May 29

June 4th, 2014 at 8:00 pm

May 29

For Marilyn

 

Maryland, oh my Maryland.

It’s her birthday today!

My friend till the end:

Marilyn. I could tell all

of the stories – of riding

around town in cars,

of breakfast at The Rock,

of telling tales

at the lumberyard bench

of machetes in the milo,

of swimming

in the horse tank,

of tossing bread dough

across the home-ec

work stations,

of finding the cooking

sherry, of swimming

at the river, of climbing

into the historic cabin behind

her house and finding

“True Detective” magazines

in its loft. I could tell

of walking to school

every morning in the rain

in the snow, in the sunshine.

I could tell of sitting in the

post office, loitering against

the law, and reading the

FBI’s Wanted posters.

I could tell about babysitting

for her neighbors, The Beanies,

or about gym class

and “scooter days,”

about Mr. Smith spitting

into the wind during

track practice. I could

tell about all of these

things, but two words

sums them up:

We laughed.

life on the ground, nostalgia, Poetry & Haiku

May 23

May 23rd, 2014 at 5:54 pm

May 23

Sometimes thunder
comes as a teenage boy,
reckless, loud,
a demolition derby in the clouds.
But today,
thunder is an old man,
hesitant, lurching
across the sky,
the pain of age
pulling at his bones.

Uncategorized

Cover Art – WOTS

May 23rd, 2014 at 1:35 pm

WotSCover_front

Soon, very soon, in a few weeks, my second book, Waiting on the Sky, will be available! I wasn’t sure if putting out the second book would be as exciting as the first, but it is. I know a few things this time around that I didn’t know last time.

This book, like the first, is a collection of my Flyover People columns that were first published in The Emporia Gazette over the past 11 years.

 

Waiting on the Sky book

Sunday morning in Emporia

May 23rd, 2014 at 1:16 pm

I’ve been posting some of the poems I’ve written lately. Here’s one from Sunday morning. I wrote this while sitting on a bench on Commercial Street in downtown Emporia.

 

May 18

Sitting on a bench
along the town’s main street,
two Harleys pulse the air
in front of me while
church bells at the
First Methodist play
“God Bless America.”
A whistle announces
a train from the east,
and heavy freight plows
through the city.
Down the street, parked cars
wait in front of the diner,
where new graduates
face questions from parents
about the future. Maybe once
we could guess the future,
but now the world,
perched precariously
on its axis, tilts more
every day. Who can know
what lies ahead?
All I know is here and now:
birds sing, a young couple
passes by, a cyclist;
a train blares, from the west
this time. On a Sunday
morning I sit and watch
this town, Emporia,
a place I’ve grown
to love. When I graduated,
moved in thirty-three
years ago, I didn’t know
that someday I would feel
like I belonged here.
But I love this town now -
its heartbeat of trains,
the people on main street,
the sense of finally, finally
being home.

E-town, life on the ground, Poetry & Haiku

Rain

May 12th, 2014 at 12:47 pm

 

peony in rain_sm

 

In honor of the rain (finally!), here’s one of my poems that was published in The Christian Science Monitor.

 

RAIN

All day rain has

held to the clouds,

the sky turning from

gray to purple to purple-blue

and back to gray again.

A soft wind, the breath

of spring, pushes the yellow

kitchen curtains into the room.

Now, as dusk falls, so does the rain,

darkening the sidewalks,

the street. As cars dry by

the sound of wet tires

splashes in through open windows.

I listen in the dark,

the rain filling a place

I didn’t know was empty.

 

~ Cheryl Unruh

 

First published in The Christian Science Monitor June 7, 2001

 

Poetry & Haiku, seasons, weather

Bonita Garden

May 7th, 2014 at 8:06 pm

marcia

My friend Marcia Lawrence leans dangerously against the unexpectedly non-anchored peace pole in the brand new Bonita Garden of Grace.

This community garden, for which Marcia wrote the grant, is a project of the Grace Methodist Church, which is right across South Ave. from the garden. Tonight they are having a picnic at the site.

E-town, life on the ground

A Flyover Farewell

April 29th, 2014 at 8:00 am

Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:

sunset

A FLYOVER FAREWELL

For more than 11 years now, my dear readers, I have dragged you along with me on the gravel roads of Kansas. Willingly, I trust.

Eleven years? Even I find that hard to believe somehow. My first column was published in The Emporia Gazette for Kansas Day 2003, and since then I have been putting miles and dust on my car, and sharing Kansas with you as best I can.

But there comes a time to move on, and that time is now. I am ending the Flyover People column. My biggest sadness with this comes from a feeling of separation, because it has been you who kept me going. Each Tuesday evening, I knew that you were settling in with The Gazette, reading the front page news, page 2, 3 and then on to page 4.

I was pleased each time one of you stopped me in Reeble’s to share with me what you remember about your own grandmother’s farm or your small-town childhood. When you told me your own stories, that’s when I felt I had done my job.

And many of you have suggested places for Dave and me to visit. Early on, someone recommended Frannie’s in Yates Center. The place is closed now, but in 2006 Frannie was selling $1 lunches in her second floor restaurant, as she had for 20 years. Another reader suggested Courtney’s in Toronto, still a fabulous place for an upscale Italian dinner.

