We often drive Highway 177 between Manhattan and I-70. It gets us from "family" in Bill Snyder Family Stadium to family in Topeka. Though the route is the same, the view is always different. The clouds change. The shadows from dawn to dusk paint different swaths across the peaks and valleys. The grasses and prairie flowers each have their time to bloom, then wither.
But, with clouds billowing in a summer blue sky and light diffusing from the west, we stopped at Overlook Park. It's located on the northeast corner of the Konza Prairie Biological Station and overlooks the Kansas River Valley. The 8,600-acre Konza Prairie Preserve, jointly owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University, is one of the largest tracts in North America dedicated to research on the ecological processes that characterize and maintain the tallgrass prairies. From Overlook Park, the Konza Prairie Preserve stretches south for five miles to I-70 and four miles west.
I gazed toward the horizon and wondered what the settlers thought as they looked across the vast expanse. Though I heard the rush of semis barreling by on the four-lane highway in the present, my imagination turned the white, billowing clouds into the settler's white canvas-covered wagons which would soon circle together at dusk.
Spring, summer and fall's revolving color wheel will eventually fade into the drab brown of a cold, Kansas winter. And still, there is splendor in the monotone palette, a simple loveliness like that of a woman whose natural beauty is unadorned on a "no makeup day."
With triple digit temperatures, the fall seems far away. But the prairie must have an inkling that autumn will soon come. A few orange leaves decorated the green landscape, nature's preview to the next season.
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