By Lori Berezovsky ι May 6, 2014
I’ve been reading the book “The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan, which features the perfect storm, if you will, of events that contributed to the Dust Bowl. The author does an excellent job of explaining how the Great Depression, the wheat boom, the introduction of tractors, strong winds, and a seemingly unending drought all came together to render the plains barren and devoid of topsoil.
While trying to take in the scope of the Dust Bowl, I find myself thinking about prairie grass, or more specifically, its roots. Living in the country I often complain, mostly silently and to myself, about the odd mixture of grasses that we call a “lawn”. There has to be at least ten different types of grass, including the bane of my existence, Bermuda, as well as bluestem and some fescue that a previous owner decided was a good idea. We often joke that if we managed to kill all the weeds in our yard we’d be left only with soil. Once we really stop and let that mental image sink in, we leave the weeds alone (mostly), let some prairie grass grow tall, and mow the rest.
All this thinking about grasses and roots leads me to think about my own roots and where I’ve put them. We all sink our roots into a place, sometimes by design, other times by inertia. Northern Illinois will always be home, but Salina has claimed my roots. My husband and I moved here thinking we’d stay about 5 years and move on to larger and greener pastures. That was 20 years ago, and here we still are, unwilling to sever the roots we’ve established here. Our families live between 600 and 5,000 miles away, but here we stay, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that time is marching on and we aren’t getting any younger. I think the kids are starting to worry.
The violence that makes Kansas what it is — the hot, dry summers, cold and dry winters, tornadoes, droughts, insect invasions — all these things have changed me. Sure, I could go home to Illinois and live a fine life, but my roots have taken hold in Kansas. I have friends here, I know my way around, and darn it, I like it here. Sure, some things drive me crazy. I voice my dislike of the way the streets are sort of plowed after every snow storm, as friends and coworkers can attest. But for whatever reason, I’m here to stay. I may look like I’m ready to move on, but my roots run deep through the clay and rock that runs under Salina.
My battle with Bermuda grass may never end. I have a sneaking suspicion that the grass will not only win the battle, but the war, as well. In the end, I hope no one plows up my roots, making my topsoil blow away.
Lori Berezovsky is the library’s Outreach Coordinator.