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Archive for September, 2011

It sounded like raindrops. Looking up from our steep path, it was leaves, dripping from the very tops of the maples and hickories and walnuts. Slowly at first, then gaining speed, they cascaded into one another as we watched them from our perched path.

More than 200 mounds are located in this national monument.

It is quiet as is fitting for a sacred place

It is breathtakingly beautiful.

The path we took was steep and strenuous in parts with many switch backs. It was worth every step.

Come with me for a spell, won’t you?

Be sure to click on the next picture to find the fisherman in the boat. You may need to click a second time.

We did not take pictures of the mounds. They are sacred and we honor that. The mounds are believed to have been built more than a thousand years ago in much of the eastern and midwestern United States. Some mounds are conical and are believed to hold human remains. Other mounds are in the shape of bears and birds. This is the largest grouping of effigies in the States. It was dedicated as a national monument by President Harry Truman in 1949.

Monuments are not always statues and stones.

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I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.   Robert Frost

On our trip up north last week, we first went west, across the Mississippi and into Iowa. What a sweet journey it was as we travelled on a scenic route through corn and soy fields, past vineyards, and into small towns.

Our first stop was a visitor center and rest stop just over the Illinois/Iowa border. We both agreed that it was one of the nicest and most interesting rest areas we have seen with attractive pavilions for picnicking, paths for dog and people walking, and this interesting sculpture, which looked like silos and marked the many forms of agriculture in Iowa. Can you find the pig in among the soybean and ear of corn?

We spent the afternoon in Williamsburg, where Tom’s father grew up, and that is the subject of a blog of its own. After walking about and even picking up a few pieces of family history, we angled northeast and through some of the prettiest pieces of America you can imagine.

Cattle and corn, church steeples and farms dotted the rolling hills as the storm clouds gathered toward the west. We could see rain in the distance and long lines of rain miles away. At one point, the rain reached us, with the sun shining in the east. I remarked that there had to be a rainbow out there somewhere, and there was, just as we reached the outskirts of Strawberry Point.

Doesn’t everyone get out of their car, rain falling with the sun shining, and start clicking pictures of a double rainbow with perfect arcs? Did I mention we stopped in the parking lot of a funeral home? That’s us. Death defying travel.

A few miles later, the rain abated, and we were treated to this magnificent sunset.

It was dark and we were tired by the time we reached our motel. We had to wait until  dawn to see the Mighty Mississippi flowing just outside our window.

We drove through Iowa in search of family roots. We went to Minnesota to spend some time with a growing family branch. What we  found along the way was family all around us. In the rolling hills and valleys. In the rainbows and the sunsets. It really does make a difference when we take the road less traveled.

Thanks, Tom, for the rainbows and sunsets!

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My Shadow

My Shadow

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow -

Not all like proper children, which is always very slow;

For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,

And he sometimes goes so little that there’s none of him at all.

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,

And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.

He stays so close behind me, he’s a coward you can see;

I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;

But my lazy little shadow, like and arrant sleepy-head,

Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

 From “A Child’s Garden of Verses” by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Kezzie reminded me of it the other day as she discovered her shadow in the park.

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Teetering

When asked if I really had a teetering pile of books after a recent comment, I decided to photographing a few of them. I meant to post them before we left on our little trip, but, packing and baking and all that goes into leaving got in the way.  So, here they are, teetering and tottering, with just a bit of primping to impress you.

Below is my most recent hoard from two libraries. Those two art books on the bottom were a challenge to carry to the car. Do you ever have to wrestle over-sized books?

The real teeter-totter of book lust in in the bedroom. I straightened these up a bit, in part to save myself from embarrassment and in part because I was afraid the pile would fall over in the middle of the night.

How about you? Are you a book at a time sort of person, or do have piles of books nearby?

I do have shelves of books, thanks to Tom’s design and carpentry skills. I featured our library here.

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Legend of the Falls

Legend has it that I learned to walk with this doll. It explains a lot about me. I’ve been known to trip and fall both up and down stairs, walk into plateglass windows, topple backwards while sitting writing, feet dangling from my chair . . . oh, the agony and humor of it all.

