Get up at about 5 a.m. Hop in your car and head southwest out of Kansas City on I-35. Keep going for about about 3 hours and you'll arrive in Wichita. Now exit onto US Highway 54 and keep going west. Keep going. Keep going... more... more.
After about four more hours, you'll arrive in Liberal, Kan. Wasn't that fun?
Along the way, you will have noticed the landscape taking on a decidedly horizontal nature. John B. at Blog Meridian noted this phenomenon during a recent trip to Dodge City.
Most people I know--even, in one case, a student I'm teaching this summer who is FROM there--would wonder, What would bring otherwise-sane people out there? To live, no less?I lived/worked in Liberal for about two and a half years, and it's true. At first blush, it appears that there is nothing but grass, sky and roadsigns in southwest Kansas.
But believe me, if you look more closely there is much more there. The tastes, textures and colors are there, but in much finer gradations than in urban areas. It's like comparing a subtle French-style wine to a bold-tasting Californian, or exploring the abstract and complex hues of a Mark Rothko.
You have to work a little harder, spend a little time and dig under the surface, but in the end its worth it.
Here are a few my personal observations from living there.
- The people are very nice, congenial even, but only from a distance at first. There is a feeling that they know you are "just passing through" and that you have no real interest in getting to know the lay of the land. But they're okay with it. Life there isn't for everyone.
- For me, living in an area so dominated by vast expanses of earth and sky provided a great deal of perspective. Standing on the "hill" on the Liberal golf course, you can see forever on a clear day. You can watch towering thunderstorm clouds barreling down the prairie from miles away. It was a clear message that I, a mere human, am insignificant in comparison to the vastness of nature/creation.
- Ancient resources like the Ogallala Aquifer (a giant underground sponge full of water) and the Hugoton Gas Field - the largest natural gas deposit in the North America (aside from Al Franken)- contributed to my sense of perspective in time. There I was, living a few feet above water that dates back to the last ice age.
But if you're only looking at roadsigns, that's all you'll see.
tagged: Kansas, perspective, Dodge City, Mark Rothko, Ogalla Aquifer, Hugoton, Liberal