I’ve always enjoyed touring Kansas, but with the column I had a perfect reason to do so. And it got to be a fun obsession, rolling into a town I had never visited. I began to crave the next town and the next and the next.

Driving down a highway, Dave and I chased road signs. We’d see a sign pointing to Neosho Falls or to Dexter, and we’d veer off the highway onto a county road to see what those towns held for us. What made a community most memorable was when we had a conversation with a resident or two. Even after visiting more than a hundred towns over the past 11 years, I still remember towns and faces and how welcomed we felt by the locals.

When I began writing this column, I wanted my pieces to show the beauty of the world around us, to raise the everyday scenes of Kansas to a place of attention and glory.

There are unpleasant things in and about Kansas, no doubt about it, but I wanted to keep the column positive. I tried to stay realistic; I also wrote about decaying and shabby towns in Kansas, but I wanted to show that even though a town may not be shining all the way through that there are still good things in each town, good people and stories, interesting history, a great little café or a library or a park. Each community has worthwhile things to offer. And I’ve noticed that when residents nurture a place, the town improves.

What’s up for me now? Well, I’m about to release my second book of columns. In the next month or so, “Waiting on the Sky: More Flyover People Essays” will be published and I’ll be traveling around the state promoting my new book.

Although I will no longer write the weekly column, I’ll still be writing, just without the burden of the weekly deadline. Deadlines can be wearying. There’s something about being creative on demand that takes some of the fun and the magic out of writing.

I will write books that will be different in style and content than these columns, although Kansas will likely be the backdrop for future books.

I’m proud to have contributed to The Emporia Gazette over the years and my sincere thanks go to Chris Walker, and to everyone at the paper. Chris told me that I can still send in pieces if I want, and I may do that. So, a Flyover People column may show up in your evening paper from time to time.

But for now, it’s time to go. And for you, my beloved readers, this heart is filled with gratitude.

columns, Flyover Book, life on the ground, nostalgia, traveling

Second-to-last

April 23rd, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Just to let you know, my friends, yesterday’s Flyover People piece was my second-to-last column. Next week’s column will be my Farewell piece.

I’ve written it for 11+ years, and it’s time for me to move on to other writing possibilities, without the pull of a weekly deadline. Deadlines are a mixed blessing, sometimes they help, sometimes they inhibit. I have so many ideas of where I want to take my writing, so you can expect more books in the future.

AND, in a month or so, I’ll be releasing my second book of Kansas columns/essays: WAITING ON THE SKY.

Lots of changes going on. Thanks SO MUCH for all of your support over the years, it has meant the world to me!  xoxo

And more good times are still ahead. Hang with me on these new ventures!

I’ll still be posting here regularly, so keep checking back. :-)

writing

CH-CH-CHANGES

April 22nd, 2014 at 7:25 am

 

Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:

Bread album sm

CH-CH-CHANGES

By the time you read this, I will have mowed the lawn for the first time this year. Redbuds, crabapples and Bradford pears turn Emporia into an April wonderland, trees flowering all at once.

Spring, the most elusive season of all, has finally decided to settle in. Maybe. It snowed last week, followed by a hard frost. Mercury runs up and down the thermometer like a young pianist playing scales.

In this polarized country people don’t agree on much anymore, but I do imagine that most folks enjoy spring. Or maybe we’re all just ready for something new. Kansans tend to greet seasons with gusto. We celebrate the first snow, first daffodils, first day at the lake, the first football game. We put on a new season, wear it around for a few months, and then we’re ready to trade it in for a change of temperature, a change of scenery.

I’m scheduled for another birthday this month, so naturally I’ve been thinking about time and about change. My memory replays all the persons that I have been: a child, a teenager, a college student. I think about the stupid things I’ve done and smart things I’ve done.  We live so many lifetimes in just one body.

And yet time slips away. The calendar spins dizzily, and our horoscopes always promise change. But often, we like to keep things the way they are, or how they were once upon a time. We try to reclaim our youth or a particular way of life. However, society shifts, new laws are written, accidents happen, we get sick, we get well, people leave, we change jobs, we move. The world is continually in motion, taking on and letting go.

One thing that continually shifts is music. Each generation brings its own beat, a reflection of the times.

There’s something powerful for us in the music of our coming-of-age years. My teen years were in the ‘70s, and luckily, that was a time for great music: The Eagles, Foreigner, Kansas, Journey, Bread, Aerosmith, Electric Light Orchestra, America, Fleetwood Mac.

While shopping at Reebles North, I often hear ‘70s music over their sound system which makes me very happy. A few weeks ago in the produce aisle, I was trying to “name that Chicago song.” After a quick check of the lyrics on the Internet, I learned it was “Call on Me.”

When I was a teenager my mom wasn’t necessarily pleased about my musical choices. If she listened to music at all, she preferred the slower stuff like Burl Ives, Bobby Vinton, or Andy Williams. She said she liked the type of music in which she could decipher the lyrics. To Mom, who was of the poodle skirt era, my music was just “noise.”

