October 21, 2016

i carry your heart...

I have never kept secret the fact that I am an autumn girl.  Sweater weather is by far my favorite time of year - hot apple cider, cinnamon rolls, chili and cornbread, and pot roasts for Sunday dinner.  Apple pies, apple kuchen, apple strudel, apple turnovers, apple dumplings (especially apple dumplings!)  Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin pies (you can never have too many pumpkin pies on hand!) 

Fall foliage, crisp air, twinkling stars at night, and a warming fire in the family room if the nip in the air gets a little too nippy.  Books that have been shelved during the summer reappear, and the cultural scene gets underway...concerts, lectures, exhibitions, plays, and all sorts of wonderful art offerings return to delight all the senses.  And in the middle of all this autumn giddiness comes the heart of the season - our annual family fall picnic.

This tradition was started by my parents years ago in South Dakota, and all of us would pick a Sunday where we could caravan up north to a state park called Sica Hollow, which translates from the Lakota language to Trail of Spirits. My parents, as many of my siblings that were around, and car loads of cousins all came together to walk the trails, admire the natural beauty and eat fried chicken and potato salad and peach crisp.  We all looked forward to it every year.  We even captured one year's trip in a Christmas ornament that makes us smile when we unwrap it and hang it on the tree every December.

When my husband and I moved to Wisconsin about sixteen years ago, our kids were homesick that first autumn so we decided to carry on the tradition and found a similar state park in our new state.  It's not quite the same - I wish my mother and siblings and nieces and nephews were all able to join us, but I'm proud that we have kept the tradition and memories alive, and you can imagine how happy I was this past Sunday when ALL of our children gathered together again to hike the trails and admire the fall colors.  Over the years we've outgrown the windsuits...

and have also grown our family from this...

 to this!

My beautiful children have grown up surrounded by the family traditions that hold us together, and create a bond that will never break.

Sibling bonds...

And brothers grow up...

 to become fathers...


And because everyone wanted every dish that we had ever brought on this picnic over the course of the last thirty years, we dined on homemade fried chicken and potato salad, courtesy of my husband.  I contributed baked beans, rolls, peach crisp and mint chocolate brownies, and my daughter brought birthday cake and fall cupcakes so we could celebrate one of my son's birthday while we were all gathered together.  A perfect day in every respect. It had been at least ten years since all of our children were able to join us on our fall trek, so even though we had to battle hordes of nasty Japanese beetles during our picnic it was perfect in my eyes!  We wore off all the food with a strenuous hike afterwards.

I couldn't help but think of my Dad, and in my heart I knew how proud he must be to know we are carrying on family traditions and making new memories with our granddaughters.  

I know I looked up at the beautiful fall sky several times, whispering his name, but I really didn't need to look up.  I carry him with me, wherever I go.

Dad and I at Sica Hollow, mid-1990s
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
~~e.e. cummings

October 14, 2016

Now you see it...

and now you don't!   Sleight of hand isn't only for magic shows - there have been some interesting disappearances around here as well! The first story comes from our August trip to Iowa, where we spent a lovely day discovering all the covered bridges of Madison County.  I took this picture of my husband at our first stop - Hogback Bridge.  See the couple at the back of the bridge?  By the time my husband and I strolled to the back of the bridge they were gone. 

As in, vanished.  We were completely mystified - there was no logical explanation as to where they had gone...no dust stirred up on the gravel road at the back of the bridge and no way for a tourist car to access that road anyway. No bicycles pedaling away. It literally took us only seconds to walk from the front to the back of the bridge and in that time they had completely disappeared. We finally decided that they must have been the ghosts of Robert and Francesca (even if they were fictional characters and it was not "their" Roseman Bridge - small details in a ghost story don't matter.)

Now you see them...now you don't!

Coming back to the highway after visiting the Hogback Bridge, we came across a century old schoolhouse nestled in a cornfield.  The doors were locked, but peeking in the windows it was easy to imagine a room full of little boys and girls, ready to recite and do their sums on their slate boards. Can't you hear their giggles while the teacher's back is turned? 

 We discovered a delightful English garden maze at the lovely city park in Winterset, Iowa.  

Phil was brave enough to give it a try.  I still have flashbacks about being lost in the Hampton 
Court Palace maze outside London - not a fun memory!!


But fortunately, this was also a re-appearing act!!

We've also had a few "magical" disappearances around the house,  but ones that are definitely more prosaic in nature. The over-sized, out-dated, broken jacuzzi bathtub in our teeny tiny master bathroom? 

Poof!  Gone!  And in its place a lovely new shower that makes the room seem so much larger and definitely makes getting ready for work early in the morning much more pleasant!

There is simply no way to take good pictures in this room - it's way too tiny!

The rusty basketball pole/backboard that I've hated since day one and declared must go over twelve years ago?  Thanks to a handy neighbor, poof - gone!!

And here's the big question of the day.  I made this lovely apple pie on Sunday, and poof!  Where do you think it went?!

I hope your day is filled with a little bit of magic and a little bit of awe for this amazing journey we all share.  Instead of a poem today, I'll leave you with this picture from my garden.  October roses...they will soon disappear as well, but the magic of spring will bring them back to us.

Have a beautiful day, my friends!


October 11, 2016

Allons! the road is before us!