The doll was given to me the Christmas I turned one. It was given to me by my godparents. Sophie and Bill were both related to me on different sides of the family. It took me years to figure it out. In fact, I still have to think about it. Sophie was my grandmother’s niece and Bill was my grandfather’s nephew. They were both exceedling  kind and generous to me, visiting often, attentive to my birthdays,  holidayss, and religious observances. They were a remarkable presence in my life.

The doll has no given name, for some odd reason. She does have a bisque head and is wearing clothes that were mine. Her eyes  open and close with  the thickest eyelashes you could ever imagine.  She has spent most of her 60 years in a box, wrapped up to keep her safe, and labeled “Penny’s Doll”, yet, she still has the sweetest of smiles upon her rosy-cheeked face.

She stands on rollers, much like roller skates. The are covered with  rubber-like shoes. They are original. In fact, “Penny’s Doll” is an original, in my mind at least. There is a wind-up key on her side and a pull-out lever on her back. A few turns of the key and a slight pull of the lever allows her to walk on the floor. Her head turns from side to side and her one arm swings back and forth as she glides across the floor. She lost the use of the other arm a long, long time ago, but, when I set her in motion I am always amazed at how well she gets on in spite of her slight afliction.

Legend has it that I was on the floor watching my doll take a stroll across the kitchen when I  made my first, tentative steps at walking. I can only imagine the scene this caused; the excitement, the noise, the pride and the panic.

“Look, Pete, Penny’s walking”.

“Violet, she’s walking funny. Like the doll”.

“Oh, Pete, should we stop it?”  

Yep. It explains a lot about me and my unique coordination. I did, after all, learn to walk observing a mechanical, rolling  doll.

We are up north observing our real rolling doll, Kezzie, who runs as much as she walks, with much more agility than her grandmother ever has shown and will be rolling on back to the cutoff soon.

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It was one of those September days that makes one’s heart sing and one’s hands extend forward to welcome in Autumn.

The temperatures hovered around 70° Farenheit, the wind danced and made shadows with the sun, and the crisp call of fall was noticeably sitting in the wings.

There was the sweet potato vine, reaching for the corner of the house,

and the oak leaf hydrangea, just starting to turn red; a hint of what is to come,

while the setting rays of the shifting sun sent shadows against the wall.

It brought to mind the lines of an old song and Frank Sinatra: fairy tales do come true, they can happen to you, if you are young at heart.      www.youtube.com/watch?v=bslSxYwgwlE

I hope nature brings you weather to enjoy today, dear friends. I’ll be off line for a few days. See you soon.

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My admiration of Louisa May Alcott is known among my friends and documented on these cyber-pages. I can still see the tear stained pages of my first copy of Little Women as Beth takes her last breath; how I tried not to sob on my library book, failing miserably.  I was a young girl, a not-so-young girl, a granny, and I’ve treasured Alcott’s books and books about Alcott ever since that first schoolgirl reading.

We walked around Walden Pond a few years ago. I imagined Jo and Laurie skating on ice there and Meg falling in. I imagined Alcott’s friend, Henry Thoreau, talking to a young Louisa as she looked on in admiration. We walked through the rooms of Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts and I marveled at the simple desk she penned her most famous novel and many more works and we visited Concord’s cemetery, Sleepy Hollow. Author’s Ridge is high on top, overlooking the town, and it is there that Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau are buried and there where Louisa May rests in the simple grave above the famous town.

When my friend Sharon told me of a presentation of Alcott at the Elmhurst Historical Museum, I just knew I had to go.

Leslie Goddard, in period costume, a deep purple day dress with long, flowing sleeves and lace collar, gave a riveting impersonation of Louisa May Alcott, speaking about her experiences as a Union war nurse during the Civil War. Taken from Alcott’s “Hospital Sketches”, Ms. Goddard excelled in bringing the author to life with the wit and compassion found in Alcott’s writing.

Goddard, as Alcott, told of her eagerness to be part of the war and how she enlisted as a nurse with Dorothea Dix. She told of the hardships of war and the horrible injuries suffered and of the dying man she tended to, staying with him until his last breath, holding his hand and then carefully prying it away, his grip still tight after he passed away. She also told of the illness she suffered, typhus pneumonia, after only being at the hospital for three weeks and which ended her military nursing.

It was an amazing dramatization. I wish you could have been there to see it. Thank you Sharon for telling me about it and sharing the experience. It so gratifying to spend time with friends, learn new things, and be further enlightened about a favorite author.

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