« Previous Story | Front Page | Next Story »


Changing the World, Writing Poetry

By Margy Stewart
Profile | April 20, 2010

MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - When Jan Garton passed away on November 9, 2009, one of the leading voices for conservation in Kansas was stilled.

Regarding Jan's successful campaign to save Cheyenne Bottoms, the Hutchinson News wrote, "Jan Garton's life story perfectly illustrates how one person can make a difference." Jan's public actions and public words are well known.

Less well known iis her poetry, even by her friends. As Jan's executor, I had to clean out her file cabinets, and there I found writing she had never mentioned. Her poems give insight into just what it was that helped her change the world.

Jan had an outsider's view of society, but an insider's view of nature. To her, humans in the aggregate were grotesque. In "I Hate You," she wrote:

This is a finky world with two-bit people.
Faceless faces etched on flesh
Beaming out disapproval or approval
To those they favor or hate
All dependent on their mood.
What a farce!
Ugly and twisted. God-awful!

She had a vision, though, of how the ugly could become lovely and the twisted straight. The catalyst was nature's beauty. In "Quiet Is for Evening," she wrote:

Quiet is for evening just before the setting sun
Timeless
Endless
Lovely.

Openness to such loveliness was also key. Jan let nature touch her, and the experience shaped her very personal sense of God. In the same poem, she wrote:

Out of the earth I draw my comfort.
Not from dreams of almighty gods
But from the need to understand why grass is green
And sky is blue and why birds fly
My god is a god of earth
His name is "god" with a small "g"
He doesn't say here is eternal life
He says this is your life.

Here "your life"--human life--is god-given, not "god-awful"; it is part of the loveliness, just like sky or grass or birds.

Many reformers have been driven by a vision of a utopia that never comes to be. Jan's vision was something she actually experienced--moments of beauty when, through openness, reverence, and the "need to understand," humans could fit in.

Jan was repulsed by a society that was proud of dominating nature. Instead, she was drawn to a community that welcomes non-human creatures as well as human beings. In her too-short life, she helped to pull Kansas away from the former and toward the latter. She made a difference--and her newly discovered poetry helps to tell us how and why.

It also allows us to hear her inimitable voice once again.


Post your own comment here


Do you want to read more? You've only just scratched the surface at the Kansas Free Press. We have so much more to read! Nearly all of the pieces published here are timeless and relevant, regardless of when the articles were first published. To discover more, please take a look at our Table of Contents or go back to our Front Page.


Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links below (clicking through from our site) to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the shopping links provided on a Kansas Free Press page, you are directly helping to support the Kansas Free Press:



About This Page

This page contains just one story published on April 20, 2010. The one written previous to this is titled "Some Rich People Forget that Government Helped Them" and the story published right after this one is "Historic LGBT March to Occur in Manhattan"

Our most current stories are always updated on our Front Page.

Other Archives

Interested in other topics? You may wish to poke around in our Table of Contents to find other sections and archives.

Do you want to explore pieces written by specific authors? You can find archives for KFP writers by reviewing our complete Directory of Authors and Writers here.

Recently Featured Stories

My Response As a Kansan to Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti has come on board The Nation magazine to fill in for Katha Pollitt as the feminist columnist while Pollitt is on leave to write a book. I've found reading Valenti's columns thought-provoking and insightful. She often takes …
Of Angels and God's Dogs

There might be a whole group of us out there--people who value our relationships with animals on a par with our ties to people. "Get over it--it was just a dog" does not resonate with us. Our society places …
Of Angels and God's Dogs

There might be a whole group of us out there--people who value our relationships with animals on a par with our ties to people. "Get over it--it was just a dog" does not resonate with us. Our society places …
Roots of the n-word

While N-word dialogue has slackened following Saline County Commissioner Gile's use of it recently, the word still has great power. So, let's look inward at the N-word. To reach a much deeper path to understanding, simply go to Ad …
Corporate Tax Reform

Basehor, Kans.--For an interesting twist on the corporate tax debate, look at Alan Sloan's opinion in the April 29 issue of Fortune Magazine. In all of the froth about corporate taxation, neither proponents of tax reduction, nor corporate critics, …

News and Opinion





Get Connected

See our FB page!
Subscribe for free!
[Feeds & Readers...]
Follow Kansas Free Press on Twitter, too!
Make Kansas Free Press your home page!

Journalists, sign in.

We're reader supported!

Whenever you use the specific links below to begin any of your online shopping, a portion of your sale goes directly towards the support of this site.

Tech Depot - An Office Depot Co.


Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links above (clicking through from our site) to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the shopping links provided on a Kansas Free Press page, you are directly helping to support the Kansas Free Press.

Thank you for your help!

Notices & Policies

All of our Kansas Free Press journalists are delighted that you are here. We all hope that you come here often, sign in and leave us comments, and become an active part of our community. Welcome!

Our writers are credentialed after referral to, and approval by, the editor/publisher of KansasFreePress.com. If you are interested in writing with us, please feel free to let us know here. We are always looking for Kansans who want to write about Kansas!

All authors here retain their own copyrights for their original written works, original photographs and art works. They welcome others to copy, reference or quote from the content of their stories, provided that the reprints include obvious author and website attribution and links to the original page, in accordance with this publication's Creative Commons License.

Our editor primarily reviews stories for spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting and is not liable or responsible for the opinions expressed by individual authors. The opinions and accuracy of information in the individual stories on this site are the sole responsibility of each of the individual authors. For complete site policies, including privacy, see our Frequently Asked Questions. This site is designed, maintained, and owned by its publisher, Everyday Citizen Media. The Kansas Free Press, KansasFreePress.com, and Kansas Free Press are trademarked names.

© Copyright, 2008-2012, all rights reserved, unless otherwise specified, first by the respective author, and then by KFP's publisher and owner for any otherwise unreserved and all other content.