I think everyone is surprised by spring. We would have not expected the sun to shine so brightly and so warm. But why are we astonished? Why is spring such a surprise? Do we not expect it, though it comes every year?
We go on and on about it. Spring has come. It always does. Why is it such a surprise?
With this fantastic weather, I’m realizing once again… that if there’s one thing I need, one thing I NEED… it is to be outside. I love being outside. Like my days when I worked at the greenhouse.
With this atmospheric upturn, I’ve finally gotten back to the trail to do a bit of running. And I’m blind-sided with memories of running in Kansas.
Living in Kansas brought many dynamics into my life, and one way that I liked to relax (or regroup, I should say) was to run.
I would come home from school, grab my shoes and my ipod, and run dirt-road miles. Weather in Kansas was somewhat ideal for running. Eighty degrees from March to October. Or at least it seemed like it. I remember running even in the winter… jogging around slushy mud-holes…
I think people think the Midwest is ugly. Especially Kansas. Recently, my uncle commented that one has to have an imagination to live in the north. Maybe I do have an imagination. But how can that be a bad thing?
Everyone knows that the sky is bigger and bluer in Kansas than anywhere else. And in Kansas, even in the winter, the fields are green like summer, the winter wheat laughing at the gray world that tries to choke out every bit of life. The winter wheat tells the story of spring when everything else has forgotten.
I was running the other day, listening to one of my running playlists, one that I listened to a lot in Kansas. I listened to it so much, that certain songs began to become associated with certain places in my run. Past the school… cresting the “hill” where the mile roads meet… the cows, and their unblinking eyes, between the evergreens… beyond the abandoned house… to the fields… where the green wheat shines brighter than the blue sky… and finally to Trails West…
I would stand in the middle of the black-topped road… and turn… turn… it seemed like there was no one for miles…
The sun beat down on me as I turned around, and I heard the gravel and dirt crunch under my tennis shoes…
Here are two poems I wrote my first year in Kansas one day after running. I didn’t realize the first one’s somewhat egotistical double-meaning at the end until later, but I kept it, because I feel like it is fresh and expresses my exact sentiments.
Sandy Dirt Roads
These land-locked narrow beaches…
For running on…
Damp clay, soggy mud,
Dusty, bumpy, sandy beaches—
by acid sweet stagnant waters
and milo fields with corn-smelling air…
Following their thin track, and wide,
that disappear once blade-raked after the rain,
And Green growing fences,
scrubby sages, and tan grasses
straw mud mounds, and brown fields
occasionally a little
The western sunlight diffuses through wheat-colored grasses.
I am running for black-top.
I am the only person as far as I can see.
my very own Middle-Earth
to discover, and explore.
You empty land and giant sky, a western blue, and scrubby trees, and soggy muddy skidding sandy dirt roads, with fields of sunflowers, milo—that funny cone-shaped plant, and wheat (nothing is more beautiful than winter wheat fields—green while the world is sad) and all your fauna—those metropolitan prairie dogs, blinky screech owls, guineas, oh! those awful screeching ugly birds, and egrets. Little delicate white egrets that pasture by the cows (only sometimes idyllic) and the two horses, when, viewed with the flying egrets is much more idyllic… wonderful, beautiful, and, in my post-modern mind, like something from a movie. Kansas, you are frustrating. You are unpopulated, ugly, full of interesting people, and I can’t get you out of my mind.
Right now I am reading Pulitzer prize-winner Willa Cather’s 1913 novel, O Pioneers!, which is set in Nebraska. It’s a unique read, probably much more interesting to me because I’ve actually experienced life in the Midwest prairie-lands, and I feel like some of her observations are my own. It begins with this frontispiece, a poem that I adore:
“Prairie Spring,” by Willa Cather
Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.