I am looking through a different window this week, that of a quite nice honors dorm at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. The amenities have improved since my long-ago year at Mu Hall at the U of South Florida. I am in Lawrence for my favorite biennial conference, that of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE). This twenty-year-old organization brings together students and practitioners of nature writing from all over the world; the conferences always leave me glad that so many good and interesting people are scattered about doing such good and interesting work.
The conferences are generally held in delightful settings, and this year's meeting is no exception. Lawrence, a place about which I knew nothing until deciding to attend, is a classically pretty Midwestern town filled with tree-lined streets of late-Victorian vernacular houses. The campus itself contains a mix of 19th-century and more modern buildings that coexist happily, and I am looking forward to exploring its two museums.
A real surprise to this West Virginian, however, is the hilliness of the town and the campus. Mount Oread, on which most of the campus sits, is more than a thousand feet above sea level, and getting to the conference sessions from my residence hall involves schlepping up several staircases--not what I expected of Kansas. We are told that there are prairie remnants not too far from here, but you couldn't prove it by looking at the woods in Lawrence.
It's good to have one's preconceptions proven wrong; it wouldn't do to become complacent.