Iowa -- 'A place of beauty'

Friday, November 12, 2010

The origin of our State's name was derived from a Sioux Indian word, "Ayuxwa" -- in French "Ayoua" and in English "Ioway." The Iowa River is really the namesake of our State, and through the years the word Ioway has taken on another meaning - "a place of beauty."

Right or wrong, the meaning that we attach reflects our sense of pride in our State. Early settlement history by Europeans helped to support that idea. The heritage of those early settlers was one of cleanliness, beauty and a sense of order.

There are many Iowa communities to this day that reflect that European heritage -- the towns are clean and attractive and the neighborhoods without debris and public nuisances with well-cared for landscapes and painted buildings. We all know them, as they have become models for other communities and we take pride in them even if we don't live there.

Beauty in our countryside and landscape ranges from the subtle and pastoral to the spectacular and magnificent. Standing on the lookout at Pikes Peak State Park or the view from the Loess Hills over the wide Missouri River Valley can rival the view of the Grand Canyon or the beauty of the Alps.

We tend to give these places a stronger sense of care and concern because of that beauty and the natural character of those places. Symbolic of that concept are the scenic byways that are spread throughout the State.

It is the less spectacular and more subtle areas of beauty that we need to gain a stronger appreciation for. They may not offer the spectacular vistas and views with great beauty. We often treat the pastoral rolling hills and valleys and the flatter farmland with less respect or regard. We tend to downplay the subtle beauty of those areas, thinking that we don't need to treat them with the same regard and respect as the more spectacular. The natural beauty such as the Little Sioux River Valley through Cherokee County, with rivers winding their way through the rich soils of the former prairies and the attractive images provided by the rolling forested landscapes are truly worth careful consideration and our respect.

We can gain a greater appreciation of these areas by slowing down and learning to look closer. Other ways to slow down are by hiking the trail systems, canoeing the rivers, bicycling the roadways or traveling the "gray roads" (as identified on the State Highway map) at lower speeds. These methods of travel will help to achieve a much greater appreciation of the subtle beauty of Iowa and the surprises it holds.

Also, when the fall colors are at their best, much of our landscape views are at their best. Take the time to slow down and enjoy all of Iowa's roadways, but, particularly the scenic byways (local, state and national). Check the Iowa Highway map for locations.

And be sure to add this goal to your "bucket list."