I had a wonderfully relaxing experience the other day. I went on a nature walk with a friend of mine. Living in the city, this was a real treat for me – and I didn’t even have to venture far from home!
The Kansas Museum of History is located on the west side of Topeka. The area surrounding the museum was preserved as a natural habitat for Kansas creatures such as white tail deer and wild turkey. Four different trails meander through native grasses and woodlands. Signs along the way tell visitors about the natural and cultural history of the area.
My friend and I decided to take the east and north trails. As we walked and talked, I felt the stress of the previous weeks completely melt away. Feeling like I was far removed from the everyday busyness of life had a calming effect on me.
I felt quite adventurous as we walked along the mulch-covered trail. I heard something rustling in the grass as we walked pass the native grass area. I wondered what it could be. I could only imagine what it must have been like for Native Americans to stalk a deer or turkey in the tall grass. I wondered what the pioneers thought when they first set eyes on this land with its rolling hills and shoulder-high grass waving in the wind.
Once we passed the prairie grass, we entered into a wooded area. The sound of birds and water babbling in a nearby creek could be heard through the trees. We walked along the creek bank and crossed over wooden bridges sheltered by a canopy of trees. Red berries were abundant in this area and I wondered whether or not they were poisonous.
Even though the fall colors had passed, the nature trail was still a sight to behold. It was like having my own little patch of wilderness just a stone’s throw from the noise and activity of city life.
The sun was just starting to set as my friend and I ended our walk and headed back to the museum parking lot. As we stood by my car admiring the sunset, we heard a honking noise. We looked up and saw a gaggle of Canada Geese heading our direction. When they flew overhead, we could see the sun reflected on their underbelly, casting an orange hue on their white feathers.
It was getting dark, but I didn’t want to leave this magical place. Reluctantly, I headed home distracted by the emblazoned evening sky. The sun, reflected on the swirling gray clouds, created a colorful palette of purple and pink. I secretly wished the buildings and telephone lines weren’t in the way so I could take a picture.
I once heard a lady, interviewed on a local news program, say she had been to beautiful locales such as Africa, but she thought the most beautiful sunsets she had ever seen were in Kansas.
There have been a number of times I’ve wanted to move to the mountains, but when I experience Kansas at its best, I never want to leave. This is my home; this is where I was born. I’m proud to be a Kansan in spite of the jokes about Dorothy and Toto. Every time I watch “The Wizard of Oz,” I know in my heart Dorothy was right when she said, “There’s no place like home.”
In the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie “Skylark” (a sequel to “Sarah: Plain and Tall”), Sarah, who was from Maine, couldn’t understand why her husband Jacob wouldn’t give up on his Kansas farm during a terrible drought. A neighbor of Jacob and Sarah’s said, “Your name has to be written on this land to understand.” I know what she meant. My paternal and maternal great-grandparents homesteaded in western Kansas. My grandparents married and raised their families here. My roots are deep in the Kansas soil. My name is written on this land.
At the risk of sounding like a tourism commercial, if you’ve never been to Kansas, I encourage you to come experience the culture, history and all the sights and sounds the Sunflower State has to offer. You won’t be disappointed.
To learn more about the great state of Kansas, visit these Web sites:
After my walk on the nature trail, I feel like a different person. My outlook on life is once again on the positive side and I feel better emotionally, physically, mentally and even spiritually. I seem to have more energy for work and the things that need to be done once I get home.
I hope to return for another peaceful walk on the nature trail before winter sets in. I’d like to take the south and west trails next time and visit the little one-room schoolhouse just west of the museum.
Stress can take its toll on all of us. A change in routine or a change of scenery can do wonders. It's an amazing transformation . Do you have a special spot where you like to go to get away from it all? I’d love to hear about it.
Picture on bridge taken by Marilynn Hiegert