A Review

Scott Harber wrote a nice review of Flyover People:

FlyoverPeople: Life on the Ground in a Rectangular State by Cheryl Unruh. Quincy Press 2010.196 pages.Paperback. $20 shipping and handling included at www.flyoverpeople.net.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This phrase has gone through many different interpretations since its base in the third century BC Greek, but still subtle beauty goes unappreciated unless one spends enough time surrounded by the subtleness. This seems to be especially true of so-called “Flyover States”; states with nothing of societal interest in them. It appears that being born and raised in such places aids in the development of appreciation of this beauty. This case is especially true in the case of Cheryl Unruh’s appropriately named Flyover People. Cheryl Unruh was born and raised in Kansas and it is this perhaps more than anything that has allowed her weekly columns in the Emporia Gazette, written since 2003, to gain recognition from the Kansas Press Association, the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, and the Kansas Sampler Foundation. Unruh is a true Kansan and it is through the plain language of the plains that the existential beauty of America’s Heartland enters the hearts of those who read it.

Unruh divides her columns into eight sections that, while clearly Kansan, are also ubiquitous to other regions. Effortlessly gliding from “Pure Kansas” through “Life on the Ground”, lingering on the delicacies of “Seasons” and, appropriately “Nature”; Unruh mimics a Kansan’s camaraderie with the land and thematically ties in her title with “Earth and Sky”. This logical division is but an organizational schemata; the theme of appreciation of beauty is present throughout. Two stories masterfully carry the beauty of Kansas and each are in separate parts of the obligatory division: “Not Even on the Map” from “Seasons” and “A Tale of Two Landscapes” from “Earth and Sky”.

“We’ve got trees, by golly … [but] apparently our area isn’t fluffy enough to pull in travelers. That means more leaves for the rest of us.” This section of Unruh’s collection of columns eloquently explains the paradox of Kansan life; to appreciate true beauty, one must first be open-minded enough to recognize it despite societal produced perceptions. It is through this requirement that Unruh presents the reason many Kansans can see the beauty while outsiders cannot: “What Jay dislikes about Kansas is exactly what I love—the openness.” In order to appreciate the beauty of Kansas that Unruh represents in her book, one must first be open to accept beauty, regardless of the differences of perceptions. Perhaps this is the reason why native Kansans can appreciate Kansas beauty easier than others: we were raised in the openness of the plains. We don’t have to try to take it all in at once; we have learned to take the landscape’s beauty in pieces because it is far too large to appreciate all at once.

Too often in life beauty goes unappreciated because of socitey’s and life’s pressures. It is far too easy to dismiss taking a moment to appreciate what one has because of the desire to add to one’s wealth. It is far easier for one to appreciate nature’s beauty when they are surrounded by it. Kansas is the perfect place to do so. Its openness lends itself to displaying the wonder of nature without reserve. Unruh represents in many more words what the greatest religions of the world have known to be true for ages: one cannot be satisfied if their spirit is deprived, nor can they be satisfied if their physical body is deprived; there must be a balance. Unfortunately society today tends to focus on the material rather than the ephemeral. This book is an invitation at first to live vicariously through another and to begin to whet the appetite of the spirit for more sustenance. Cheryl Unruh invites the reader on a journey through a life being lived to the fullest, to a life where individuality is appreciated more than society’s demands, to a complete life. It is through the magnificent narration of Cheryl Unruh that the audience is taken on a grand journey. However, despite the masterful expressions Unruh uses to describe and praise Kansas, even she realizes when old words speak louder than new:

How often at night when the heavens were bright

With the light of the twinkling stars

Have I stood here amazed and asked as I gazed

If their glory exceeds that of ours

The air is so pure and the breeze is so fine

The zephyr so balmy and light

That I would not exchange my home here to range

Forever in azure so bright.

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