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Sunday, June 3, 2007

What's so cool about Kansas? Let me count the ways.

I am a native of Michigan. I hate being landlocked in Kansas. I hate being so far from the Great Lakes. I hate not having the north woods to wander through. I hate the lack of snow in Kansas. I hate, hate, hate summer days that go well over 100 degrees. (Anything hotter than 90 is truly not natural as far as I'm concerned.)

But over the last twenty something years an odd thing has happened. I have begun to love my adopted state. First it was grudging. (Oh yeah, those Flint Hills are kinda pretty.) Now, it has become full fledged adoration. (The wide open sky. The endless theatre of the clouds. The chummy artistic community of Lawrence. Oh, let me count the ways!)

I still love Michigan. I still love the Great Lakes, and it is quite likely that some day I will return. Right now, though, I find that there is much to love in the subtle beauty of the prairie and its cozy small towns.

So, it is with great delight that I take note of two interesting Kansonian happenings.

Mousie Cat over at Evolving in Kansas has a very cool list of what's right and what's wrong about Kansas. I do agree with much of the list, including the fact that it's such a delight that the Creation Museum is NOT in Kansas. However, I take umbrage at Mousie listing The Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kan., as one of the bad things about the state.

The Garden of Eden is truly cool. Well, it is also weird, as in very, very weird. While I would not have wanted to be either the wife or the children of its creator Samuel P. Dinsmoor, the sculpture garden is a worthy and fascinating work of folk art. Much of it also has a populist bent and provides interesting perspective on the history of Kansas politics.

Also of note, is the Kansas Sampler Foundation's contest to pick (drum roll please) the Eight Wonders of Kansas. The 24 finalists have been chosen, and you can go to a web site and vote for your favorites. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius will announce the winners on Kansas Day, Jan. 29, next year.
PHOTO: This is a small slice of Kevin Sink's gorgeous portrait of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, which along with the Flint Hills is one of the Kansas features nominated to be named one of the eight wonders of the state. Personally, it's one of my favorites. Visit the link to get the full impact of Sink's magnificent photos.


Mousie Cat said...

Hi there --

Thanks for your good post on what's good and bad in Kansas. You said you agreed with most of my picks, but you said you thought the Garden of Eden didn't belong on the "bad" list. Allow me to explain.

The Garden of Eden may be, as you suggest, a work of art. However, if anyone truly takes in the worldview of the "artist," via the booklet handed out there, or simply from viewing the "art" there, it is quite frightening.

I wonder why so many older men (I assume Samuel was older when he started this project) turn to depictions of heaven, hell, satan, angels, etc. in their dotage. The crew of "Roadside Revelations" (on KCPT-TV - Channel 19 public TV) has explored many, many of these exhibitions. I can only believe that they result from fear of the hereafter, promoted by pastors of the hellfire-and-brimstone variety. Either that, or (my opinion), these guys are just a bit crazy.

I don't believe religious insanity is something to be proud of. Not even in the case of John Brown. 'Course, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. That's what the voting is all about!

Diane Silver said...

Thanks, Mousie, for the very interesting comment. I can't tell from it whether or not you have ever visited the Garden in Lucas. I did, but it was many, many years ago, so my memory may be hazy.

Dinsmoor was quite old, I think, when he started working on the Garden. I also think he was more than a bit crazy, although there seems to be some disagreement about whether his vision was insanity or just the wish to make money. When I visited what struck me was he he seemed to put such a huge emphasis on everyone having to pay to view the Garden and turning his entire house and yard into a paying attraction, except for a tiny portion where he and his family lived.

I'm afraid I don't remember my tour of the Garden well enough to say whether or not Dinsmoor's nutiness was of the religious insanity sort. He did deal in religious imagery, but then, so did most people of his era. I don't remember walking out with the impression that he was a religious zealout.

What did surprise me was the populism of his depictions, the fact that he took the imagery of the Bible and cast bankers and railroads as the bad guys. In many places the Garden seemed much more of a political statement than a religious statement.

Honestly, what truly creeped me out was his stipulation in his will that people view his body and pay to do that. (He had himself put into a vacuum sealed cement casket with a glass window) I understand that tourists are no longer allowed to view his body because he has, well, gone a tad bad.

I don't agree with religious zealotry. bit I do believe that the Garden of Eden is a fascinating site. It's worth preserving, and it certainly is a wonder.

I do find your perspective fascinating. It's one I hadn't considered before. I will keep it in mind.

I hope this makes sense and that you are well.