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Monday, April 03, 2006

Camping in Kansas

Kansas is very good at some things. I once read a scientific debunking of the popular belief that Kansas was flatter than a pancake. Well actually it proved it rather than debunked it, but it all comes down to your concept of flatness.

Ultimately the point was that if you scale a pancake up to the size of the state Kansas (and round these parts, some people clearly have), you'll find that Kansas is in fact flatter. The problem there was that it really didn't address Kansas so much as the pancake. They really just debunked the notion that pancakes themselves are flat to begin with, if you make them five inches in diameter and scale them up to be five hundred miles wide.

For a true comparison you should of course scale up the ingredients and use a five hundred-mile diameter pan. Then I believe the pancake would be flatter, and this would also be truer to everybody's popular concept of a pancake. But Kansas isn't that flat anyway.

My point is that Kansas, believed by people in Ireland, and most places outside Kansas, to be flat, is not. If it were, the Flint Hills would be called the Flint Plateau.

Southeast Kansas is one of the most beautiful corners of the world I have seen. Quietly beautiful, not spectacular with mountains, coast, or even plains. It has much in common with the Drumlin country of counties Cavan and Monaghan in Ireland. Small rolling hills peppered with wild sunflowers and hedge trees.

I went camping this weekend with my son. Because this is the land of amenity and convenience we didn't use a tent. One day I suspect the word camping will actually mean certain activities and not require the word tent at all.

So we walked on trails, and we walked on railtracks, and we indulged in a spot of archery, and melted marshmallows, and ate burgers, and listened to wildlife, and played at a pond, and threw stones in the Kaw river, and - it being Kansas - had a look at a tornado shelter, and the most luxurious fabulous shanty one could imagine.

I have one image stamped in my brain. Like an icon. One image. One painting. Apart from the memories, that's what I'll take away from this weekend. I'll let you know when I start painting it.

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