December 1, 2014 sara.k.tanner@gmail.com

Katie Morrow

There is a simplicity to being a Nebraskan, a sense of serenity in my day-to-day life. I still long for adventure and explore all corners of the globe any chance I get, but I sleep well at night knowing I’ll always return home.  I would never dream of living anywhere else.

One of my deepest regrets is that I have taken Nebraska for granted. Complaining about distances we drive for activities or lack of services in rural areas is combatted with a sharp dose of reality when I realize all I have to appreciate.

The way you can see for miles and miles on the side of the highway, and yet never feel isolation.  A sense of belonging comes along with our state pride.

The scent of free-cut alfalfa, as it lays neatly down in rows behind the tractor’s blades, proving that progress has been made.

The story seen in an old woman’s eyes- wrinkled and weathered but not battered- and the story of sacrifice, perseverance, passion that is told.

The sweet taste of a gulp of water, coming directly from the Ogallala Aquifer, providing nourishment of body and refreshment of soul.

The priceless sense of security knowing my children can run freely around the neighborhood— safe and looked out for by a larger virtual family.

The ability to set out on an early morning run— breathing fresh air with a peacefulness, a contentment, a privacy that is different than feeling alone.

The youthful chants of “Go Big Red,” sounding off more than a victory cry— but rather a youthful energy; a hope for the future.

The sounds of crickets and bullfrogs at night echoing sentiments of harmony between land and the living.

The experience of driving down a dirt road, under a flood of stars, holding hands in silence. There is an openness between you knowing you don’t need to fill the space with sound.

It is pure genius that something as simple and down to earth as Nebraska can have such a magical impact on all who encounter it. Nebraska is able to peel through layers of complexity and simplify life, focusing on what matters most. Like its many shades of weather, Nebraska fully discloses its personality, and shares feelings just as genuine as the people who inhabit it.

When you grow up in Nebraska you gain more than a state of residence.  You become a contributing part of a grand story— the setting so simple, the characters so sincere, the plot lines so perfect. And you are able to share that story as one voice— with togetherness, grit, and heart— for eternities to come.

Whether passing a rugged windmill in the Sandhills, or a stately wind turbine in Boone County, iconic symbols show Nebraska’s power and fortitude. Nebraska is my grandfatherly comfort and security, building on a rich history and looking with the clarity of vision towards the future.

In my work with schools and educators around the globe some of my deepest friendships are with fellow Nebraskans— but not necessarily people I have known since childhood. Rather, the common bonds we share create relationships across geographic miles and generations. We speak the same language, we share the same ideals, we experience mutual trust.  It’s that human element that reinforces what I already know. I am a Nebraskan and always will be.