Tuesday, January 3, 2012
During a favorable break in the winter weather, we made a quick dash down to Kansas to see relatives. It’s always nice to visit the in-laws home place where my brother-in-law is the 4th generation of the family on the farm. In contrast, I have not lived in any particular town longer than the 16 years we’ve lived here so far. I don’t regret moving about; it’s given me a different perspective on place than I might have had if I had not been so mobile. During the long car ride down to Kansas, our family members do not retreat into their electronic devices. We may read a bit, those not driving doze off from time to time, but mainly we watch the scenery roll by. Maybe it was Yogi Berra who said “it’s amazing what you can see just by observing” (or maybe not -- he also said "I didn’t say half the things I said.”) One of the more unusual sights I saw was a picnic shelter in a small-town cemetery. I had never seen that before. I don’t imagine it’s a place for fun picnics, but I can picture a group of families, each of which has driven some distance to visit grandma's grave, now without a local home place to gather, conversing around the table out of the hot sun. I can also picture town events celebrating the lives of the ancestors, with participants under the shelter and out of the rain. I always notice the abandoned houses. They are not an unusual sight. Some date back to the time of a family on every quarter. They serve as silent guardians over now-huge fields cultivated by a single driver, running many hundreds of acres on a GPS-assisted tractor. Others are more recently abandoned, perhaps because a family got over extended on credit (mortgage defaults are nothing new in farm country). I found myself wondering about the story of one abandoned house. Its awnings were just beginning to become tattered. I surmise that not too long ago, someone was in the process of sprucing up the house but then had to abandon it. I don’t necessarily think of the abandoned houses as sad, just as an illustration of how life changes. I also see old houses left behind when the family moved into the modern new house. There’s something to be said for level floors and energy efficiency. It’s also nice to see someone preserve an old house and nice to see an old building repurposed – an old school that’s now someone’s house or an old church that’s now a restaurant. As usual, we did part of the trip away from the Interstates and lucked onto an old house converted into a wonderful Mexican restaurant. When I see the cars go by in which a DVD is playing, I think about what those passengers are missing by keeping focused on their world inside their vehicle and how we like to bring our world with us rather than observe the world we’re in.