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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ad Astra Per Aspera

Ad Astra
When I get to work early in the morning during the winter, I park in a lot a block and a half away from the building that I work in.  I work downtown across the street from the statehouse.  I am one of the early workers.  I love it, because then I get to leave earlier, which is nice because I beat the high traffic times and get home early to work out and get things done around the house.  (Or, you know, sit around playing on the computer while browsing Facebook, Pinterest, and Etsy.)  Anyhow, during the winter, the Capitol building is gorgeous.  It's still a little dark, the sun hasn't peeked out yet, and the beautiful copper (for now) dome with our Native American archer, Ad Astra, on top, stands tall against a sumptuous deep blue sky.

I live in Kansas and I was born and raised here.  I was raised in an idyllic small town.  You know the type.  It had an actual soda jerk fountain behind two horseshoe shaped counters at the drug store.  You could order actual cherry sodas, the actual soda with ice cream.  My favorite drink was a chocolate Dr. Pepper.  They sold Tootsie Pops and you could even turn in the wrappers with stars on them for a free one!

My town had several churches, a couple local restaurants, and a dime store that when I was really young, you could buy actual penny candy.  You didn't get charged tax until it was more than $0.25 worth.  We walked home from school every single day and I would sometimes stop in at the City Clerk's office to see my Mom.  She still works there.
The dirt road near my in-law's house
In my small town, everybody knew everyone and everyone's business, both good and bad.  We played in the streets, at the ballfield, in our neighbors' backyards, and down by the creek every single day until my friend's mom whistled loudly for supper.  We had several elderly neighbors that we would periodically visit and bring them cards and drawings.  In exchange, we'd get candy or pop, or sometimes wood scraps to use to build cities for our Hotwheels.

Not a lot has changed there since I graduated high school and moved away.  The drug store was replaced by a dentist's office and the soda fountain got moved across the street to a little cafe.  Several stores downtown changed hands, the brick Main street we cruised every Friday and Saturday night was redone, and they added a stop sign to the old 3-way stop at the end of Main.  That's hard to get used to and I'm sure many a returning voyager has accidentally blown through that stop sign.

Planting is done
Kansas invades your soul.  It is full of plains of possibilities, endless farmland that beckons to be tilled and planted, then burned and tilled again.  Abandoned farmhouses become the homes of itinerant cattle and the sun sets on golden waving wheat during the early summer and austere landscapes broken up by half-cut corn stalks in the winter.

I can breathe here.  I can breathe anywhere, but especially here.  The ghosts of my forefathers root me to the ground and I am whole again.  Many weekends we visited my grandparents.  They each had farms.  We bottle fed calves, let them suck on our fingers, and I even rode one of them with my Grandpa's help!  We played with runt pigs, jumped off the end of an old cattle chute, climbed on top of the old tractor tire leaned up against the barn, and snuck mulberries off the trees, our stained fingers and lips telling the tale for us.

My daughter and her Grandpa, several years ago
To be a citizen of Kansas is to wear the badge of toughness and determination.  Pride and perseverance are familiar traits, reminding us of our Dust Bowl ancestors and our innovators, explorers, inventors, and artists.  We are not all Dorothys, but we do all share a common yearning for home in our souls.

I will probably never truly leave this state.  My heart staked its claim on this rough hewn ground long ago.  Kansas is too beautiful and stoic to be forgotten or left anywhere. Years from now, hopefully rocking on the front porch beside my husband, I will still have those memories of warm summer breezes fishing in the little pond a few miles on the gravel from our old house.  I will still gaze in awe at the pristine sky filled with billions of stars and I will still feel the love for this place deep in my bones.

Happy 154th Birthday Kansas!!  

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