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Archive for the ‘Famous and infamous’ Category

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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. . .  in the 1844 presidential campaign with the lithographic printing process.

Sign of the Times: The Great American Political Poster 1844-2012*

On a cloudy, cold Saturday at the end of March, snow flurries and gray skies dampening one’s spirit, I opted to head over to a small but significant history museum hidden in plain sight. I checked with the Antler Man to see if he wanted to meet me there. He did.

The Elmhurst History Museum sits in the historic Glos Mansion, just steps from the train station and the downtown business district of Elmhurst.

 

We parked and walked through the portico, climbed the steep steps to heavy, wooden doors and were greeted by a museum volunteer who welcomed us, handed us a brochure, and told us to enjoy the exhibit and museum, which we promptly and enthusiastically did.

This is an extraordinary exhibit with 50 outstanding reproductions of presidential campaign posters spanning two centuries, and reflecting the politics, printing and artistic techniques of their times. There is also a large collection of campaign buttons on display – and a voting booth in which to vote for certain posters with plastic chips.

I was especially excited as I finally got into the Oval Office.

These campaign posters reflected the decades they represented, as well as the candidates and campaigns, from all political parties, as well as artists and techniques of their eras. Jamie Wyeth to Alexander Calder and Ron English are among famous artists represented, but, there are “insiders and outsiders” represented as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you live in the Chicago area, or are visiting, I highly recommend this exhibit. If not, this is a traveling exhibit which might be coming to a museum near you, which brings me to your own hometown or area. There are so many small museums, often in historical homes or buildings, established by local citizens and societies who have endeavored to save their town’s history, stopped bulldozers, steadfastly raised funds and lobbied locally elected officials. Whether a one room schoolhouse, a gristmill, a windmill, a factory or a farmhouse, these museums are treasure troves of local history and reflections of who we were and are.

Do you have a small but significant exhibit near you?

 

* title of exhibit at the Elmhurst History Museum, March 29 to April 28, 2019

http://www.elmhursthistory.org/315/Exhibits

 

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“Some single trees, wholly bright scarlet, seen against others of their kind still freshly green, or against evergreens, are more memorable than whole groves will be by-and-by. How beautiful, when a whole tree is like one great fruit full of ripe juices, every leaf from lowest limb to topmost spire, all aglow, especially if you look toward the sun! What more remarkable object can there be in the landscape? Visible for miles, too fair to be believed. If such a phenomenon occurred but once, it would be handed down by tradition to posterity, and get into the mythology at last.”

-From “Autumnal Tints” by Henry Thoreau; 1862

 

One of our most memorable moments was on a fine October day, ten or so years ago, at Walden Pond. You can read about it here. On that remarkable day, Tom and I walked and talked and didn’t talk, seeing the original site of Thoreau’s cabin and a reconstruction of it. The air was crisp and clear and the scenery mystical. The photo on top was taken on Walden Pond on that long ago day.

Across the pond, a singular tree accented the landscape and glowed like no other. When Thoreau’s quote popped up in my internet wandering, I immediately thought of the scarlet tree at Walden Pond.

Thoreau’s quote and our Walden Pond walk came to mind once more as Tom and I walked, much closer to home, at one of our favorite spots, Lake Katherine. It was the same sort of cool, crisp October day, with the sun shining, powder puff clouds sprinkled here and there, the soft crunch of fallen leaves at our feet  – and the brilliant mythology of Autumn before us.

Right red

 

Where do you go to find your own myths of nature?

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I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been – Winnie the Pooh

So, I did!. I walked away from the computer, the garden, the laundry and such, adjusted my newly installed magnificent driver’s side mirror, repositioned my car’s seat and rambled off to the elegant La Grange Theatre. Oh, it was a journey, for certain, for are not all walking aways filled with challenges?

 

The first challenge was my own winding road. The bridge to be crossed is being repaired and down to one lane with a temporary stack of poles and lights  giving drivers the green when the way is clear. I sat for at least 5 precious minutes waiting for the light to turn green, with no car coming the opposite way during the entire wait. Then, a freight train, a very slow moving freight train, ate up another 5 precious minutes, followed by much traffic juggling for parking spaces, turn lanes, pedestrians, and bicyclists who all felt that the road was their very own (when, really, wasn’t it just mine?)

