Thursday, April 12, 2007

Jim Richardson and the Kansas Flint Hills

Jim Richardson’s photographs of the Kansas Flint Hills appear in the National Geographic's April 2007 edition. These same photographs can be viewed at the website for his gallery in Lindsborg. An exhibit of these photographs is also traveling the state, having started in Topeka in March. These photographs were in Olathe at the Great Plains Mall, where I was lucky enough to see them last Saturday, the last day of the exhibit before it moved to Council Grove. Unfortunately, this exhibit won’t be returning to the Kansas City area.

I encourage any one who happens by this blog to click on the link to Richardson’s photographs. Some of the more memorable ones are “Burning at Sunset,” “Fire on the Prairie,” “Under the Milky Way,” “The Golden Hills,” “Patterns of the Spring Burn,” “Flowing Lands,” “A Sea of Hills,” and “Perennial Partners.”

People unfamiliar with Kansas assume that the entire state is drab and best traversed at night as one drives from Missouri to Colorado. Ian Frazier in Great Plains says that this attitude encompasses not only Kansas but also the entire region because many people, that is, those who haven’t been trained to see, believe that beauty can only exist in the mountains and where the land meets the ocean. Kathleen Norris in Dakota, a book which attempts to disprove the stereotypes associated with that state, makes the same mistake as other outsiders when she refers to “the flats of Kansas.” Actually, Kansas increases in elevation by 1,500 feet as one travels from the eastern edge to its western edge. This upward climb is broken at times and sometimes accelerated when traveling westward by, first, the Flint Hills and, second, by the Smoky Hills. The Smoky Hills are more subtle and not nearly as well preserved because of the bombing range used by the Kansas Air National Guard. One portion of the Flint Hills, on the other hand, remains as undisturbed prairie.

Having grown to love the Flint Hills after moving to Manhattan from Pratt, a small town located on the high plains, my wife says that she wants her body cremated and her ashes scattered on the Flint Hills. Located off of I-35, there is one valley that runs to the north that she has designated as her final resting place.