Sunday, February 16, 2014

Journeys and Jaunts: the Flint Hills

It was only a few snows ago when Jack and I took off to drive through the Flint Hills of Kansas and learn more about our surroundings.  Over the years we've been able to visit many of the sites listed in Marci Penner's book The Eight Wonders of Kansas Guidebook.  

We had our reasons for this jaunt:  1) to see the grandeur of the Kansas landscape, 2) to visit Council Grove and Cottonwood Falls, and 3) to touch the land my grandfather, Tobias Weaver might have explored nearly a hundred years ago when he was drilling for oil.  Trips like these resonate deep in our souls.

It was a cool crisp day and I shivered when I took photos of the various sites.  The Madonna of the Trail  in Council Grove was our first stop.  The sight of this pioneer woman reminded me of a time when my little Girl Scout troupe traveled to Ponca City to see the statue of The Pioneer Woman.
I stood in awe of this Madonna now and felt the drive and courage of these women as they crossed the prairie and built their homes from mother earth.  She belongs on that pedestal.  

Nearby, I walked past the statue of The Guardian of the Grove, then slid down the hill and touched the waters of the river called Neosho.  That same river runs through my home town of Miami, Oklahoma.  The touch connected me to home.  Lucy ran freely up and down the river bank, and gladly jumped back in the truck muddy feet and all.

Just across the river to the south of Council Grove is Cottonwood Falls.  No wonder it's courthouse gets so much attention.The Chase County Courthouse was a finalist for the Eight Wonders of Kansas because of its striking French Renaissance style and its red mansard roof (p.46 The 8 Wonders of Kansas Guidebook by Marci Penner ).  Jack, however, was more intrigued with the canon that set on the courthouse lawn.

The Scenic byway opened it's door to us that day.  The eeriness of being one of the few cars on the highway made us feel like we'd entered the Twilight Zone.  Having only my cell phone camera doesn't do justice to the colors, the textures, the waving grasses, and hills.  All the more reasons for you, my reader, to drive through the Flint Hills.  

We drove east then west and north to south that day exploring the hills, their contours, and the vastness of hurries, no cares, no worries.  I will always wonder where my grandfather explored and the lands he touched. My mother loved telling stories
about the drives their family used to take on Sundays to go visit her father's oil wells.  Her love for the Flint Hills and the smell of gasoline from the refineries was passed down to me. When I was little and we'd drive past the refinery at Augusta, I held my nose and said, "Pu eee.  My mother turned to me and said, "Letty, that is the smell of money."  Although my grandfather made a money in oil, he also lost money in oil and in the stock market crash of "29.  

Finding solitude in the landscapes that surround us seems to be something Jack and I share, and maybe a touch of connectedness or a link to an ancestor we never knew.  Our roots run deep and in the end it is the land that connects us all.  

What journeys have you taken lately?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Snow Bound, Again

Finding beauty in my own backyard.
Watching CBS This Morning helped my mind to relax and focus on other peoples stories of life, and more than that I look forward to their one minute of nature broadcast every week.  The scene of Yellowstone in snow with steam rolling out of misty places captured my attention.  How peaceful, how calming.  If I can admire the beauty of Yellowstone in winter, then why then am I so miserable with our snow and cold weather?

I looked out the window thinking I was caged animal only to see several pairs of Cardinals perched in our evergreen and huddled near to the house.  How peaceful, how calming.    A smile broadened my face and my outlook; I slammed my fist down and turned to our Lucy dog announcing, "That's it.  I'm in charge of my own attitude and I'm no longer going to complain.  I'm missing a beautiful moment out there, one that won't come my way again."

With that I insulated my cold bones and joints with long underwear, added another layer of warm clothing, and when it was finally time to pull on the ski pants Lucy began to do her happy dance.  She knows now that ski pants mean the same thing in winter as tennis shoes do in warmer season:  It's time to explore the outside.

Wind blown patterns in the snow.

The fields might have seemed barren and lifeless to some but we found beauty in the snow blown patterns and in the landscape that stretched to the horizon.  Lucy heard the field mice buried underground but couldn't dig them out no matter how furiously she clawed.

We slowly walked with the wind at our back.  Then we turned into the winds and  toward home.  I was plenty warm and walked without my glasses on, since they steam up on these cold days.

My mind was cleared of clutter, and I sat down in the soft snow to ponder and gaze when Lucy jumped on me.  We rolled in the snow and I giggled as she romped and trampled me.

Patterns in the sand at Hilton Head remind me of a barefoot walk on the beach.
Energized, we returned home.  In my search for photos of our exploration I found another patterned picture from our trip Hilton Head.  Aren't we lucky to be surrounded by such beauty, and all we have to do is go outside.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Moving On

One fall while teaching in Norman many of us were struggling with changes in curriculum and administration and Dr. Judy Ford, principal at Eisenhower elementary, reminded me that every fall was chaotic with new things to learn and that change was the only constant thing in life. I've never forgotten the smile or enthusiasm she shared when she said that.  I always felt change was a good thing in life, IF I were in charge of that change in my life, but perhaps that is a universal feeling or frustration as we all grow and face the changes through the years.

After eighteen years of living in Hutchinson and many changes in those years, some that we chose and major ones that others chose for us, Jack and I have decided to move back to our Oklahoma home and family in Norman.  Once we decided our hearts were lifted and we were happy until we sat down to reflect on our years in Hutch and the friends we've met around the state.  Now it's been tears of sadness and heartbreak when talking with friends, followed by tears of joy when I chat with my sister and daughter.  Our hearts pound with emotions.  Change is difficult even when it's our choice.

After Jack retired we traveled south and southeast looking for future homes and warm moist sunshine.  Marana and Tucson, Arizona also beckoned us to enjoy it's warm dry desert sun and the lizard inside of me said, "Yes.  Please let's sit on a rock next winter and be warm."  
Imagine the warmth.
But the heart of my family quivered and spoke, "Let's go home first, while we are healthy enough to start a new life and be part of our families lives once again."

Our secret search began before Thanksgiving as we drove around Norman reacquainting ourselves with a home we'd left.  By Christmas we were house shopping and in mid January we found a house with windows, sunshine, extra bedrooms, and a big backyard. Still we kept our secret and that hurt most of all.  We had our reasons for keeping it a secret, but now I realize it might have been easier to have started the dialogue earlier.  I wrote about our tree in the field growing old and dying and cried to myself inside as I knew when writing it that this would be our last winter to experience the life of that field.  I haven't been able to write since then on my blog, but I did send a story to "One Woman's Day" about Keeping A Secret....<>  It helped me to tell my story, just as this story does.

Mike, Isaac, Ann, Jack, Letty, Jonya.
Yes, we are moving on, but not so far that we can't return for celebrations of friendships, rounds of golf, or just because we miss this home.  Sometime in March we will begin the moving process with hopes of being settled by Easter so our sons will have a home to come home to for Easter and other holidays; so our daughter and my sister's family will be near; so we can help Jack's mother who is moving slowly now in her 90th year of life; so we can gather with Jack's family and share stories and be there to help each other; and, so we don't have to travel far for those OU home football games!

It will be an adventure, and one that will create a few stories to share.  For those of you who follow my blog, I want to thank you and to say, I will continue to write.  It just feels good, and even better now that I have shared what's really happening in our lives.