Beautiful Day…


Kansas City does not get this kind of weather in August… October, maybe. So today I missed church. Transportation issues I need to address. Anyway, I spent much of the day walking to do some errands… haircut… Walmart… the Library… and then walking home. The temperature is in the mid 70’s with groups of clouds floating in a clear blue sky during the earlier part of the day, and then more cloud cover with smaller breaks between in the late afternoon. I walked home from the library along a biking/walking path which snakes along Indian Creek. The path is partly enclosed with midwestern tree cover breaking into the open to outline a park with softball fields and picnic spots. The path is a favorite trail for bikers and runners especially in the early morning or evening. Today it was filled with families riding together, the young kids on shiny new bikes supported by bright training wheels, and all members with helmets on. The parents setting the example for their children with the hardened silos sitting uncomfortably atop their heads. The older, experienced children race ahead, secured to the rest of the clan by a parent’s sharp command to not get too far ahead. As I pass the parents, they smile and apologise for the tunnel vision of their kids. “It’s no problem,” I respond.

Other riders out for exercise approach and can be categorized in two groups: One group is intently concentrating on either their own thoughts, their exercise, or the music coming through the streaming wires from their iPods, because their facial expression is a mask. They make no attempt at greeting nor respond when greeted. The second type of exerciser offers a slight smile and ever so soft greeting as they pass. Runners approaching me also fit into these two groups.

Another type of  traffic on the track, are the people going in the same direction as me. They also fit into two groups: the ones that tell you they are going to pass and on which side, and then the others that surprise you as they swoosh past with no warning. The no-warning-approaching-from-the-rear and the no-greeting-approaching-from-straight-ahead are Type A’s, I think. Approach and conquer, is their cry.

I travel this path quite frequently for one reason or another. And while I always think it is a pleasant trip, I take it for granted. I confess that I have been thoroghly unimpressed by the flora and fauna of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri for all the years I have lived here. I moved here from the Eastern slope of the Colorado Rockies by way of Southeastern Indiana on the banks of the Ohio river. Both places are uniquely beautiful and overshadowed this area, I always thought. Oh, there are bright spots. For instance, I love the Red Bud trees in the spring. Their buds are usually the first color to appear in early spring and I love the deep hue of the clusters of buds that seem to outline the limbs of each tree. I also love the majestic Cottonwood trees and Sycamore trees. The last two varieties of tree always line streams or areas with a consistant water supply. They propegate their species by spitting their unique seed packets onto the ground or in the streams, which then carry and transplant the seeds into the banks downstream. The Cottonwood has a massive trunk which supports huge limbs dozens of feet off the ground. They would be perfect for a Swiss Family Robinson-style treehouse if the family were ever shipwrecked in Kansas. Sycamore trees are massive in the same manner, but the bark is radically different than a Cottonwood’s. While a Cottonwood’s bark is hard and thick with furrows of rough, raised bark running up the tree, a Sycamore has gray, dappled skin with the texture like the skin of a 10-year-old boy’s back that has been burnished by the summer sun and is beginning to peel. These three trees have always drawn my respect and admiration for their beauty. The other trees and undergrowth I found to be underwhelming.

Today, however, was different. I brought my camera, hoping to get some good shots in the beautiful light that happens when clouds and late afternoon meet. So I already had a mood of expectancy and a sharper focus on my surroundings than usual. As I left the library, I also began listening to Earth, Wind, and Fire on my iPod. The album of  EWF I selected was All ‘N All. Walking out of the parking lot to EWF’s Serpentine Fire put a little spark in my spirit which translated into a quicker step and wide smile.

Suddenly, I began to really see the beauty around me:

Families biking TOGETHER

People exulting in their ability to care for their bodies

Vines hanging from limbs like twisting, modern drapes

Limbs from one tree growing around the trunk of another tree, holding it in a voluptuous, sensual embrace like two lovers with arms and legs entwined in timeless passion.

A clearing in which rested a natural statue of dead vines covering the forms of broken, decaying trees felled by storms, its tan color contrasting with the blacks, dark browns and greens of the forrest.

The lime green, intricate seed pods hanging from their parent vine wrapped around trees and bushes.

Tall, dark stalks of grass with light seeds at the tops, appeared like twinkling lights in the darkening undergrowth.

My mind sees photographs I wish my camera could record. Maybe someday my equiptment and experience will match my vision’s ability to see beauty. I surely hope so. I long to capture what I see in order to share it with others. I see the artistry of God, and although I didn’t go to church, I still worshiped.

After EWF finished, I slid my finger down a couple of albums to U2. The first song on the album said it all:

Beautiful Day!

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One thought on “Beautiful Day…

  1. Enjoyed your description of the trees, especially the cottonwoods–the Kansas state tree, BTW, and a pioneer species that loves to get out there first in the open spaces and set down a root as quckly as it can. Can’t stand the shade. Head high in a year. Up and away into the sun, to shelter all else that grows beneath & around it in that stream-side habitat. Glad you had and shared such moments of natural wonder! Kathleen Cain, author, The Cottonwood Tree: An American Champion (Johnson Books/Big Earth Publishing. Boulder: 2007)

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