Friday, May 28, 2010

Sea Change

Oh beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain ...

We aren't to the "amber waves" stage here on the County Line. But what a difference a few days makes!

We got back yesterday after spending a few days in Omaha with Jill & Eric. When we left, I thought maybe - just maybe - I could start to see a little gold through the vibrant green of the wheat fields. But after returning from Big Red country, I could definitely see a yellow tinge to the wheat. There has been a change in the sea of wheat along the country roads of Kansas.

Little more than a month ago, the wheat was still the vibrant green of spring and the heads were still hidden in the stalks.

But now, wheat harvest is on the horizon. It's not breathing down our necks yet, but it's on the horizon, lurking out there somewhere in the future of June.

Poets wax poetically (as poets are wont to do) about the beauty of the ocean - the waves breaking on the beach, the roar as the water washes over rocky cliffs, the bluest of blues hues, the ebb and flow as water surges and retreats.

But I think poet Katharine Lee Bates was onto something. She wrote the words to America the Beautiful back in 1895. Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, took a train trip to Colorado Springs to teach a summer school course at Colorado College. Several sights along the way inspired her, including the wheat fields of Kansas and the view of the Great Plains from the top of Pike's Peak.

The wheat is our Kansas ocean. It ripples across the prairie with peaks and valleys generated by the southerly Kansas wind. (Use your imagination and you can see the gentle waves in the photo below, though it's hard to capture without a video camera.)

As I walk along the County Line, I hear the whisper of the wheat stalks as they brush against their neighbors. Instead of hearing the screech of gulls at the shore, I hear a symphony of Kansas song birds trill out a morning greeting.

Soon it will be the "amber waves of grain" immortalized in Katharine Bates' beautiful words.

I'd better think poetically now about the beauty. When we are in the midst of the chaos of a Kansas wheat harvest and I'm sitting in a truck on a 100-degree day itching from the grain dust, I may have trouble seeing the beauty.

But for now, I'll delight in my front-row seat along the County Line, glad to call Kansas and its amber waves home sweet home.

On this preface to Memorial Day, here are the words of Katharine Lee Bates' great hymn, America the Beautiful.

Memorial Day should be more than an excuse to fire up the grill or get the boat out on the lake. This is the time to remember the pilgrims of our own families and pay tribute to the sacrifice of our country's patriot veterans, which Bates so eloquently expressed in her lyrics:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

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