In 2007 as Oklahoma celebrated the centennial of statehood, I decided to immerse myself a little more in Oklahoma itself, reading its history and visiting places I'd only heard of. The highlight of this endeavor was a November trip in Western Oklahoma. Having grown up in Eastern Oklahoma, there was much of the western part of the state that I had never seen. So, I packed up may car, took along a handful of books on Oklahoma history, and spent almost a week visiting places like Quartz Mountain, the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, Antelope Hills, Boiling Springs, Alabaster Caverns, Little Sahara, and the Gloss Mountains.
Also that autumn, our congregation was visited by Susanna Labsch on an ecumenical visit from the Union of Evangelical Churches in Germany. Over dinner at Iron Star Urban Barbeque, we were discussing Oklahoma history and how the stories were biblically resonant when she mentioned that it was filled with suffering and displaced persons. I found these intriguing theological concepts.
That conversation, combined with my fascination of the bison skull with the red lightning bolt discovered at the Cooper Site and on display at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History (something I've spoken, preached, blogged, and written about numerous times), fired my imagination to compose an "Oklahoma Theology." An idea that expanded, once I moved to Nebraska, to write a "Theology of the Great Plains." This remains an idea in the works and maybe a liftetime project, though I do continue to work on it in a more informal sense, mostly in themes developed in my preaching.
While in Oklahoma, I began to enjoy spending my days off hiking and visiting places--Fort Reno, Roman Nose, the Great Salt Plains, Chickasaw National Recreation Area, the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, etc. And, fortunately for me, Michael was also into inexpensive little trips in the area and excursions to quirky sites and fun diners. Memorable was our night in the Price Tower during a thunderstorm. Or the St. Valentine's Day weekend spent at Quartz Mountain.
When we first arrived in Omaha, we made a plan to see sites in the area every other weekend. That didn't last once we got to know more people and got busy with other things, but we've continued to enjoy the excursion here and there (and have made plans to renew this idea this year). We've enjoyed eating at the Black Crow in Beatrice, admiring the State Capitol, and visiting the Antiquarium in Brownville. We also get into Iowa some, where we've enjoyed weekends at Lake Okoboji, shopping for antiques in Walnut, driving through the Loess Hills, and I even went fossil hunting in the Nishnabotna.
Our first day in town, we went to Barnes and Noble and I bought travel guides and books on Nebraska history. I've also immersed myself in the rich literary tradition of the state--Cather, Neihardt, Sandoz, Aldrich, Kooser, etc.
So, one theme of my Thirties has been the development of a richer sense of place.