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Thursday, June 21, 2007
(8:16 AM) | Stephen:
An Evening Walk

In college we used to drive down to Sunset Cliffs, taking our textbooks with us so we could convince ourselves that we were going to study. We'd drive into OB to get $.35 ice cream cones and then head back down to the cliffs, watching the waves continue their work of destroying the shoreline and threatening the multimillion dollar homes.

When we lived in Korea we'd hike up mountains to see 1,000-year-old Buddhist temples and drink spring water that had been filtering through the granite for a million years.

In San Francisco we'd walk among the redwoods, older even than the temples we admired in Korea, ludicrously tall and thick, and then head down to the beach to play or drive up the coastal highway, heading down roads and finding little towns that remove the highway signs pointing to them in order to keep gawking tourists like us away.

In my hometown of Alamogordo I spent my days bracketed by mountains rising 12,000 feet above sea level, and 8,000 feet above my head. We'd take walks in glacial valleys, the southernmost such valleys in the North America, trail streams down canyons until they disappeared into the desert sands at the canyon's dusty, rocky mouth. We'd find fossils of shells and other sea creatures from the time when our first mammalian ancestors were barely starting to differentiate themselves from other life forms.

In Kansas City and the surrounding area, well, it's flat. Even the Flint Hills, to our eyes, are more like bumps in the endless prairie, the description "rolling" more an optimistic hope than accurate assessment. But even so, there are times when the American Midwest shows its beauty, and last night on our family walk was such a time.

Our neighborhood was built over 40 years ago, back before developers cut down every tree and carted off the topsoil. Every house has at least 5 trees, usually closer to 10. The trees themselves are usually 30-50 feet tall, with quite a few that tower even over that, their branches spreading and touching each other, forming an interlocking canopy that at times stretches over the street and which creates a sun-dappled tapestry on the lawns and sidewalks each day. Dogwoods, Magnolias, Redbuds, Kentucky Coffeetrees, Lindens, Lacebark Elms, Oaks, even the slovenly Sweetgums play their part in the whispering, rustling, scraping symphony of our neighborhood.

Fireflies begin their dance in the early evening and bring twinkling starlight to earth all night, curious about the laughing, grasping creatures which chase and catch them. The air is thick with the perfume of flowers, the green grass, the tang of dandelions, the honey sweetness of clover. You can feel the tiny sounds of growing, of life itself that will keep going and moving whether we finicky humans care for it or not. The quarter-moon hangs high in a light blue sky that fades to white in the west, fading even more as the night descends into faint purples and reds until twilight, the time-between-times, hangs over all, reluctant to go, giving us walkers and mowers and basketball players still more time to tap into the growing and becoming and dying all around us.

I read some time ago that an important Navajo tenet is contentment in all things, that people should adapt to their surroundings. When their is no rain, the white man will curse the drought and pray for rain, while the Navajo sings to the dryness and the desert and adjusts himself to them. St. Paul taught a similar thing, that of being content in all situations, and I've tried to live that way, with greater and less success as circumstances have changed. Kansas City in particular has been difficult for me to do this; nothing in my past has prepared me for the terrain and weather here.

Last night, I think, the final adjustments were made, my soul finally awakened to the beauty here, and while I will always love the mountains and stand in awe of the sea, I can live in harmony and appreciation of these yes, rolling plains.

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