Today, I had the opportunity to head out to Lawrence, KS – my favorite Little Hippie Town on the Prairie. Lawrence, about 40 minutes west of where I live in the KC suburbs, is home to the University of Kansas. Like many college towns, it is a very artsy, socially progressive community full of natural foods coops, quirky shops and independent bookstores.
I attribute its uniqueness in KS partially to its history- founded by Yankee abolitionists in Kansas Territory during the era of “Bleeding Kansas” – 150 years later, it still runs politically blue in a very red state. Another historical claim to fame is that Lawrence was burned by Quantrill’s Raiders during the Civil War. The city’s seal commemorates the conflagration of the town with an image of a phoenix rising from the ashes (that the seal appears on city public works vehicles and fire trucks used to strike me as kind of hilarious).
My purpose in heading out to Lawrence was to teach my friend (an artist who makes gorgeous papercuts) how to make recycled paper and upcycled envelopes. We had a most excellent time papercrafting, and I also got to play with her dog and her very cute child. On my way home, I specifically avoided the amazing yarn store (should be called “Shelob’s Web” for its power to lure in unsuspecting knitters!) and instead stopped by the Merc. I treated myself to a KANbucha Gingerose kombucha (made locally in Lawrence and is on tap at the Merc cafe.) It was a delicious and bubbly beverage, and I highly recommend trying it if you’re in the area.
I lived in Lawrence for 3 years while I was in law school. While it was in some ways a challenging time (I might have referred to Green Hall as “Mordor” a time or two…), I also look back on the town with a lot of affection. I definitely feel a certain pang of nostalgia driving around, but also excited that the town keeps growing and changing. There’s nowhere else quite like it.