Ten miles or so past Emporia as you take I-35 toward Wichita, the highway hits the Flint Hills of Kansas and you discover the Plains.
Trees seem to disappear except for the few in the ditches and along what creeks or rivers manage to cut their runs through the prairie. There are few signs of human activity or presence other than the miles upon miles of fences. The rolling hills are covered by grass, except for the occasional breaks of bluffs where sod and soil have broken away. Block out the sights and sounds of traffic, look away from the highway and you could convince yourself that there are no other humans on the planet.
A traveler here could look in every direction and see no sign of other people for as far as the eye could see. And in this place on a clear day, the eye can see for quite a ways.
There is for me something oddly comforting about this expanse of isolation that could easily pass as desolation. In mid-autumn, all green is gone from the grass. Tints and colors shift among the shapes and patterns formed by the bending of the wind and the types of grass growing but they are all the colors of dormancy and decline. A huge sky covers the expanse with only a few widely scattered clouds, thin and small, drifting along. There is a serenity of sorts, a sense that there is nothing here of urgency and demand, the only schedule the schedule of seasons.
We need such places in our lives, even if only in the imagination: some place absent for a short time the rush and push of duty and commitment. Jesus, it is said, often withdrew to lonely places. Every soul needs a place of refreshing. Even the Son of God found it good to excuse himself from time to time from the needs of others.