I parked the car in the very last available spot, then I walked as fast a I walk these days and entered the gilded theatre! Ticket in hand, in I went, to the opening strains of a woodsy tea party awaiting Christopher Robin for a sad goodbye as woodland friends gathered in the 100 Acre Woods and were brought to life by the magic of imagination.

I found a seat, which wasn’t hard as there were but a dozen or so “walkers away” in the theatre; a group of women in front of me, a few more mid-section, an older fellow with a soft drink in one hand, a big container of popcorn in the other, and a mother with her preschool aged child across the aisle from me. The little girl was the bow on the gift of this movie. I could hear her uttering her fears in the scary parts, crawling onto her mama’s lap, and her infectious squeals of laughter were as if on cue from the movie’s director, as Tigger bounces, Eeyore laments and Owl pontificates. Quiet moments and mad-cap scenes made all-the-more delightful by this young darling.

Christopher Robin is a story of finding one’s self while battling the hufflelumps and woofles of life, all on a weekend when the overworked, adult Christopher must work on a way to cut costs for the suitcase company he works for with others’ jobs on the line, while his boss goes off to play golf, and his wife and daughter are off to the Robin cottage in Sussex.

In-the-meantime, long forgotten Winnie cannot find his best friends and misses the long-gone Christopher Robin, who surely would know how to find them. Winnie does, well, what Winnie does, which is to walk away from where he is to find Christopher.

What a beautiful, funny, sad, thought-provoking movie this is. To think, I might not have gone off and walked away had it not been for the fact that yet another certain young girl, who owns my heart, but who lives far, far away, remarked to her mommy upon seeing Christopher Robin that she thought Yia Yia might enjoy it, too – and I did. I most certainly did, and I think that you might as well.

“Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.” – Winnie the Pooh

https://movies.disney.com/christopher-robin

(movie trailer from the official Disney site)

 

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“Your mind — your curiosity — will be your comfort.”*

I recently stumbled upon yet another “Lucky Day” pick from the La Grange Library – and lucky it was!

As often happens, I was drawn to a book by its cover. I slid it off of the “Lucky Day” shelf at the library, and wondered, for a brief moment or two, why the cover looked so familiar, then realized it was reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth’s painting,  Christina’s World. Was it written by Christina? Well, of course not, but the author’s first name compelled me to read the flap of the dust jacket and to peek inside. I walked out of the library with Christina Baker Kline’s fictional novel, “A Piece of the World” and was soon engrossed in Christina’s world on the coastal farm in Cushing, Maine. The farm was settled century’s earlier by ancestors who came to escape their name, Hathorne, and the taint of the Salem Witch Trials.

Christina’s life is confined primarily to the family home in Cushing. From the earliest childhood years of her illness, her debilitating condition molds her life. From her determination to keep moving and living and making the best of her circumstances, to her later years, she stoically strives to keep moving through life. As she eventually can no longer walk, she uses her arms, then her elbows to move above, do chores in a house that is old, rundown, without indoor plumbing or adequate heating.

Christina excels in her small, country school, is encouraged to continue her education and to eventually become the school’s teacher. It is the kindness and encouragement of her teacher that gives her hope of a future, and the stubbornness and viewpoint of her father that end those dreams, taking Christina out of the school and keeping her at home, taking over her mother’s chores and diminishing her contact the outside world.

The book follows Christina’s life, from her loving relationship with her grandmother, her mysterious illness, her staunch refusal for what seems like experimental treatment, and her relationship with her brothers, especially Alvaro, and her friendship with Betsy and Andy. Betsy’s family has a summer-house in Cushing, Andy meets and eventually marries Betsy, who brings him, as a young man, to the Hathorne, now called the Olson house. He is intrigued by the house and the light and the views and spends countless days in one of the upstairs rooms, painting the scenery as well as the two remaining inhabitants of the house; Christina and Al. When Al is introduced to Andy, he is told that he is the son of N.C. Wyeth. Al remembers N. C.’s illustrations and declares that “Treasure Island” is probably the only book he ever read to the end. The house is both a blessing and a curse; a monument to history that often hold Christina and her brothers back, yet, it is a house that fascinates Andy, and it is both the anchor and the chain that confines Christina.

I loved the lyrical prose, the attention to detail, the simplicity and sparseness of words at times along with the weight of those words. I loved Christina’s fondness and instinctive understanding of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. My heart ached at her naiveté and eventual heartbreak of a relationship she was led to believe would end in marriage. I was angered by her father, an immigrant and a sailor, who lacked compassion and understanding of his fragile, strong-willed daughter.

