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Hear ye!

We readied ourselves for the day, ate our breakfast in the hotel, gathered our stuffed backpacks, and walked the short distance to the National Mall, It was a brilliant day, perfect for celebrating America’s Independence. The girls were old enough to have an understanding of the why we celebrate the 4th of July, and young enough to maneuver around a city neither Tom nor I had been to.

Floats and citizens in costumes were finding their spots in the queue that would become a parade. We chatted a bit with a few participants, especially a woman with miniature horses. It was friendly and fun and not unlike the parade participants that would be gathering back home.

We the heard  “hear ye, hear ye, hear ye” summoning all, from the National Archives . There the Declaration of Independence was read by a scribe in period costume. I remember this moment clearly, standing in my 20th century clothes (it was still the 20th century) and imagining this treasonous document being read across the land more than 200 years past. I reflected on what this might have felt like, how anxious, determined, frightened citizens must have felt.

We hopped on a D. C trolly which took us hither and yon, the rest of the day.

We covered a lot of ground.

Our first stop was Arlington National Cemetery. The rows upon rows of headstones was sobering, the history of Arlington insightful. I choked back sobs at the eternal flame, remembering it first being lit as young girl when President Kennedy was assassinated, amazed at the well of emotions the small flame evoked. We viewed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and other points of interest amid a respectful grouping of people, from all walks of life, on these hallowed grounds.

Our day took us to the Lincoln Memorial, where we were free to view, to read the inscription, to share the history of this president and his presidency with our young daughters. We stood in amazement at the throng of people around the Reflecting Pond – all ages and all walks of life. We visited the Viet Nam Memorial, where I was helped in locating the name of a boy I went to school with, and we listened to a man, dressed in a safari outfit, looking for signatures to get his name on the ballot for United States President. I remember at first thinking he was a Park Ranger – how easily we can be fooled. There were, however, National Park Rangers all around us, for the National Mall is a National Park.

Tom and Jennifer and Katy and I went into the American History Museum and then the National Archives, where we witnessed another changing of the guard at the documents. (I think it was the Declaration of Independence. My memory is a bit foggy as one of our girls managed to walk in front of the armed guards in the ceremony. A moment we all remember.)

The Washington Memorial was closed for repairs that summer, but, we still stood in awe as we gazed upward. The Mall began to fill as dusk approached. We were ill-prepared, but, none-the-less decided to stay for the music and the fireworks on the Mall. This was long before the concerts that are now performed. There was a band and some vendors on the perimeter of the grand lawn. We purchased what were the absolutely WORST hot dogs I have ever had, but, they are a part of our 4th of July DC story, as is the portrait ingrained in my mind of the four of us, on the 4th, sitting on our jackets on the lawn as the grass filled with spectators. The music played on and the stars sparkled in the sky, even as helicopters scanned the area, protecting space above.

As night fell, the crowd grew, anticipation mounted – and finally fireworks filled the sky. I remain grateful that my family and I could observe this American holiday in our National Park – the National Mall.

Photos

Right –  Assembly Room, Independence Hall, Philadelphia. This is the room where the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were debated and signed. My photo from a trip to Philadelphia.

Left – Ben Franklin

 

 

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Wild Kingdom

It started when I opened the back door to go into the house. A frog hopped boldly in front me, over the threshold and headed toward my purse, which was on the floor inside. Silly frog. I didn’t have any money.

Pictured is our newly acquired “weed whacker”. As long as it stays out of the potted plants, it will be a peaceable kingdom here – or so I thought just as I turned and saw the hanging pot of fuchsia suddenly swinging a bit too fast.

Out the front door, wheezing as I went, just as a chipmunk scurried down into the pot, staring at me behind a leaf – in defiance. “Outofthere” (which became one word as I rapped on the pot, causing the chipmunk to literally bounce up in the air, out of the pot and into the weeds, er, hosta, whilst the crew of construction workers next door stopped to stare at me. (Chippy the Chipmunk was fine – just momentarily dazed.)

All’s well that ends well.

 

Just as the chipmunk scurried out of our little kingdom, a hummingbird arrived and proceeded to sip from the blossoms adorning the hostas then flitted over to the fuchsia flowers. I love these little moments in life.

 

Rockin’ Pneumonia

Isn’t it amazing how lyrics to songs pop into our heads and fly out of our mouths at unexpected moments in time?

This “oldie” has been playing in my head,  for some time now.

It all started just before Mother’s Day with sniffles and sore throat growing to fever pitch, then a hacking cough with a general feeing of malaise. A bother, but, a few friends were wearing similar symptoms of an upper respiratory/cold ailment, and I thought it was just something going around. It was Mother’s Day, which actually had me “down for the count” and even (horror-of-horrors) responding to Katy’s Mother’s Day text telling her not to call later – we would talk soon. Sigh.

