January is a heavy month. It’s cold, you have to start working on taxes, people get colds and flu, and its dark. Luckily, its not as dark as it was in December. At least when I’ve left work, I’ve been able to spy bits of Kansas sunset through the branches of slumbering trees and around the rooftops of the houses on these city streets.
Recent trips to Salina have taken me out of town, something that I realized I needed after I got on the open road. There’s something about wide open spaces that help lighten my mood. Traveling down the highway, watching the land roll out in front of me, spying coyotes and deer along the edges of the road and around the windbreaks reminds me that winter is but another season.
It also makes me long for hiking trails and Open Space.
It’s frustrating to me to see so much wide open space, but to know that I cannot truly enjoy it. Every acre of land is carved up into parcels designated for agriculture, either farming or grazing, with precious few being designated for recreational use. If I have any beef at all with Kansas, its that.
The other night, I reminisced with my dear husband, about our childhood memories doing things outside. While he grew up in a tiny North Central Kansas town, part of the time on a farm, and part in town, always visiting grandparents who farmed, I grew up in an honest to goodness large city, surrounded by sidewalks, streets, highways, and public parks.
To get back to nature, all he had to do was walk outside his door. He remembered days spent playing down by the creek.
I, on the other hand, went fishing with my dad at the lake in the local park, right up against Interstate 70. The view was of the highway to the north, and a combination of houses and motels on the other four sides of the park. When I got older, my brother and my best friends and I would wade in the cattails along the edge, trying to catch frogs and the oversized goldfish that must have been released by pet owners fed up with cleaning the fish bowl every week. I guess we had our “nature” too.
I envy the folks out here that own these carved up pieces of land with creeks and abandoned stone houses and windbreaks that stretch for miles. I’d love to park the car and crawl in between the barbed wire and head out on an adventure, but I don’t, because I’m a grown up and I know I shouldn’t.
The nice thing about growing up where I did was we were never more than a half hour away from Open Space. The front range of the Rocky Mountains is not good for farming, and there are plenty of forests that are no good for grazing cattle on either. Luckily, they are full of pine, which also isn’t good for much other than cleaning the air, providing homes for wildlife, and stopping erosion. So, thousands of acres have been set aside for Open Space. That means anyone who wants to go for a walk or a bike ride or snow shoeing can do it, without having to ask for permission first. Not only is it Open Space, it’s space that’s open to anyone.
I think here, people would feel funny about having strangers walking across their land. But back home, some of the most coveted building lots were up against Open Space. It’s like having the best of both worlds--living in town, with nature at your back door.