Technically, I don’t know if Wichita qualifies as the edge of the Midwest, I was just feeling the vibe of one of the best collections of poetry I’ve found recently–A Hotel Lobby at the Edge of the World–and which I brought along for the drive to Kansas. I’d never found myself in Wichita until now, and I’ve only been here a little over twelve hours and have not yet ventured into the city (I have toured the hotel, including the lobby), but I am, as with all travel, excited to see the structure of this city. The world has so many little corners, bends, nooks, crannies–it’s a world meant for exploring. As of late I’ve been hooked on the blogs for Hitch Hiker’s Handbook, a place of amazing photographs and a look into many different areas of the world.I’ve been hooked for a long time on maps, travel guides, and travel biographies. For other hopeful travelers looking for good books with some inspiration, it seems many know the poignant book Eat, Pray, Love, and a few I would add to the list are Tales of a Female Nomad, Jaywalking With the Irish, Blue Highways, Journey Into America, and the Steinback classic Travels With Charley in Search of America. A good website: http://www.mikesroadtrip.com/.
It feels good to see a new place, to walk a strange street, to watch the news of a different city and meet people and in both cases see the sameness of us no matter where we are from, to appreciate how beautifully created our world is, to make coffee in your hotel room and watch the sunrise through a new window, to stand in a hotel lobby and feel like no matter where you go in the world you will always find a place waiting for you and inviting you, warmly, to stay awhile.
When was the last time you traveled? Even if just getting in a car and driving one, two or three hours away. If you haven’t travled for a little while, or you have, anywhere you go, your mind will thank you for it. Your soul will thrive from it.
I’m not far from home, five hours, but the drive down a highway surrounded with scenery mostly avoiding urbanization–cows, horses, thick collections of trees, smooth hills filled with refreshing green not yet withered against the October chills–makes me feel like I’ve been hidden into some faraway city surrounded by days of travel. Not a bad way to greet the morning. What brings me to Wichita is my husband’s cow-killing duty–he works in his family-owned business of Halal meats. For those unfamiliar, halal in Islamic vocabulary means lawful or permissable; meats that are halal have met a religious dietary standard of preparation that makes them good and permissable for consumption. Although I am not participating in this part of the journey–I admit to not being a vegetarian but seeing a live cow just before its slaughter makes me feel bad for the animal, so I’m happily holed up at the La Quinta while husband visits the factory–what I have learned about halal preparation has been interesting. A part of the process is to say a blessing for the animals who are killed for consumption, a double meaning of offering thanks for the food we have access to and to offer peace to the animal. It’s not so different from Native American prayers and ceremonies for offering thanksgiving for a hunt and expressing respect for the hunted animals. Happily, the Halal process is done as humanely as possible, as one would hope in all such cases, whether the animal is being prepared by religious standards or not.
As an animal lover who does not consider herself much different from all other species in kingdom Animalia, I respect the job that has to be done but I’ve also said my own prayer of thanks and blessings for today’s cows (since setting them free is not an option) and all other food-source animals while sitting in the comfortable space of the hotel.
Soon, it will be time to view the city a little more. The hotel is where many city hotels are–situated in an area where you can find your nation universals, or at least commons, like Starbucks, Denny’s, JC Penney, Sears, Target, etc. From the business perspective, I know it makes sense for companies to expand widely through the geographic areas of cities and states, building local customer bases and keeping business when those locals travel to new areas and look for their trustworthy places to shop, eat, or otherwise visit in. From a psychological perspective, I think it also makes us feel comfortable to see familiar buildings in an absence of familiar faces and geography, helping us get settled in and oriented. Neither perspective is a bad idea, especially as not everyone wants to travel away from a familiar road.
I look forward to all roads, so I’ll do a little research for good roads to follow, and if we get a chance to deviate to an experimental road then we will follow the natural progression. Cities, villages, streets, hills, countries are meant to be explored.
Wichita is the largest city in Kansas, and the 49th largest U.S. city (internet makes getting the stats on a new region quickly so much more blessedly easier). It is mid-October, with crisp air and trees starting to change and the sky occasionally blurring with passing flocks of dark birds finding their warmer winter locations. We have a car, a small amount of funds, warm coats, and a love for new places–we have the essentials for getting to know a city we’ve never met before.