Last weekend we traveled to Western Kansas and then to Oklahoma. Dotting the shoulders of the highways were bunches of sunflowers; not the designer dinner-plate-sized ones seen at the florist, but the smaller ones of my childhood. In fact, I couldn't remember seeing such plentiful patches of these sunshiny blooms since I was a child.
I had begun to wonder if this resurgence was a natural phenomenon in response to the end of the drought that has plagued the state for the better part of the last decade or if the highway department had a hand in it. When we crossed the Kansas/Oklahoma state line and the sunflowers disappeared, I felt I had my answer.
Google directed me to an article on KDOT's plan to seed highway shoulders with native flowers and grasses in 2012. There was a movement at that time to return original prairie plant life to the roadsides. In this way the state would save money on the maintenance and mowing of grass. Wildlife habitats would be restored, and though the article didn't mention it, the beauty of the plains would be enhanced.
Reading the article I couldn't help but think how many of our attempts at progress fall short in the end. I grew up in the era when these very spaces were replanted in grass that was kept groomed and civilized. The result was a uniform look no matter where you were in the state, and to some degree even the country. This blandness was retained at a good deal of cost and effort.
I wonder if the biggest cost could it have been our regional identities. I knew as a kid that the sunflower was our state flower. I saw sunflowers along side the roads and scattered in the fields. It was easy for me to imagine those who came to Kansas before me watching their golden heads turning to follow the sunshine as they soldered on across the plains.
I like the unruly grasses and flowers that bob and sway in the Kansas wind. The countryside seems softer, more like home than it did when it was manicured and bland.
I take comfort in the knowledge that we don't have to try so hard. That there is wisdom in the original plan, and nature can most often heal itself if we will just stay out of the way.
I'm feeling thankful for my home state, for the prairie, the grasses, the flowers, the wind, the wide open spaces, and the chance to be out in them this week.
Your experience in Kansas sounds exciting. Indeed, we should be thankful for nature, lest we lose it all one day.ReplyDelete
I don't know about exciting, but I truly do love it here!Delete
hey! Kansas! 'Almira' is mostly based in Kansas! Cool... (Circe Kansas, which is not on any map)ReplyDelete
I can be your go-to expert for field research. And, yes, we have many a field to research!Delete
Thanks. The days have been so perfect the past week or so. I couldn't resist getting out of the car and stomping through some ditches.Delete
Lovely! I love the wild fields of grasses and flowers.... manicured lawn is so boring!ReplyDelete
And way too much work.Delete
Such beauty in your photos and your words are almost poetic. It makes me, also, look back and wonder if the pioneers who crossed the plains delighted in the flowers the way you have shared with us.ReplyDelete
I think at the very least the natural plants and grasses would have been a welcome distraction from bumping along mile after mile!Delete
Oh these are happy, sunny pictures. My daughter and I have so enjoyed the acres and acres of fields of sunflowers we've seen on our trip across the country. We're staying tonight in Omaho before traveling further south and east and it's been magical in many ways to be in the country's mid-section. I so agree with you on the beauty and wisdom of keeping landscapes natural instead of fighting what each area does best.ReplyDelete
I am really enjoying traveling along with you via Instagram, Barb! Looks like the trip of a lifetime.Delete
I love your story and my Zilla loves sunflowers, so I will have to show her these when she's home later. I think many things - not only nature - would heal themselves if we would just stay out of the way. Ourselves, included! Really good to see you again; I've been gone too long.ReplyDelete
You HAVE been gone too long! Welcome back!Delete
I wrote a comment for this but I don't know what happened to it. Floating around in cyberspace somewhere, or perhaps it went the way of my Six Sentence Story from last week.ReplyDelete
At any rate, I think KDOT did a brilliant thing, because those flowers are just lovely.
I drove I70 across MO last weekend. They seem to be doing the same thing. The shoulders were dotted in some wildflower that was gorgeous and plentiful.Delete
Ah, sunflowers. Lovely must be an understatement for what you witnessed as you drove. I've never been to those states before, but I love that you felt such a sense of home in that natural phenomenon. We can only orchestrate so much in life and then we need to remember to let nature take its course.ReplyDelete
Hmmm... your thought--we can only orchestrate so much-- is so very true. And life became far less stressful for me once I realized it.Delete