I think of my friend, Elaine, living on her family farm, treading the same floors and fields that her great grandparents trod.
People who have deep roots in a community—roots that go back generations—sometimes have an understanding of the landscape and character of the community that others do not.
Leaving my home in California and going back to my Kansas hometown last week, however, makes me glad I am a transplant.
There is no doubt that I am now a California girl. I am happy to live here. The lifestyle, weather, and mix of people suit me.
There is also no doubt that I am a Midwesterner at heart. Green fields dotted with black and white cows, a red cardinal in a cottonwood tree, the smell of lilacs in the spring, the texture of a bale of hay—all these things touch something deep within me.
Landing at the airport in Kansas City means landing amid fields. Last week as we touched down, I looked out and smiled at all that beautiful space, uninterrupted by roads or buildings. Then I heard the guy behind me, a thick New York accent coming through, “Look at that,” he groaned. “Nothing but fields. How do people stand to live here?”
My first impulse was to stand up and give him a Betty Glare, but I refrained and instead felt sorry for him.
It occurred to me that there is a danger to living too narrow of a life.
Moving from one region to another does not insure perspective, but it does help. Not everyone is guilty of such narrowness of outlook. However, many people who are born and raised in California are often sure it is Heaven on Earth. The New Yorker behind me no doubt thought his birthplace superior. Country songs hail the South. Midwesterners often discount other ways of life and Texans? Well, we won’t even discuss Texans.
Pride in your home region is good. The danger comes when people of a region discount the validity of a life lived outside of that region.
Now, I love my home state of Kansas but my politics and driving habits veer more towards California. I am privileged to feel at home in both the Midwest and California. My plan is to live in California the rest of my life, but I’ll always make trips back to Kansas—to look at those fields, to breathe that air, to visit with my people there.
On those trips, as the plane approaches the runway in KC, I’ll smile to see those open fields.
Then, when I land in LA, I’ll smile to see the complicated crossword puzzle of traffic below me.
There is beauty in both.