And so on the eight-hour trips that we occasionally took to Arkansas, Mom didn’t care to listen to the radio. This was in the early ‘70s, before the Walkman and the Ipod of course, but I did what I could to get by. Before one trip, I played my albums on my cheapo record player, recording the music onto a cassette tape. Genius, right? So then for the trip, I took the tape recorder, earphones, an extra set of batteries, and I got to listen to my crazy music all the way to Arkansas.

On that trip, on an Oklahoma highway somewhere west of Tulsa, I made a vow to myself, that when I became an adult I would always keep up with the music of the times. I would be a cool grown-up, and change as the music changed.

I did not see rap music coming.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t have kids because when rap music barged onto the ‘90s scene, I totally understood my mom’s definition of “noise.” I had become an adult.

Rap music aside, I do like most of what I hear on the radio these days.

Music is always going to change. Just like life. We’re able to still listen to ‘70s rock if we choose, but the world has moved on. Sometimes the radio plays music, sometimes it plays noise. But one thing is for certain: everything changes.

Copyright 2014 ~ Cheryl Unruh

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columns, life on the ground, nostalgia, seasons

April 16

April 16th, 2014 at 11:10 am

April 16

Oh wind, you’re such a narcissist -
on and on and on you blast,
a tiresome soliloquy of run-on sentences,
reckless words that set
the prairie afire.
Leave this scarred and wind-scraped land,
take your empty chatter
on up to Nebraska, you’re headed
that way anyway.
Slam the door if you must,
just go.

Flyover Weather, Poetry & Haiku

Our Midwestern Home

April 15th, 2014 at 11:50 am

Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:

sunset Dodge _smSunset, rural Dodge City

OUR MIDWESTERN HOME

When a national weather map shows up on TV, where do we look? At the center of the screen, of course. Map-wise, Kansas is the star of the show, sitting in the heart of the country.

There are pros and cons to every state, but land-wise and location-wise, this a pretty good place to be. In the middle of the country, we have a healthy mix of the four seasons, but we don’t get Texas heat, nor Minnesota cold.

Sure, we’re landlocked, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We can get in our cars and drive well over a thousand miles east or west, or 700 miles north or south.

Last May, I took a trip with my mom to Savannah, Ga. To get there, it took more than 24 hours in the car from Emporia. After three long days of molding bodies to fit car seats, we got our reward – walking barefoot into the Atlantic Ocean at Tybee Island Beach.

Nothing could have drained away the stress of three days on the road as well as feeling the May sunshine on our shoulders, warm waves washing our shins, the tide pulling sand out from under our feet. Every problem in the world disappeared. This was surely heaven.

Tybee Island_smOcean play, Tybee Island, Ga.

A huge container ship, off in the distance, moved slowly toward the horizon. In looking across the ocean, I could actually see the earth bend away from us, and I wondered how the water stays on the planet.

Years ago, on another visit to Georgia, my stepfather took us out onto the ocean in his 22-foot sailboat. We were far enough from shore to watch shrimp boats drop their winged nets to the side and then draw them back in. Seagulls swarmed the boats, diving for food. It was all very picturesque.

So, I understand part of the attraction of the ocean. Well, mostly the beach part. My lack of total enthusiasm for the sea is that once you’re out there, there’s nothing to see through your sunburned eyes except water and sky. I can only assume it’s the same view in every direction, all the way to Portugal.

Blame it on my roots: I’m a Kansan. I like dirt, earth, solid ground. I like walking, hiking. I like cars and driving. I like long straight roads. I like the plains and the prairie.

Now, it’s been a long time ago, but Dave and I once visited New York City. I loved the energy there, I really did. I hope to return someday.

There’s nothing like the thrill of walking into the New York Public Library and seeing those long wooden tables with the green lamps that have been shown in dozens of movies and TV shows. Dave and I walked through Grand Central Station and the beautiful Central Park. We took a carriage ride, a subway ride, and a scary cab ride.

In the Big Apple, I walked with my head leaned back. I don’t really understand skyscrapers, because that’s not how we build things in Kansas.

We walked in shadows of buildings, never seeing the horizon, barely seeing the sky. In New York City, it seemed as if there would be no place to be alone, not truly alone. You would always be within earshot of people or of the city’s noise. I worry about residents who probably never even leave the city.

And that’s why I love Kansas. Within ten minutes of home, we can be out roaming the countryside. In the Flint Hills, we step onto the land and feel the heartbeat of the planet, or maybe that’s just the wind beating in our ears. But we do feel the pulse of the earth as it moves through our feet and into our souls.

Like being exposed to the elements on the ocean, we, too, are vulnerable on the open prairie. Out there, thunder rolls like stampeding cattle. Lighting, hail, or a tornado could take us out without a second thought. But most of the time in the Flint Hills, we feel so protected, so comforted by that buffer of space between us and the crazy world.

We are lucky to live in this state that has plenty of breathing room, plenty of wide open spaces.

This place, this place, this place. Home.

Copyright 2014 ~ Cheryl Unruh

cottonwood_smCottonwood tree, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Strong City

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columns, Kansans, landscape, life on the ground, nature, sky