I’ve recently returned from a trip to Kansas for a lovely family wedding. Two (pandemic) years have passed since I’ve seen my relatives and it was well worth the drive. En route to the wedding, and on the return to Minnesota, I carved out some time for exploring and visiting some of my favorite areas.
Near the center of the state, running from north to south, are the Flint Hills of Kansas. This is the largest expanse of tallgrass prairie that remains in the world. Most of this area has a very shallow soil with a subsurface of limestone, all of which made the area uncondusive to agriculture and spared it from being plowed. It is a landscape of big vistas, rolling hills, and grasses.
The Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse sits on a hill within the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City, Kansas. Built of native limestone in 1882, classes were held in the single room from 1884 to 1930. Before arriving at the schoolhouse I had been following an old stone fence line and photographing a white church that glowed in the sunlight under a blue sky, all the time being serenaded by a herd of cows. Within twenty minutes the sun disappeared behind gunmetal gray clouds and the temperature starting dropping. When I arrived at the schoolhouse the flag clearly displayed the howling of the westerly wind. The setting took on a bleakness that I hadn’t experienced before, yet I’m sure was familiar to the early settlers that had tried to sustain a living in this area.
It’s been peak bloom for peonies this past week. With our hot temperatures and gusty winds I can walk outside and immediately smell the scent of peonies in the air. It’s a short-lived bloom season, and perhaps that’s one of the reasons I savor every day. We’ve added additional peony bushes over the years, but I continue to favor the ones that I transplanted from my mother and father’s house in Kansas. These are the ones that were on the side of their house, sometimes neglected, but they continued to blossom. Each year my parents would gather and cut the blooms to take to the cemeteries on Memorial Day and lay on the graves of relatives. Fast forward to now, with both my parents having passed on, I’m filled with wonderful memories and see these Kansas peonies blooming in honor of my mom and dad.
We traveled south last week for a visit with family in Kansas. Our route took us off the interstate and along two lane highways and county roads. It was relaxing and much more interesting than the speed-view when traveling at 70+ miles per hour. We stopped at small city parks and explored fields of corn and soybeans. The temperatures were still summer-like but the days are certainly shorter. The sunsets were beautiful like this one – fields of flowers and a ball of fire going down over the horizon but still giving its glow and colors to the clouds above. The field was full of dragonflies and grasshoppers, all in a feeding frenzy before fall and winter’s arrival. It was a wonderful trip — not just for the scenery but more importantly for the time spent with family.
Our weekend was a two-night road trip south to Iowa for softball. My niece plays for the Baker University Wildcats (from Baldwin, Kansas) and they were playing games in Dubuque and Cedar Rapids; a perfect excuse for a beautiful spring weekend escape from the north. Today’s games were against the Mount Mercy Mustangs of Cedar Rapids. With excitement in both games, the Wildcats won the first game and the home-town Mustangs won the second game. But the weekend also gave us a chance to explore some areas of Wisconsin and Iowa we hadn’t seen before, and also the chance to catch up with family. A whirlwind trip, but so very worth it!
I awoke this morning before the sunrise, grabbed my camera, and headed out the door. We were in Kansas for a family wedding. The weather had been as perfect as is possible for August in Kansas – low humidity, sunshine, and temps in the 80’s. But this morning the air was fresh and cooled, and the fog hung low in the valleys. As I drove down gravel roads, the dust hung in the golden air and the sunlight glistened off the telephone lines and the grasses. My nephew and his lovely bride were married in a garden setting yesterday, surrounded by family and friends. It was lovely and it was just as they had hoped – a true expression of who they are individually and who they are as a couple. As I was greeting the morning with an appreciation of the scenery and a new day, I was hoping that this first day of their life as husband and wife would be a beautiful omen of their future together. Congrats to them; and I’m so proud of their family that has showered them with love.