We’ve just returned from our bicycling trip across the state of Kansas.  In eight days we rode our bikes from the western border of Kansas and Colorado to the eastern border with Missouri.  Along with our 800 friends on the Biking Across Kansas (www.bak.org) trip, we were up to the challenges that Mother Nature dealt to us, along with the not-so-flat countryside of northern Kansas.  The 500+ mile trip was a test of our stamina as we battled the winds that blew incessantly almost every day on our trip; from the 40 mph headwind we encountered north of Oakley to the 25 mph side winds near the Colorado border.  Smiles broke out whenever the winds were blowing favorably at our backs.  We biked through the summer heat in the 90’s, were refreshed by the cooler mornings in the higher elevations of western Kansas, were “evacuated” from our tents when a severe thunder and rainstorm was bearing down on us one evening, and we appreciated the cloud cover that kept us cooler on one of our longer days.  We enjoyed the golden sunshine that caused the acres of wheat fields to glow, and we watched as they marched across the horizon as the wind blew through the fields.  We rode through the small towns that grace the rural landscape across Kansas, both the thriving towns and those that are barely getting by.  The people along the route welcomed us with open arms, excited to share their stories, their history, and their pride in their towns.  The community of riders renewed friendships and formed new ones.  We laughed after we rode through a dust storm that caused our faces and skin to turn brown as the dust clung to our sweat and sunscreen.  We swore at the early hills that grace “flat” Kansas, yet we learned to challenge those hills — to ride with abandon on the downhill side, and know that once you climbed the uphill ahead you’d probably find yet another set of hills on the vista before you.  It was a wonderful week of learning new things about myself and about my original home state of Kansas.

In a highly unusual fashion, summer came blowing in on southerly winds this past week, seeming to pass over spring and jumping straight to 80 degree temperatures.  When I awoke yesterday morning to 59 degrees I grabbed my camera and headed out the door.  I was hoping to photograph the red-winged blackbirds which have flown back into our area and have been heard with their brilliant singing.  At a nearby lake I wandered down near the shore where there were cattails and reeds.  The area was anything but peaceful.  I could hear the blackbirds (although they were sitting high in the trees) and the distant cardinals and blue jays.  And high overhead the geese and ducks were calling back and forth as they searched for open water.  Many of our lakes have experienced an early ice-out due to the warm temperatures, but on this lake there was open water near the shore, an area of thin ice towards the center, and then another area of water.  A muskrat floated by the shoreline in a lazy enjoyable manner.   The morning was alive with activity and was in such stark contrast to our quiet hushed mornings of winter.  As I composed this photograph I heard the sound of something or someone walking on the dried leaves across the small inlet.  I looked up and found a deer watching me.  She didn’t seem upset by my presence but rather curious.  We watched each other for a while, and then she was joined by another deer.  Perhaps they were also enjoying the morning’s early symphony, the smells of spring, and the promise of the changing seasons.