When you live in Kansas, it can be easy sometimes to look at pictures of mountains or the ocean and feel a pang of envy - I did just the other day when I saw a picture of a cottage in Wales on a cliff overlooking the sea. "Those people get to see that every day," I thought with wonder and disappointment in my homeland. But this morning I took a walk and reminded myself of the unique beauty of Kansas; you just have to pay more attention sometimes. One of my favorite Kansas sights, which I don't have a picture of yet, is the sun shining on golden wheat fields in a clear, deep blue sky. It looks like you're in the Sahara, and when the wind blows the wheat really does look like "waves of grain."
I am excited to now live only 1/2 mile from the river that runs through Wichita (okay, there is a point when the Little Arkansas River branches off from the Big Arkansas River, but we just call it "the river"). I walked to and by the river with attention and an open, prayerful heart and enjoyed:
the river itself. I had been walking fast for exercise, and there's a bike path that runs along it for that purpose, but I changed my mind and my purpose for the walk, since I hadn't seen or explored this place yet, and went off the path and closer to the river. My heart rate and thoughts slowed as I neared the water and took in some of its quiet and peace. I saw a couple of interesting pieces of driftwood, but my pictures do them no justice whatsoever, so I'll try again another time.
After walking along the river a short time I sat down to just soak it in and be with it. I'm trying to remember more often to stop anywhere, when I can, and be still in that place until I begin to see, with my eyes and my spirit, what is there. After a few moments in this place, I realized a butterfly or moth was feeding nearby, or resting, or doing some contemplation of his own:
I was reminded of the birds in the air and the lilies in the field and of Psalm 23 and God's care for all of his creation. I remembered that while I have a part in taking care of the various things that come my way, their ultimate fate, or essence, is not my responsibility, nor my worry.
On my walk back I was delighted to find St. Francis, carved by a local artist, blessing the day, the animals, my walk....The face looks a lot like one of my cousins, though, so that broke the mood a bit. :)
And further down the road I found a great piece of art painted by students from a nearby grade school:
(They painted the word "Wichita" with a variety of faces looking through - here you can see the edge of the "c" and the "hita".)
Then I continued my walk in contemplative mode until my uncle tried to run me over with his truck. Okay, we passed each other on the road and he pulled over to chat a minute, but first he swerved....
By the time it came to the edge of the Forest the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly. For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, "There is no hurry. We shall get there some day."...
Christopher Robin...and Pooh...and Piglet and Roo...would lie down (on a bridge) and watch (the river)...and it slipped away very slowly, being in no hurry to get there....
Christopher Robin came down from the Forest to the bridge, feeling all sunny and careless, and just as if twice nineteen didn't matter a bit...and he thought that if he stood on the bottom rail of the bridge, and leant over, and watched the river slipping slowly away beneath him, then he would suddenly know everything that there was to be known....
From "In Which Pooh Invents a New Game and Eeyore Joins In" (The House at Pooh Corner) by A.A. Milne. If you have never read this Poohsticks story, you simply must make the time to do so someday. I have to include more:
"How did you fall in (the river) Eeyore?" asked Rabbit.
"I was BOUNCED," said Eeyore...."I was just thinking by the side of the river - thinking, if any of you know what that means, when I received a loud BOUNCE."
..."Are you sure you didn't slip?" asked Rabbit wisely.
"Of course I slipped. If you're standing on the slippery bank of a river, and somebody BOUNCES you loudly from behind, you slip. What did you think I did?"
..."But, Eeyore," said Pooh, "was it a Joke, or an Accident? I mean - "
"I didn't stop to ask, Pooh. Even at the very bottom of the river I didn't stop to say to myself, 'Is this a Hearty Joke, or is it the Merest Accident?' I just floated to the surface, and said to myself, 'It's wet.' If you know what I mean."