Monday, October 20, 2008

the red earth of Tara

This past weekend was filled with hiking through two different state parks in Illinois. It was perfect. The air was crisp and cool, but not too cold; the leaves were starting to change color; the openess and freedom of the outdoors was beckoning.

Saturday, at Siloam Springs State Park near Griggsville/Pittsfield, we took a canoe out into the middle of the lake and just sat, enjoying the spectacular views of nature around us. After attempting to climb a rock cliff, falling down a ravine and being hit by falling rocks, we left the state park, stopping in Griggsville for some food.

Griggsville was hosting one of the starting points for the annual Pike County Fall Color Drive. Unfortuately for Pike County, the colors aren't out in full force yet; however, that didn't dampen the excitement and enthusiasm of the locals who were hosting a mini-town festival in conjunction with the Fall Color Drive.

One of the things I miss now living in Springfield is your typical small town festival. As we walked around the booths offering everything from candles to "country folk art", it reminded me of the small town festivals I went to in Ashland growing up. Getting a ribeye steak sandwich with barbeque sauce at the FFA tent just make it that much more nostalgic. (And picking up a giant bag of kettle korn made it a more gastro-exciting day!)

The nostalgia for the old days didn't really sink in, however, until Sunday, when we went out to Site M, or the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area, as it's now known. (See why the locals still call it Site M?) Site M is a 26 mile-square tract of land that consists of 6,000 acres of timberland and 4,200 acres of prime farmland and rolling hill prairie for prairie grass conservation. This massive conservation initiative is mere 10 minute drive from my parents' house; turning onto the road leading to Site M included directions such as "ok, now turn right at Alicia Rogers' house". Walking through the open areas and the dense forests, passing campgrounds that I have camped at numerous times, seeing farmers in the fields cutting beans, the nostalgia for small-town life hit me again.

At the end of the day, when the sun began to set, the view of a million colors painting the sky, covered with a soft haze of dirt stirred up by the combines in the fields, was truly breathtaking. I don't get to see that living here in Springfield. And I wonder if all the conviences of living in the city is worth it in the end. For all the perks, what have I given up?

The outdoors and country atmosphere is part of who I am. It's nice to get my batteries recharged by nature and the open country air once in a while.

'You get your strength from this red earth of Tara. You're part of it, and it's part of you.' - Rhett Butler, Gone With the Wind

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