For the first time, on a frigid winter day in 1979, my thoughts turned to leaving Kansas. With the wind piercing my thin white nurses uniform, I scraped ice from my windshield, racing time to get to class. “There has to be a warmer place than this and when I graduate, I’m going to find it!”
And I did. A few months later, boxes packed, I moved onto bigger and I was sure, better things. All I wanted to see was Kansas in my rear view mirror.
But I always came home. Christmas and vacations and weddings and wheat harvest. Funerals and new babies. For family and friends.
Highway 34 unrolls miles of red dirt through Oklahoma before becoming Hwy 1 in Kansas and somewhere along that road, home begins. Two lane black top miles stream by low green pastures with fat cows that give way to wheat fields and farm houses. I’d fill my lungs with the breath of Kansas and let the scene unwind muscled knots. Breathing in home. Breathing out being away. Only then do I realize I figuratively hold my breath until I am home in Kansas.
It only surprised me when I moved back. I’d long spoken fondly of Kansas to my friends across the United States, fed them Kansas famous person trivia ad nauseum (Did you know the Unknown Comic from the Gong Show was a Wichita State U Alum? And Kirstie Alley grew up in Wichita?)
Interestingly, the whole time I was gone, I met expatriate Kansans. No matter how long they’d been gone from the state where the buffalo roam and the antelope play, we’d click, often not knowing till later we were Kansans. And as we connected and found there were less than 7 degrees of separation between us, for a few moments I was home.
Part of home is being understood. Being known in a way that only time allows. Shared history. The sense of place and season’s change. Of wide spaces. And no one paints a sunset quite like God does in Kansas. Purple evening shadows on low hills and across golden fields that light up from the inside out. Beautiful Kansas.
And when I found Man of My Dreams, one of things we had in common was our love for our state. Before we’d ever met face to face, we talked on the phone about that sense of place. Goose bumps when he said, “I just felt like I could breathe again whenever I came back home.”
And giving my heart to him planted my roots even deeper into the soil of Kansas.
But twenty-two years later, I forgot for a bit what it means to be home. After two lovely weeks of unseasonably warm January days with snow in the weekend’s forecast, I have groused about the seasons and the cold and dreamed of living in warmer climes. Reading this quote from G. K. Chesterton yesterday flooded me again with gratefulness in my journey.
“There are two ways of getting home and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place.”
Beautiful Kansas. Always home.