Saturday, April 10, 2010

Catching Up 2 : March

After the cold and grey, snow and ice of February 20, I didn't go to Konza for several weeks. (Every Sunday morning, I wake up dreading the idea of having to put on my long underwear and lace up my boots, dreading having to check my camera for batteries and car for oil, dreading the drive down slick streets and the mud-torn access road, dreading a car-filled parking area and a trail that can't possibly live up to my expectations, my demands. Some weeks the thought of going is just too much for me. I don't know how to explain it; it's just too much.)
During spring break, then, I made a tour of two other tallgrass prairie preserves. First, the official Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve (managed by The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service), located an hour and a half south of Manhattan, KS. I'd gone last fall, but hadn't been at all impressed by the polished, professional Park Service Interpretive Ranger song and dance / bus ride. (Though must admit the ranger did an excellent job facilitating intellectual and emotional connections to the park's tangible and intangible resources and universal concepts. My parents liked it.)(And I will also admit that my impression may have had less to do with the actual experience than my general frustration / bitterness at the time, considering I was wearing a large leg brace and trying to hobble around on crutches.) Maybe it was the fact that I didn't have to take a bus tour, or that the sky was low and grey with pre-spring-ness, or the sheer joy of being able to walk (walk! Upon the blessed earth!, to invoke Abbey), but mmm it's a fantastic site -- several miles' worth of trails tracing open swales, diving into creeks, weaving around cottonwood groves, and crossing through gates with minimal signs, directions, and views of the highway. Much left to explore!

Second: Tallgrass Prairie Preserve (owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy) in Oklahoma (directions are a little fuzzy -- lots of semi-marked dirt roads, but gorgeous scenery). A large site; bison, bison everywhere, as well as several oil wells (?!)(inholdings?); fairly short trails, but well worth the trip.

It's said that the more you venture out, away, to wild unknown places, the more you learn about yourself and your relationship with your home. Back to Konza, then?
Lesson #1 (I guess I'm in a list sort of mood) :

I needn't have gone off and traipsed about other prairies to see Konza with fresh new eyes; I came up over the first hill expecting the same familiar grey sky, brown grass, only to discover a bare, black ridge -- burn! Spring, time for burns!

That was a happy surprise, seen from a distance, but then lesson #2 :

Look closely. It still wasn't what I thought. The burn couldn't have been lit more than a week or two earlier, but happy little green shoots were already bursting from the charred earth. Life returns.

1 comment:

KD said...

You forgot to mention your (mostly) silent partner for the March trips. Does having another person around change the experience?