Friday, May 27, 2011

Kansas Sky

For the first sentient decade of my life, I lived in Chesapeake, Virginia. We lived on the Elizabeth River and were a short one-hour drive from the beach. I was forever in one body of water or another, tromping around the muddy banks of the river at low tide or scouring the rocky bay walls for periwinkles and starfish. Some time around the release of 'Free Willy' and 'SeaQuest,' I declared my intention to become a marine biologist and stalked by twelfth birthday like no other because that was the day I became eligible for SCUBA lessons. I also decided that there was no way I would ever survive life in a land-locked state.

When I was fifteen, we moved to Japan. It was traumatic, to say the very least, but as an island, it fit my criteria for survival. My parents did not think the time was right for SCUBA lessons as we now lived on the second most polluted bay in the world, but as a consolation prize, my mother signed me up for sailing lessons. It was a short-lived hobby out of which I learned how to tack and jibe and heel (my favorite).

Two years later we made another move as Navy families are wont to do. This time we landed in Washington state where we lived in a small town called Silverdale which was close to the Sound and mountains. Though I had long since abandoned the notion of becoming a marine biologist, this was were I finally snatched my SCUBA certification, albeit six years later than anticipated. There are two things I can say about diving in the Pacific Rim. The first is that it is beyond freezing and the second is that it is so, so worth it.

Three years later, I moved, as college kids are wont to do, to Britain. Sunderland, to be exact, where Tessa and I studied for a year. Again, as an island, this made me exceedingly happy and in addition to backpacking as far as we could go, I did a little diving off the eastern coast of Scotland (also freezing).

The next year, my parents were done with their tour of Washington and returning to their home in the south, Mississippi. I followed and finished college there, though I did no diving. You might think that after doing so much cold water diving, I'd be more than a little anxious to try something in water that didn't require layers of neoprene over every bit of your body or peeing in your wetsuit for warmth (I'm kidding, but not every diver thinks that's a joke), but no.

Now, I live in Kansas and I am occasionally baffled by this fact. As far as water goes, it has a few rivers, a few lakes and exquisite summer storms. It is as land-locked as it could possibly be. Kansas is in the very center of this country and as such, the epitome of where I said I would never in a thousand years live.

And yet.

Yesterday, when the sun was high and the sky so wide and so blue, we drove west to Topeka. We drove over rolling hills, past piles of buffalo all sleeping out in the sun, around lazy bits of pasture and adolescent crops. I watched the wind pour away from me, down sweeps of prairie and tall grasses. I watched hawks watch the world below. I saw so much sky. And remembered that it is as wide as the ocean.

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