota, in addition to teaching a nature writing course (ENGL 435) where she shows students how to see nature’s beauty as she does. Meiners can’t see herself leaving the picturesque state any time soon.