While the book is fictitious about the friendship of Christina and Andy (Andrew Wyeth) as well as Andy’s wife, Betsy, it is based on research and known facts. It imagines the restrictive edges of Christina’s life and how she endures the hardships that surround her. “A Piece of the World”  is a captivating novel that I not only enjoyed, but, a book that led me to further exploration of the life and the illness of Christina Olson, her relationship of the Wyeths, and her family’s ancestry.

As I closed the pages of “A Piece of the World”, I remembered a trip Tom and I took to Philadelphia where we saw a retrospective exhibit of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. While Christina’s World was not part of the exhibit, there were other paintings of the Olson farmhouse, and its inhabitants. It was a remarkable trip to Philly, prompted by the exhibit. I then fired up the laptop and was greeted with a discovery that had me heading to the post office as I returned “A Piece of the World”. How opportune that the USPS released these Andrew Wyeth stamps just as I closed Christina Baker Kline’s compelling novel.

 

This quote is the parting words of Christina’s teacher when Christina leaves school for the last time. *

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It has been awhile since I’ve picked a book up and was unable to put it down. I have had a good run of audio books, but, one can only spend so much time “reading” in the car, so, I took my chances when “The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit” called to me at one of the libraries I frequent.

The La Grange Library has several racks of new books, movies, and audio just beyond the entryway. Upon those racks, are a few select shelves of books with a bright yellow sticker proclaiming LUCKY DAY. These are often newer releases and popular books; books readers hope to get their hands on but haven’t been able to.

Michael Finkel’s “The Stranger in the Woods . . . ” stood there, looking directly at the door as if waiting just for me to enter. On my honor, it beckoned me, held my gaze, and what was I to do? I snatched it up and moseyed on down (well, actually on up) to a comfortable spot, sat down, peeked between the covers, and promptly checked the book out.

LUCKY DAY books are granted for one only one week. They can be renewed.

A shy, intelligent, twenty year old man from a peaceful Massachusetts childhood takes off one day, leaving his family, his job, his possessions and his new car and walks into an unfamiliar Maine woods where he remains, alone, for twenty-seven years.

Chris Knight survives brutal winters and never-ending solitude hidden in a small, well hidden clearing in the forest, amazingly close to others. He is content with his existence there. No one notices him. He lives by his wits – and by burglarizing the summer cabins nearby, as well as a summer camp. He takes only what he needs to survive, including canned goods, soap, National Geographic magazines, sleeping bags, propane tanks, mattresses and batteries. He steals almost exclusively on moonless, early winter nights, hopping across rocks in the dark, never leaving tracks behind. He takes only from summer residences and the camp, leaving year-round homes untouched. He has robbed some 1,000 times.

Community members are perplexed, terrified (especially those who are robbed repeatedly) and troubled. Some blame their children or neighbors for missing things while others wonder if they are just becoming forgetful.

Chris Knight manages to avoid or disarm alarm systems, motion detectors and sensors. He is masterful at picking locks, opening windows and otherwise finding ways to enter, always leaving homes in good if depleted condition. He takes only what he needs to survive and understands that stealing is wrong!

One night, after setting up silent alarms, Sargeant Terry Hugh’s’ beeper goes off. He catches the thief, demands he hit the ground, calls in reinforcements and thus begins the end of decades of robbery and the beginning of this story about the fabled hermit, now known as Chris Knight.

Michael Finkel, a journalist who lives in Montana, first hears on the news of the arrest of Chris Knight, a loner with a hermit-like existence. He is curious about a man who had not spoken or interacted with anyone in more than two decades. Mr. Finkel writes a letter, includes copies of some of his own stories and sends them to Knight in prison. They correspond and Finkel eventually visits him there, attends his trial, and eventually writes this captivating story. I suspect will one day be a movie.

“The Stranger in the Woods; The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit ” was an enthralling narrative of 200 or so pages – and it left me hoping that no hermits were living here along the Cutoff.

Have you read an “un-put-downable” recently?

 

 

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“We walked in so pure and bright a light… I thought I had never bathed in such a golden flood, without a ripple or a murmur to it. The west side of every wood and rising ground gleamed like the boundary of elysium,and the sun on our backs seemed like a gentle herdsman, driving us home at evening.”
-From “Walking” by Henry Thoreau; 1862

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