The Kansas landscape hides stories. Chalk cliffs rise along the river, embedded with fossils: sentinels for the ancient sea that covered this land. A casino with false fronts stands on the land of a vanished culture, whispering old stories of adventure, faith, and loss. A shelter belt of wind-bent trees bears witness to a collapsed house and farmstead, to a land where dreams were blown away.
I have lived in our current house in Kansas longer than anywhere else in my adult life. John Foster worked for the Bendix division of Honeywell. We transferred from Indiana to Missouri to Indiana to Utah to Texas to Arkansas. After John died, I moved back to Missouri. And then, fourteen years ago, I married Jon Friesen and moved to the middle of southern Kansas.
I’ve often laughed, “It isn’t the end of the earth, but you can see it from here.” The edge of the horizon stretches every direction in a circle. I can travel 100 miles or 500 miles and still feel like I am in the center of the horizon circle. I have run from here and hidden here. I wrestle with faith here. I live here. I rest here. I will likely die here. The prairie landscape is a container for my here, for living with what is.
The container’s vastness dwarfs me and lets me know that I am not in charge. It holds darkness and light. It holds chaos and possibilities. It holds intense cold and breath-taking heat. It holds violent storms and gentle calm. It asks me if I am willing to let go of my own desires and plans, to be seen and held, to know and love the reality and mystery of “here.”
The prairie’s unending horizon is visible and invisible. Its emptiness and fullness frighten me and invite me to encounter abandonment and loss, transformation and new life. It is an invitation to my eyes, ears, nose, hands, feet, mind, and spirit to be fully present in the world around me. It is a landscape, a geography filled with the community of my people and the love that surround us.
What is the invitation of your own “geography of here”?
I strongly resonate with the wisdom of your observation: “The container’s vastness dwarfs me and lets me know that I am not in charge.”
Thank you, Laurie. Yes, the geography of the Great Plains can be as unforgiving as a desert – dry and desolate – and equally forgiving when the natural springs create ponds and lakes. I’ve found it to be a humbling place to live.