As an adolescent you’re eager to leave home, but at some point after departing you yearn to return. Or so the saying goes. I was that teen. Something pulled me away, and I followed the call to duty.
I had no regrets taking the difficult path. Life was too exciting, full of prospects, adventure. When my parents moved my freshman year at The Academy, I stopped calling Kansas home. It was the place of my childhood, not my future. Home became where I hung my hat.
A decade later, on my third extended stay overseas, it, the place, beckoned to me. The foreign land held no appeal, I felt oppressed, caged. There, I realized how much I took my freedom for granted. The hot dry winds blew dust onto my skin and haunting prayer calls to my ears. I longed instead for the whisper of wheat swaying in the breeze, the endless chatter of insects calling to each other, the music of a meadowlark.
Nightfall in the Arabian desert signaled a day closer to redeployment. The cloudless sky held an imperceptible shroud of fine sand, visible only when day yielded to night. With the setting sun, light yellow turned faintly orange then morphed to a faded rose. The heavens softly blanketed the desert in pink as far as the eye could see.
In those daily moments, I sat alone in a small man-made oasis of palm trees looking to the west. Not where my house snugly protected my car in its garage, but to the place of sunsets that stirred my soul, unlocked my imagination, gave me purpose. They had no delicate transformation; they were in-your-face blazes of color to punctuate the day’s end. If they could speak, they would shout, “I’m over, what did you accomplish?” I missed them. Their energy fed my aspirations. My tank was dry.
Two months after leaving the sand, I returned to the place of my birth and ventured to the new Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. The southerly wind, hot, constant and sultry, ruffled my hair as I hiked over the crest of a gentle hill. I stood waist deep in native grasses tinged gold, far from any evidence of mankind. Crickets, grasshoppers, flies, bees, and others I could not recognize greeted me with a continuous hum. The cloying scent from milkweed, beebalm, thistle, larkspur, wild roses and sunflowers tickled my nose with a freshness only wide open country can provide. “Me-pea-re-key” surfed on the wave of the next gust followed by a gurgling trill…the meadowlark said, “Welcome.”
I settled in to watch nature’s show. High, wispy clouds above a line of mid-level puffies, combined with humidity haze, promised a glorious display. The golden orb descended behind purple popcorn clouds, tinting the feathered sky pale, buttery orange. Transformation happened quick to a pumpkin hue, the only remaining yellow outlined the clouds. The flaring disk peeked beneath the strata, a wink before falling below the horizon to paint the sky with every imaginable shade of red. The world glowed with the fire of the sky and held for a few minutes for the people of the south wind to bask in its splendor before fading to indigo night.
Inspiration coursed through my veins, my old self returned. Although I left, it was, and always would be, home.
Photo: Red Glow by Patrick Emerson, taken on May 23, 2009. Pulled from Flickr, no changes made. Use the following link to view the license - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode