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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: California and Kansas are different worlds

© Another Day in the Country

Even though Ramona was home until I started first grade, and I continued to live in Kansas until I was a teenager, I will never really be a local.

I will always be an anomaly, perhaps because I left for a while and perhaps because when I returned, I back here from California.

I’m in between worlds, it seems. Even though I lived in California for more than 30 years, still own a home there, and raised my children there, it no longer feels like home.

So I search, as most of us do, for a sense of belonging, constantly contrasting here and there. California and Kansas are such different places — not just in geography, but also in attitude.

Whenever I’m in California, I’m struck by how different people look on the streets in comparison to people I see in Marion or Herington or Ramona. They are slimmer in California, for one thing. California is what I call the high-rent district, and affluence shows even when people are walking down the street.

The nature of their shopping even seems different. Folks in Napa Valley are sauntering, looking for particular brand, some unique experience, or some new taste sensation. They aren’t just running to get groceries or new shoes for the kids.

For that matter, even the sidewalks and streets look different.

In St. Helena, California, where the wind does not really blow as it does in Kansas, people do more outdoor living. There are tables on the sidewalks in front of restaurants, and people lounge under the shade trees and awnings on Main St.

In Ramona, the wind tends to whip down Main St. and if we had any umbrellas and awnings out, they’d be in peril. Then again, there are no businesses, only the post office.

Every spring I find myself yearning for one of those outdoor table-and-chair arrangements I see in the hardware store with an umbrella over the top for shade. I dream about having one, even though I know it wouldn’t work in my backyard because the lightweight chairs on my porch already tumble across the back yard in every summer storm that blows through.

Old timers look different in Kansas than they do in the Napa Valley. I see older, retired men, driving around in nifty little sports cars to pick up groceries or exercise (with a trainer) at the spa. In Marion County, I’d expect to see this age group in pickup trucks, having coffee at Cenex.

In California, men of retirement age dress like golfers, with white baseball caps and brightly colored polo shirts. Do men in Kansas wear polo shirts? I think they prefer T-shirts with a front pocket to keep their chew, and they wear feed caps

Bicycling is big in California, with bike lanes and bike trails a common sight. I don’t see people biking where I live in Kansas. In Marion County, you see motorcycles not bicycle on a Saturday morning tour. The motorcycle group probably stops at some local dive for coffee and bacon and eggs, not kale drinks, to keep their energy up as the bicyclists do.

One of my favorite sights in California is hot air balloons over the valley early in the morning. I’ve never gone up in one but I’ve always thought it would be so much fun. Of course, you have to get up really early and be out at the launch site when the sun is coming up and the air is still. Up, up and away, and then there’s all the excitement of where you will land when the voyage is over because vineyards (not pastures) cover almost the entire valley floor. It’s an expensive venture.

By contrast, my favorite sight in Kansas is when the sun is going down and the sky turns all shades of pink, orange, and blue, fading to purple. If I’m lucky, I’ll have my camera handy, and there will be some farmer out cultivating as the sun slips below the horizon, and I’ll frame him perfectly with this blaze of glory behind the tractor.

Sunsets are a cheap thrill, available to anyone who’ll look up from their smart phone and count themselves rich in all the important ways — like being able to spend another day in the country!

Last modified Aug. 16, 2018

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