Geography lessons

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Living in Missouri still feels like punishment, but it’s more along the lines of community service than Alcatraz. My breath caught in my throat when I glimpsed a mountain the other morning. Then my mountain resolved into the pointy roof of a car parts store.

Disappointing, but not catastrophic. That sums it up.

It may be in my best interests to find things that are not disappointing. I concede this. There is a certain logic there. Unfortunately I just can’t work out how to find non-disappointing things while sitting in bed in my pajamas.

In my slight defense, I don’t have anywhere to sit that isn’t my bed. I really probably should get at least a couch, but I am reluctant to purchase furniture if I’m just going to be moving next year anyway. Also, I haven’t been paid yet. My first paycheck arrives on Halloween. There is a very real danger that I will forget my debts and instead spend several thousand dollars on Kit Kats.

At the pet store today I wandered through the dog section, hoping to find someone who needed petting. I noticed that the dog beds were awfully big and awfully comfy looking. Then I started to wonder if I could pass off dog beds as human furniture, or if the milk-biscuit motif would be a giveaway. Eventually I tabled the idea, but mainly because the absence of back support could lead to problems, not because there’s anything wrong with decorating one’s home in Modern Kibble.

Tomorrow I plan to visit something called Swope Park, which is a sizeable green patch on the map. Unfortunately it’s about thirty minutes away, but I am starting to understand that everything is about thirty minutes away. It doesn’t matter where you start or where you want to go. It will take you half an hour to get there.

This is part of a physics unique to the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, a sprawling mass comprising one city and innumerable suburbs. It is huge. It is really huge. It is the Jabba-the-Hutt of urban living. I would guess, optimistically, that I will have a handle on the local geography in about four hundred years. That’s if I study really hard.

Bear in mind that I once got lost in my own bathroom. True story.

I’ll say this much for Missouri: I am now positioned for exploring whole new territories. There is Nebraska, for instance: I am sure it has a culture and history and charm all its own. Probably. Well — possibly. Definitely possibly. Definitely possiblyish.

redfernAnd to the south I can find the Ozark Mountains, which are darling little foothills compared to the mountains back home, but I am in no position to be say patronizing things about them. They’re all I’ve got. Anyway I think I’ll like them fine, since Where the Red Fern Grows is set in the Ozarks and that’s a brilliant book, provided you never ever ever read the final chapter.

And if I head west? There’s a whole lot of Kansas — it’s a pity, can’t be helped — but then I would get to Colorado. Colorado does not loom in my imagination quiet as large as Alaska or Maine or Texas, but it’s worth probably nine or ten Nebraskas, easy. I have never visited, but my copy editor lives out there, and after someone has scrutinized and improved four hundred pages of your book, you feel absolutely fine about asking to crash on her couch, nevermind that you’ve never met her in person.

But those are plans for the future. Colorado won’t be happening for at least half a year, because I don’t get to use vacation until then. Wanderlusting for the next few months will be limited to weekend trips.  With any luck I’ll find a way to go exploring where the red fern grows, and then I’ll say hi to Old Dan and Little Ann, WHO ARE VERY MUCH ALIVE, THANKS FOR ASKING, and I’ll join them on their milk-biscuit patterned doggie bed.


9 responses »

  1. Ooo, there are so many things to do in Kansas! Go visit Lawrence, which is adorable and hilly and full of breweries. Western Kansas is cool as crap, you can visit a ghost town or Dodge City or see bison farms or enjoy the sensation of being miles from another human being. There are a lot of cute small towns too, like Lindborg, which is full of Swedes, or Abilene, which has the greyhound hall of fame which has its own greyhounds to pet. Have fun!

    • My knowledge of Kansas comes almost entirely from the Oz books (and from one film adaptation; you may have seen it). You’re making it sound a lot more attractive than I was giving it credit for. Lawrence isn’t that far from here. That may be first.

  2. Jessica,
    For idle moments in six month hence planning out there in the mid-continent “show me”State, it might be fun to read a bit on the Great Sand Dunes that shift their Sahara-like terra incognito across Southern Colorado. By the way, isn’t Missouri the US State with more borders in common with the other lower 48 than any other? This correspondent had driven the back roads (old Route 6-50)through the corn,wheat and poppy fields of Nebraska and Kansas many years ago and discovered the Sand Dunes by chance. Occasional views of a Rocky Mountain peak shrouded in snow could indeed be had in that desert like venue, The Sunflower fields also stick in a hazy memory of such long ago adventures on less traveled roadways. May your Sunday be pleasant and your inventory collection expansion be well received… out-4-the nonce
    Tom B.

  3. The most homesick I’ve ever been was when I first moved to Greensboro with husband #1 and three kids. I felt like an alien on the moon, despite having moved many times during the previous decade. I’d been uprooted and dislocated before, but for some reason Greensboro left me feeling alone and miserable in a way no place else ever had. Now, 30+ years later I love it here and would hate living anywhere else. I’ve put down deep roots, and my whole life is totally different from what it was that first year or two. The people I knew then are no longer in my life, replaced by “new” friends that have become “old” friends over the years. I have a different (better) husband and two grandsons I couldn’t have imagined back when my daughter was two. Life and times change, and it takes patience to discover what those changes will be. I feel for you–out there in the wilds of the midwest–but where there are books, there is hope. And comfort. And friends are only an email away.

    • I found a quirky little spot in downtown KC today. I found a tasty Mediterranean place and a used bookstore, and then I walked on a pleasant trail. It wasn’t deep in the wilderness, but it was a nice dose of nature for being in an urban setting.

  4. When you get time, Jessica, drive the length of Kansas east to west and into Colorado on I-70. After hours and hours of flat prairie and fields, it’s spectacular to watch the Rockies gradually appear on the horizon. They look like clouds at first. I think the long drive through Kansas makes Colorado even more spectacular. (I can say that because I grew up in western Kansas.) Also, one of the things to appreciate is how far you can see. Something about the open spaces appeals to the primate in us that somehow remembers how necessary it was to be able to see far across the savannah when we came down out of the trees.

  5. Jessica, if you haven’t read this already you simply must. Ode to librarians (and libraries) from Gaiman.


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