The symptoms abated and I managed a most delightful trip “up north” to experience the joy of our Ezra’s end of-year-kindergarten program. Yes! He’ll be heading into first grade! I was still coughing, but, felt up to the drive (and all the Japanese gardens of my earlier post). I was sad to leave my Up North family, but, needed to return home to the Antler Man, some pending responsibilities, and to attend the Lyric Opera with Jennifer – my Mother’s Day gift of seeing West Side Story!

My cough, however, just never went away. In fact, it became more frequent, and I realized that “enough is enough”!  Something else was going on. The long and short of it is I have walking pneumonia – when I would much rather be boogie woogie-ing! I am much improved, but, the cough creeps in as does the fatigue that is common in this ailment. All will be well, but, in the meantime, I’m relegated to the easy chair with my “walkin’ pneumonia” as I boogie woogie in place.

Some of you will remember this tune.

Guidepost

We were at the hospital; Ma on her day off, my sister, a high school student, on spring break. I was home from college on my own break. None of us had a driver’s license. My aunt was the appointed driver, putting miles on her car gathering us each day, taking us to the hospital, then bringing us home, before going to her own evening job.

My dear mother had rheumatoid arthritis. Her feet, in particular, were effected by it, as were her hands. She worked as a cashier, standing on her feet for hours at a time. Bayer aspirin was the drug of choice in the years before steroids and biologics.

There was a small slate and chalk on the table near Daddy’s bedside. His vocal chords had collapsed from the cancer that would soon take his life, yet, he looked right at me and spoke. His voice was raspy, but his words succinct. They were directed to me. He met my eyes and spoke. They were among the last words he ever said to me.

“See what your mother is doing? She can barely stand on her own feet, yet, she is rubbing mine”

Bedridden, he had been fidgeting. My mother quietly pulled the bedcovers from his feet and gently rubbed them, not saying a word nor making a fuss.

My father was acknowledging my mother and her tender, selfless actions. Neither said “I love you”. Public displays of affection was not something they showed, though I knew love was there. His abiding love and respect was palpable to me that day. As Daddy acknowledged Ma, he validated her actions as he bequeathed a guidepost to me. Knowing his time was running out, he knew he would not see me finish school, get married, have children – yet he seized the moment and offered the lesson of selfless kindness and respect – a lesson I have never forgotten.

I think of my father’s last words to me on this Father’s Day, grateful for the lasting gifts of love, respect and kindness he gave me so many years ago, and thankful for having had the one brief moment in time.

. . . in which the beginning of visits to three Japanese gardens that I began suddenly posted before it should have. It can be found here  My apologies if it was confusing (I’m confused 🙂 )

It is what it is, so,  let us walk together across this stone bridge from the Charlotte Pardridge Ordway Japanese Garden at the end of the previous post and travel together to the first of the Japanese gardens I visited.

 Watch your step.

One more bridge and then we will be . . .

. . .  at the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois.

As with many of my adventures in gardens and parks and forests, this was an excursion organized by the Elmhurst Garden Club’s Conservation and Education Committee. This committee, along with the Horticulture Committee, organize most of our trips. I have been wanting to go this garden in ever-so-long, so was as excited to go as these koi were to see us.

I have been to Japanese gardens before, but, this one seemed to be special – and it was.

We had a docent led tour, which made the experience more meaningful and insightful. We had two docents. One of the docents offered to take those who wished on a slightly less strenuous path with fewer steps to climb and places to stumble. Both were knowledgeable and engaging. We were asked to silence our phones, but, encouraged to take photos and to keep our voices low.

Our docent spoke of the elements of Japanese gardens; moving water, placement of living materials, paths, bridges, tranquil spots to sit and reflect, master craftsmanship and reverence for nature.

 

 

The garden was imagined by John Anderson as a young student and grew over the years. It was when he returned home from a trip to the Portland Japanese Garden in 1978 that he was inspired to turn his swampy back yard into a Japanese garden. Hoichi Kurisu, who directed the Portland garden, designed the Anderson garden. It grew over the subsequent years and was donated to the Rockford Rotary Charitable Association in 1998.

 

 

 

 

This was a most delightful tour, followed by a most delicious lunch in the restaurant on the grounds and good conversation with kindred spirits. The food, our next project or trip, books – everything that women talk about with laughter in the traveling sisterhood of gardeners,  followed by the restroom, the gift shop and then the return ride home.

As I left the Rotary Botanical Gardens, mentioned in my previous post, I thought of the other two Japanese gardens. Each was designed in the Japanese tradition, each unique yet distinctive of this honored form of gardening. They were all tranquil and gently led me to a bench or large rock where I sat for spell and listened to the water, the birds, the whisper of leaves.

