After our stop and car trouble in St. Louis, we headed to Nebraska to visit my parents and attend my brother's graduation. It's interesting to see how my relationship with the state has changed over the years. When I first moved to the state, I thought there was nothing to do. I saw myself as being forced to move against my will during the middle of high school. So it's no surprise to find that as I was graduating, I couldn't wait to leave. Fast forward to the present day, and I don't mind coming back to the state. One could even say I find it enjoyable *gasp*. I think I've been able to mellow out through the years. I've been able to remove my hater shades and appreciate more of what God has laid out in front of me... even the rows and rows of corn that we passed along our way.
But my visit was more than realizing a new found appreciation for the land and state. Each time I return, I find more things to do. Here's where we ended up going during this visit.
I truly enjoy flowers and being outside, so this place is just perfect. Every time I visit, there's something new since the gardens are alive and growing. They also have exhibits, classes, demos, and special days when you can bring your dog! I think this part of their mission sums up why I enjoy the Gardens the best:
Escape to an urban oasis of beauty and tranquility to experience the glory of the garden. Discover a hidden sanctuary in the heart of the city. Relax while cultivating your mind in this living plant museum, conveniently located in the beautiful riverfront hills.
This go around, there was an exhibit featuring flower arrangements in the Japanese style of Ikebana. I liked the new floral twist on the traditional style. They were lovely to admire in person, but I most enjoyed seeing the look on my mom's face when I showed her the pictures of these beauties later. She took a Ikebana class when we were living in Japan, and explained to me the special placing of the flowers in the arrangement.
There was also an exhibit in the Conservatory, Metamorphosis, featuring animals made out of various plastic objects. As I was walking through, I admired the artistry, but hoped in my heart of hearts that everything was made out of old, disregarded plastic that had been washed instead of a bunch of newly purchased items. Imagine my joy when I found out that all this was done in order to raise awareness about the impact plastic has on the environment and to show the potential of reclaimed materials.
And if all that wasn't enough, there was also a bonsai exhibit and demo. I was mesmerized when I saw this big potted tree get transformed into a little bonsai tree.
This little gem is tucked away in one of the cities, and kinda sneaks up on you as you're driving through the neighborhood. It's hard to believe that right next to all these houses is over 1,000 acres of land and trail network.
In a single afternoon, you’ll encounter a range of vastly different ecosystems, from deciduous forest to oak savanna, prairie, and wetlands.
There are also many programs and classes available for both children and adults. So while Tom took a hike on the trial at dusk (prime animal viewing time), I took a yoga class taught by my friend's mom. Tom saw a deer up close, and I moved slowly through grounding movements while listening to the rain. I loved how there was something for everyone.
If you're traveling between Omaha and Lincoln, you might notice a glass church set up on a hill. According to the founders, their goal was to
create a place for travelers to seek out the intervention of the Holy Spirit, to be at peace, to heal, to be comforted, to pray, and to discover or re-discover the saving power of Jesus Christ
Open to all people, no matter what faith or religion, peace and rest from any journey can be found here. Out of all the many churches I've visited, this would have to be the most unique due to its modern design and many water features. Water drips from a sculpture in the ceiling into a pool and flows to the outdoor path. It then flows from the Visitor Center through the path to the church. As visitors walk inside the church, they can see the water flow alongside the pews to a pool of water below the "floating" altar.
Ever since I got out of school and didn't have to analyze it anymore, I LOVE symbolism. No matter your belief system, it's hard to not appreciate the symbolism that has been poured into the design of this church. There is even a Way of the Cross trail that takes visitors through Jesus's journey and passion from the Garden of Gethsemane to the tomb. It's 650 yards long - the estimated distance distance that Jesus carried the cross.
It's taken me a while to realize this --- and maybe I needed to listen to Alexander Payne's commencement speech to the University of Nebraska - Lincoln --- but there's more to Nebraska than just corn fields and cattle.