‘I know a spot that I Love full well, ‘Tis not in Forest nor yet in dell, ever it holds me in magic spell…’
– Kansas State University Alma Mater
Yes, I know a place. In fact, it is very near K-State and Manhattan, KS.
It is a place where the wind blows, the hills roll, and my heart takes flight. This place is the Konza Tallgrass Prairie. I was originally introduced to it in around 1995 when taking a course at K-State on Native American history. Our instructor invited students from Haskel Indian Nations University in Lawrence, KS to come out to the prairie with us and teach us how they saw the Natural world. I was hooked the moment I lay eyes on the place.
It seemed incredible that someone had the foresight to carve out a slice of what had once been more than plentiful. But fortunately they did, and it is now there for any whom find out about it to enjoy.
Sadly, my path doesn’t take me near Manhattan as often as I would like. My time there was what most College experiences are: a Time to shed the last vestiges of the children we once were, and learn to become an adult. But whenever I get the opportunity to drive the 2.5 hours west to Manhattan, I do everything I can to take in a hike to a certain hilltop on the Konza Prairie…..a hilltop that can take one’s breath away, a hilltop that from which one can see forever.
This last weekend, I did just that. I drove out and went first to Konza. It had been since the winter since I’d last been there, and I was looking forward to seeing Spring in it’s full majesty on display. But what I discovered was very different.
As I walked up the trail toward the climb to the hilltop, several things began to seep into my consciousness: A burnt wood smell on the wind. Patchy green grass just peaking up from the soil. And the soil….black, not the rich brown one comes to expect in Kansas.
As I continued to walk and looked closer, sure enough: I was strolling through the remnants of a Prairie Fire zone. All over the place, there was black burnt soil and plant debris. There had even some trees that had been caught in the conflagration and were like twisted black disfigured creations one normally sees in pictures of War. Although I had learned that land like this was often set ablaze by rogue lightning strikes, and that the burns actually revitalize the Prairie, It made my heart hurt.
But as I walked further, I saw more and more signs of life. Of rebirth. Of new life emerging from the ashes of the old. There truly IS life after the fire, on the edge of the burn zone, and even in the middle of it.
There’s a lesson here: No matter what circumstances or people in your life may try to burn down, there IS life afterwards. No Prairie Fire will consume you if you trust that life will slowly gain hold again. Just as the air and sun required to support life on the Prairie is abundantly available, the lifeforce in each of us is present, always ready to re-ignite us and drive us to start growing again.
Are you smelling the smoke on the wind? Do you feel the burn and no longer recognize yourself? Be still. Let God and the life he placed inside you begin it’s own healing. Soon, you too will see life begin again on the edge of the burn zone.