The gardens shared some facts. Benevolent gifts of land and of funds made them possible. Swamps, dumps and land used for other purposes were artfully developed into what we see today. Two were eventually donated to Rotary clubs. One (at the Como conservatory) was a gift of the people Nagasaki. These Japanese gardens were all close to industrial areas and all provide tranquility and peace for a small donation – or free. Two of them were conceived in the late 1970’s, the Anderson garden just a decade later. I visited two of them as the opportunity arose while traveling through three midwestern states.

They all gifted me a sense of peace in a troubled world – and I gladly accepted it.

Have you visited a Japanese garden – near you, while traveling?

Is there a Japanese garden near you?

 

 

 

 

 

Japanese Gardens

The art of stone in a Japanese garden is that of placement. Its ideal does not deviate from that of nature – Isamu Noguchi

Homeward bound with much of the long road behind me, I needed to stretch my legs. It was a pleasant day, I had been in the car for several hours, and I knew that the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin was a perfect place to stop for a break in my journey.

I exited the interstate, went the mile or so to the road leading to the gardens, and soon found myself marveling at the early summer blooms and lush greenery, the art installation and statues, the formal gardens, woodlands, vegetable gardens, and other botanical delights.

I was, as I often am, drawn to the entryway of the Japanese gardens . . .

. . . and I am always drawn to this bridge. Another of my photos of this bridge was the header for this blog quite a long time.

The Rotary Garden was a calming place to stop. I felt renewed for the last leg of my journey home.

As I walked back through the Visitors Center (and the restroom and the gift shop, of course) I realized that this was the third time in ten days that I had visited a Japanese garden. I wondered again at the coincidence as I merged back onto the interstate. I would pass Rockford (Illinois) on the next leg of my trip. It was the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford that the first of my trio of Japanese gardens was.

My son-in-law, Tom, knows me well. While visiting with my Up North family, Yia Yia was unsupervised for several hours while everyone else was at school or work. Just before she left the house, Katy remembered that her Tom (as opposed to my Tom) thought I might like the conservatory at St. Paul’s conservatory in Como Park. Katy gave me the necessary information, my GPS was soon loaded, and off I went.

This was my destination. The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park. It is an amazing structure and home to tropical and exotic plants, as well as well  as as roses, lilies, and flowers you many have blooming in your own garden. The Conservatory is worthy of a post on its own, which I will endeavor to compose soon. I want to show you the sunken garden in particular.

I roamed the conservatory’s lush garden rooms, then turned a corner and found myself in what I believe is a newer wing.

Saint Paul and Nagasaki are sister cities.

The Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden was a gift from the people of Nagasaki. The garden opened in 1979. It has been renovated several times. This bright, airy passageway leads to a remarkable collection of Bonsai plants. In a rare moment for me, I did not take any photos of them. I wish I had. They were amazing, calming in their peaceful way.

I wandered outdoors, taking my time, enjoying the warm weather, the soft breeze, the stone lantern along the path and the soft chorus of waterfall. 

My visit over, I headed back having enjoyed a very sweet few hours.

Now, dear reader, something has happened with my wordpress account as I was writing this, so . . . I will do another post about the the third Japanese garden and hope that this update posts and in some way makes sense.

 

Joyful Enthusiasm

The door is an unmistakable shade of Campbell’s tomato soup. It is as unremarkable as it is dependable, keeping the big, bad wolf without and us safe and sound within.

There is little reason to open the front door except to water the planters, shoo deer, chipmunks, and squirrels away, or to meet the occasional pizza delivery van. The business end of the house is in the back and most folks visiting know to go to the back door.

So it was that, on a mission to check the fuchsia Tom had given me for Mother’s Day, out the front door I went.

Something swished past as I stepped onto the porch. I paused, looked around and realized an awfully agitated robin was flitting about, expressing her displeasure at my sudden presence, just as the Antler Man meandered down the driveway to the check the mailbox and unaware that I was out on the front porch.

I said I could hear a disgruntled bird but wasn’t seeing it. I looked around then turned to straighten some twigs, leaves and raffia on the wreath hanging on the wall. Tom’s mom made the wreath from grapevines many years ago. We hung it up front a few year’s ago. I usually add a big, seasonal ribbon and put dried flowers, twigs, string, acorns and walnuts – items to keep it attractive and, at the same time, provide nesting material for birds.I hadn’t gotten to it yet this spring.

Just as my hand was setting to rearrange some errant raffia and dried plant material from last fall, the protective mama swooped past me, chattering away. My hand stopped midair. A mother’s intuition, perhaps, or just my own curiosity,  I moved closer, slowly upon my tippy-toes, and looked closer inside to the wreath.

There it was!

The reason for this engagement in my own version of Angry Birds.

How do you like my spring wreath, just outside the front door?

Meanwhile, this was already established at the back door.

Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm

 John Muir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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