Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Taking a sentimental journey home

Turning up June's calendar page makes me yearn to hit the vacation trail back to Kansas. Yes, I admit being fiercely defensive of my home state - especially when visitors exceed the 70 mph speed while crossing its 400-plus-mile girth and claim, "There's nothing here! The place is so flat you can see clear into next week."

Merely mention Kansas, and mental images surface: tin men and scarecrows and tornadoes and a fanciful child, Dorothy, skipping a yellow-brick road in ruby-red shoes. (It's doubtful whether author Frank Baum ever visited Kansas: His Wizard of Oz was based on his experiences while living in drought-ridden South Dakota.)

Maybe my nostalgia simply reveres what a wonderful spot it was for a kid to grow up - a place where there was always something to do: Climb a cottonwood. Crawl under a barbed-wire fence. Throw stones in a creek. Scratch "Isabel" with a stick in the dirt.

Watch birds defend their nests. Lie on my stomach and, with ear to the earth, believe I could hear the thundering echoes of long ago, roaming buffalo. Turn onto my back to watch scudding clouds arching into a dome of infinity, propelled by my state's ever-present south wind

"It's all part of a vast ecosystem," scientists describe this combination of biology and environment functioning as a unit - a unique, symbiotic relationship forming, molding and shaping everything that grows. I suspect this so-called ecosystem applies to me, too, making me the person I now am.

Each time I fly into Wichita's airport and pick up a rental car, I steer it into familiar, rural communities surprisingly just like back when I was a child.

Alongside the quaint communities' drowsy, cottonwood-lined streets nestle the same wedding-cake houses I remember - still sporting their carved cornices and pillars and turrets and lightning rods and wraparound verandas and where, after the day’s winds die down, the murmur of gathered neighbors blend with the creaking of porch swings and the whispering cadence of rocking chairs and the zooree-zooree of locusts' songs… until the courthouse clock sonorously warns, via nine bongs, its signal for farmers to slap their overall-covered knees, stand and announce, "Time to head for bed."

These places are where I found childhood comfort among those who became my mentors, my examples, who reared children, went to church, abided by our nation's motto, "In God We Trust." Who, from dawn to dusk, worked the soil (but never on Sunday because No. 4 of the 10 Commandments warns, "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath rest of the Lord your God… ").

Even so, during visits I sense this remarkable, unique area will soon vanish via urban sprawl and changing values. So I spend much of my visit capturing and preserving these fleeting scenes by photographing native wildflowers, birds, tall grasses, its people - the way they were created - not in Oz' fanciful story of a never-never-land filled with mythical creatures treading yellow-brick streets, charming though they were.

But, when I flood friends with such pictures, I wonder, do they really appreciate the significance of my photos?

Probably not.

Many of us may return to, and see, scenes of our childhood, but only those who truly realize we - as with Moses of old - are standing on God's "holy ground" will take off our shoes.…

And our lens caps.

©Copyright 2013 by Isabel Torrey, a King City resident who is in her 41st year as a columnist.