To stop, to spend time, to await the rising sun and bless the setting moon, to breathe in the remarkable sweetness of bottomland, pasture and prairie or sense the ageless solidity of undisturbed earth and rock is quite another.
How deeply, I wouldn’t have known, had I not stopped by the Emma Chase Café in Cottonwood Falls on the morning of my departure.
slender and supple
acres of grasses
sweet, smoky breezes
soothed by curving clouds
Out in western Kansas, tumbleweeds seem to outnumber gas stations by a million to one.
I was in tumbleweed country, with a quarter-tank of gas and who-knew-how-many-miles to go before I could sleep in something other than my car. When I saw the metal building with its gravel parking lot and a pair of pickups out front, it might as well have had a sign nailed up saying, “Tourist Information”.
I pulled in, walked over to the open doors and saw two fellows welding pipe. The one facing the door saw me, pushed up his helmet and walked over, smiling as though he’d been expecting me all day.
“What can I help you with?” he said. I explained my concern about seeing no gas stations, and asked where the closest one might be. “Well,” he said. “You’re about a tenth of a mile from it. You see those Co-op grain elevators across the way?” I did. “They’ve got gas pumps over there, too. Drive over and stick your head in the office and they’ll give you the go-ahead. Around here, we get our gas at the Co-ops. If you see an elevator, you probably can get gas.”
When I pulled up to the pumps, I still couldn’t find the credit card reader, so a trucker getting diesel across from me explained what no one else had thought to mention. Just one card reader served all six pumps, and it was hidden away at the end of the island. As I keyed in my pump number, I noticed him grinning. “Well,” he said, “I guess we’re gonna have to revise that old song.”
I must have seemed confused, so he added, “Looks to me like it ought to be ‘T for Texas, T for tumbleweeds‘“. Following his gaze, I turned to look at my car and started laughing myself. “You saw that, huh?” “Couldn’t help it,” he said. “Don’t often see someone driving around with a tumbleweed in their back seat. Where’d you pick it up?” (more…)
Expansive skies, a far horizon, an open road and time to explore – what more could a woman want?
In my case, not much. I love a good road trip, and it’s been far too long since I’ve taken one. In a day or two, I’ll put the necessities in the car – a clutch of maps, some books, notebooks and pens, a few hand-written notes, a collection of tunes, a laptop and a camera – and head north.
Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri are guaranteed stops. I’ll visit friends and family, tour a museum and see a few historical sights that intrigue me. Then, I’ll head south and west from Kansas City, eventually picking up the Santa Fe Trail. I’ll spend time in Chase County, Kansas, memorialized in William Least Heat-Moon’s expansive “Prairy Erth”. In Council Grove, I’ll visit the places I’ve missed, and then I’ll bunk along the BNSF tracks while I explore the prairies. (more…)
In the beginning, the word we used was “helping”. Helping wasn’t a burden, a demand or an imposition. It wasn’t a curse or a condemnation, something to be avoided at all cost or valued beyond all reason. Helping was something people did naturally, and it was the best way for a child to enter the mysterious and utterly appealing world of grown-ups.
Helpers garnered smiles of approval as they trailed behind Mother with a dust cloth or ventured into the yard to carry bundles of sticks for Daddy. Helpers cut flowers that made the house pretty and picked up their toys. Helpers collected windfall apples in a bucket or pulled low-hanging cherries from the trees. Helpers set the table and dried the silverware, folded the wash cloths and put newspapers in their box. If a neighbor who’d been called away was worried about her thirsty geraniums, a good helper knew to borrow a bucket and carry water to the flowers.
Helping, I thought, was fun. (more…)
It’s a shorthand we use, these preferences that define our lives. We’re morning people, or night people. We drink coffee or tea. Some favor the sweet things in life; others seek out the tang of salt or the sharpness of spice. Entire advertising campaigns play to people’s passion for the PC or Mac, and in the sailing world there’s no avoiding the question: are you a cruiser, or a racer? How a sailor answers that question will determine a good bit, from choice of boat to the weekend schedule.
Racers generally commit themselves to light and fast, preferring Kevlar sails and carbon masts to canvas and wood – if the budget allows. Spending hard-earned dollars on new technologies, they push technology to its limits. Others, coping with older and heavier boats, ponder their PHRF ratings and do what they can to maximize performance.
Still, whether their vessel is a Sunfish, a J-Boat or a fully-fitted cruiser, racers share a few characteristics. They’re tweakers at heart, constantly adjusting sail trim, seeking the currents and anticipating the wind. Demanding of themselves and one another, they’re often focused to point of obsession. In the end, their goal is simple – to get from point A to Point B first, and in the shortest possible time. (more…)