Kansas


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!

County road sunrise7D_13742_StaatsI 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.

White and pink peonies 13429_StaatsWith a burst of color, the peonies have come into bloom.  Their fragrance is brought to full fruition by the breeze that blows through the bushes, carrying the scent across the yard.  And when I’ve brought the bouquets into the house, I can catch the fragrance as I walk from room to room.  Perhaps it’s because they are short-lived that I look forward to their bloom each year.  Or perhaps it’s because they remind me of my childhood – my parents’ love of peonies and the tradition of taking them to my relatives’ grave sites on Memorial Day.  I’m especially thankful that these pink peonies are from the plants that were my parents’.

KS Flint Hills at sunset_Staats 13167There is a section of central Kansas known as the Flint Hills.  This area is the last large expanse of tallgrass prairie in the country.  During the westward expansion in the 1800’s, the settlers found the land was not good for their traditional crops because of the outcroppings of limestone and flint.  Cattle ranching became the main agricultural activity, so the land was not ploughed over and remained intact.  Due to the abundant rainfall the past few months, everything is wonderfully green.  The hills undulate and roll slowly across the countryside, and at sunset they take on a golden hue.  It is an area where the horizon is a long way off, and one can revel in the beauty of the expanse in an almost 360 degree vista.

House of memories_StaatsThis has been a week of reflection for me.  Those of you that have followed my blog the past few years know that my parents passed away within a few months of each other two years ago.  The house that they moved into when I was three years old was the house that they shared until their deaths.  The first owners of this house and the first house built on the block, they moved in with the dreams of their life together and the dreams of building a family.  The house was the shell that was filled with the shared experiences of my parents, my two brothers, and myself as we all grew up.  This home expanded to include grandparents, in-laws, grandchildren, and friends way too numerous to count.  As the family grew, so too the house grew with additions designed by my father the architect.  And with each addition and change, the new rooms were filled to the brim with more memories and love.  The once new “stick-tree” in the front yard has matured and extends over the entire yard and house, its arms having held so many of us as we climbed up its branches.   Each person who passed over the threshold knew they were welcomed with the large arms my parents opened.  The house has now been passed on to the second owner in its 58 years.  But I know that the house is only a structure; the people are the ones that made it a home.  The memories and stories of the family and friends that have been a part of the structure will continue in our family throughout the generations that follow.

Landscape from above PS2417StaatsI made a quick trip to the Kansas City area this weekend.  A one-way flight on Friday late afternoon took me 450 miles south of Minnesota.  The sunset was stunning and the landscape below is always interesting.  A pattern of fields and rivers, valleys and hills, and eventually roads with car lights that dot the lines from horizon to horizon.  But what was more noticeable to me this time, was the difference in the seasons.  Leaving Minnesota, our grass is brown and our lakes still have some ice on them.  Snow is still visible in protected areas.  But once I was in Kansas City I realized what a difference 450 miles makes in the seasons.  The magnolia trees were in bloom, the bright yellow of the forsythia was glowing, and daffodils were showing their golden faces.  Even the grass was no longer brown, and fields of winter wheat were a beautiful green.  The drive home made the seasonal difference even more noticeable.  Throughout northern Iowa and southern Minnesota grasses in the fields were visibly packed down from the weight of the recently melted snow, and there was a demarcation line that the red-winged blackbirds had not crossed yet in their journey to the north.  Green grass will take-over in Minnesota, and flowers will bloom, and the blackbirds will be in our neighborhood, but nature hasn’t stretched her warm hands this far north yet.

Christmas Noel_StaatsThe weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday have been hectic.  Filled with things to do, people to see, places to go, packages to get, and the usual commotion of the season.  The tree sat unadorned in the house for a week, asking for my attention.  Then family came to visit from Kansas, and I was reminded of what the holiday is really about.  My niece helped me decorate the tree; it now sparkles with lights, and the ornaments are carefully chosen in honor of people, places, or times of our lives.  The packages got wrapped and wait to be given to those we care about.  We filled the days of family with sharing, remembering, laughing, and new adventures — all those things that are familiar and special.  And now that Christmas Eve is here, I pause and appreciate the family and friends that are important to me.  May your holidays be merry and filled with love, and may good memories stay dear in your heart.

Next Page »