Life is a blur

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This is as political as I want to get. For me, I hate getting caught up in the moment. You forget where you were when you started, and where you are going to, and now you are wondering why you are here, nothing else matters.

Calvin and Hobbs are atop Lookout Mountain with a red wagon. Calvin says to Hobbs, “I call it ‘Lookout’ because that’s what you yell when we go down.”

Racing down the hill, Calvin says, “We are so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us, that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.”

There are trees and rocks to the right and left of them. They pick up speed.

“Days go by and we hardly notice them. Life is a blur.”

Calvin then observes that sometimes it takes a calamity to notice where we are, like falling off a hill. We wake up and see our mistake, but it is too late.

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Bill Watterson’s original Calvin and Hobbs cartoon.

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A Kansas Christmas Tree

If you love fir, choose Balsam or Noble, Douglas or Fraser;
Or try Virginia, or Scotch or White for a pine;
Choose a spruce if you hanker for Norway or Colorado;
But if you want a true Kansas tree, take mine –
The Eastern Red Cedar, the noblest and grandest of all.

Kansas Christmas tree
Kansas Christmas tree

Sitting around the Christmas tree on Christmas Day, each of us shared favorite a Christmas. Along with stories of gifts and people, were descriptions of trees and the decorations we once made.

Those old enough recalled strings of cranberry and popcorn that graced the boughs of evergreen. Instead of store bought ornaments, the children would gather round the kitchen table and make ornaments of tin foil in all sorts of shapes. If your family was Swedish, then the ornaments were fashioned with straw and corn husks. If your family lived on the prairie, with not much to be had, at least ma and pa could always find nuts to place in a paper bag with chocolates of  filled cream. And always on top of the tree was a star, that the littlest one placed with a hoist from dad.

Every family has its own Christmas tradition and they do not seem to change much. Take the story by Julia (Conine) Bunton who was born in Iowa in 1862 and came to Barber County in the 1870’s where she married Clark Bunton. Their marriage was the first recorded in Kiowa.

She recalled, Kiowa’s first real Christmas, celebrated with an Eastern Red Cedar tree in the Kiowa community center, an event to which cowboys rode miles to attend:

 “Some one brought in [the community center] a huge cedar tree, set it on the floor and nailed the top to the ceiling. A nice big star was made out of heavy paper and covered with tin foil of tobacco and placed high on the tree with one lone candle. As there was nothing more with which to trim the tree, Kiowans hung presents on its branches–brightly colored silk handkerchiefs, shiny knives and candy. They certainly made a fine showing.”

Kansas Memories Christmas Traditions

Read also Kansas Heritage.

The lake

The lake

The lake
The lake

The lake is quiet,
the trees surround me,
asking nothing.

The sun is rising in the east.
The dawn of a new day
The sky is a brilliant orange
and somber grey.

A pair of geese
beckoned by the beauty
of the morn,
go gliding by.

And I if heaven were on earth
Would it look like this?

Me alone at peace.

Way down yonder in the Paw Paw patch

Kansas Pawpaw tree
Kansas Pawpaw Patch

 

Where, oh where, oh where is little Jimmie?
Where, oh where, oh where is little Jimmie?
Where, oh where, of where is little Jimmie?
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.

Pickin’ up pawpaws, puttin’ ’em in his pocket
Pickin’ up pawpaws, puttin’ ’em in his pocket
Pickin’ up pawpaws, puttin’ ’em in his pocket
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch

Traditional Appalachian Folk Song

 

 

History of the Pawpaw

 

In 1541, Hernando de Soto saw Indians in the Mississippi Valley eating the Pawpaw fruit. In 1810, Lewis and Clark wrote in their journal that Pawpaws and nuts kept them going when little else edible was to be found. In 1826, James Audubon painted a pair of cuckoo birds in a Pawpaw tree. Daniel Boone and Mark Twain were Pawpaw fans. But Kansas is on the extreme edge of Pawpaw habitat and few people know of the Pawpaw.

 

Cuckoo in a Pawpaw tree, by Audubon
A pair of Cuckoo in a Pawpaw tree, by Audubon, image Wikipedia

The Pawpaw Fruit

This small deciduous tree grows in the wet woodland understory shaded by tall oak and elm trees. The “poor man’s banana”, the pawpaw fruit is oblong, light green in color, and bunches like grapes. The fruit pulp texture is banana-like, with a color that varies from banana-white to mango-orange an odor that becomes tangy with age. Not surprisingly, its taste is a cross between banana and mango.

There were no fruits in my Pawpaw Patch. The answer may lie in the fact that the Pawpaw is clonal and spreads by root. Also, like the Mulberry, it has male and female trees. A male tree may not be close enough to a female tree to pollinate the flowers.  Then again, it is late October and perhaps the deer have feasted on the fruit.

 

Kansas Pawpaw tree
Kansas Pawpaw tree

The one and only food source of the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus) is the foliage of the pawpaw tree. Look again at Audubon’s plate above.

 

Kansas Pawpaw tree
Kansas Pawpaw tree

[North Carolina, Kentucky, Delaware, and Ohio have Pawpaw festivals. Where, oh where is the Kansas Pawpaw festival?]

 

Kansas Pawpaw tree
Kansas Pawpaw tree
Kansas Pawpaw tree
Kansas Pawpaw tree

 

Kansas Pawpaw tree
Kansas Pawpaw tree

 

All images come from El Dorado State Park, taken October 2014.

Vanishing Point

Vanishing point – “the point at which something that has been growing smaller or increasingly faint disappears altogether.” In art, “that point toward which receding parallel lines appear to converge.”

vanishing point

These images were taken on a fall day on the way to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in south central Kansas near Stafford. The vanishing point is easily observed by following the road to a point slightly above the horizon. Note that the tree lines also converge to this point, though less distinctly.

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The principle is apparent every time we drive down a long highway. On summer days, the heat of the road seemingly makes the road disappear before reaching the end. Railroad tracks are another spot to observe parallel lines converge to a point. Why are we fascinated by vanishing points? Does it lie in the question of whether life fades away, or converges to a point, beyond which we can only wonder?

 

 

vanishing point

In 1435, Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), wrote down the theory of linear perspective, in his book, On Painting. First, an artist creates a “floor” (a stage on which objects will be placed) and draws a receding grid, a guide to the relative scale of all elements of the picture. The squares of the grid recede in size until disappearing.

 

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) in his painting The Last Supper (circa 1495), used Alberti’s grid to create a vanishing point at the head of Christ. Just follow the lines in the wooden beams of the ceiling to the vanishing point. Image Wikipedia.

 

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