I woke up Sunday morning with a yearning for a small adventure.  Nothing major...nothing expensive...just something fun.  I grabbed my camera, a thermos of coffee, and my fall jacket and was out the door before 7 am.  The sun was just coming up over the trees, and I could see my breath as I walked to my car.  What a great morning to visit two parks and capture a little of fall's generous offerings!  I headed out of town and found two parks - one a county park and one a state park that I had never even heard of before. Would you like to come along on my field trip?  Walt Whitman came along as well - his cry of allons! (let's go!) ringing in my ears.

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.

The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them. 
You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here. 

You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!
I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me.

The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh sentiment of the road. 
O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem. 
Allons! whoever you are come travel with me!
Traveling with me you find what never tires.

The earth never tires,
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first,
Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop’d,
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.  

Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d! 

Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

If you enjoyed these excerpts from Song of the Open Road by Whitman, you can find his exuberant (but long!) poem here.

And until I have time for another road trip, I can still remember that 
today is a good day for a good day!  

 I hope you all have a beautiful day as well.


October 5, 2016

I remember my tenth birthday quite well.  My baby brother was just one month old and my parents had decided to build a new bedroom above the garage to help expand the living space of our small home.  Up until then my two little sisters and I had all shared a very small bedroom at the back of the house, but when plans were announced for the addition my birthday gift was a set of bunk beds so that we could move into our parents' larger bedroom and have more space.  I was so excited to receive those beds and happily slept on the top bunk until I left for college.  I also received a charming little wind-up alarm clock, and from my Aunt Hallie, a book by Paul Gallico titled The Man Who Was Magic.  

As I sat in the small theater in Galena, watching a truly gifted entertainer work his own special "magic", I started thinking about the book I had loved as a young girl.  Sub-titled A Fable of Innocence, it tells the story of a true magician, Adam and his dog Mopsy, who arrive at Mageia, the hidden city of the master magicians of the world.  There the entertainers can safely practice their sleights of hand and even the young children have access to the secret books of tricks.  Everyone in Mageia knows there is no such thing as real magic.  Except, of course, Adam, who has come to learn from the best magicians in the world, only to discover that his gift of true magic is in a league of its own.  

Sometimes it feels like the world is a little too heavy - filled with pain, and suffering, and hatred for our fellow partners on this short but magical journey of life.  When I feel low, maybe I need to remember there is a world of real, and healing, magic right outside my own doorstep.  Yes, it's fun to attend a show and be mystified and delighted by a magician's tricks, but it is also wonderful to open my front door, step outside and be caught up in the mystery and magic of my own daily life.  Poet Mary Oliver poses the question "tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?",  and I answer back that I will seek to find the mystery in the mundane, and the magic in unexpected moments of joy. 

Emily Dickinson must have pondered the same question when she penned the following poem.  I hope you enjoy it, and I also hope that today a little bit of magic finds it way to your soul.

I think I was enchanted
When first a sombre Girl --
I read that Foreign Lady --
The Dark -- felt beautiful --

And whether it was noon at night --
Or only Heaven -- at Noon --
For very Lunacy of Light
I had not power to tell --

The Bees -- became as Butterflies --
The Butterflies -- as Swans --
Approached -- and spurned the narrow Grass --
And just the meanest Tunes

That Nature murmured to herself
To keep herself in Cheer --
I took for Giants -- practising
Titanic Opera --

The Days -- to Mighty Metres stept --
The Homeliest -- adorned
As if unto a Jubilee
'Twere suddenly confirmed --

I could not have defined the change --
Conversion of the Mind
Like Sanctifying in the Soul --
Is witnessed -- not explained --

'Twas a Divine Insanity --
The Danger to be Sane
Should I again experience --
'Tis Antidote to turn --

To Tomes of solid Witchcraft --
Magicians be asleep --
But Magic -- hath an Element
Like Deity -- to keep --
Today is a good day for a good day! 

October 3, 2016

the wondrous journeys still to be ours...

Good morning! Somehow Mondays are a little easier to face when you have had made all sorts of happy memories.  We spent the weekend in one of our favorite little towns, with weather that was rather mist-ical... 

while the decor was definitely moose-tical!

This guy kept a close watch on our comings and goings.  I couldn't quite decide if the moose head at our resort was quaint and charming in a "cabin-y" sort of way or just kind of creepy.

I could even venture to say part of our time was downright mystical...even magical!

Yes, it was our annual trip to Galena, Illinois, where you feel transported back in time to the  Civil War as you stroll down Main Street..  You can almost hear the swishing of ladies' hoop skirts as they shop in the same stores that line the streets today, and almost glimpse the men decked out in their finest suits and top hats, puffing their cigars as they stand outside the DeSoto Hotel to watch Lincoln and Douglas debate from the second floor balcony.

We love walking down Main Street, admiring the architecture and shopping in the eclectic shop offerings.  But I am always glancing upwards at the upper story windows that line the old brick shops...

because it's easy to sense that behind one of those  lace curtains someone from a different era may be watching me.  

See what I mean?!

And of course, President Grant has the perfect setting to watch over his beloved city.  I wonder what he and Julia Dent Grant think of the automobiles that now line the streets instead of buggies, and the canoes and kayaks that drift down the Galena River instead of the mighty steamboats?  

We had such fun shopping, sightseeing, and enjoying the different cultures...dinner one night at a Irish pub, complete with shepherd's pie and Irish dancing, and dinner the following night at a wonderful Italian restaurant.  It was a family run business that has been there forever, and as we sat at our table with the glow of candlelight bathing our red tablecloth and the vintage pictures of Italy on the walls in a soft light you could easily lose track of what year it was. We also celebrated all things German at the Galena Oktoberfest, and I'll share a few pictures from the festival later this week.  

But I think my favorite thing to do in Galena is simply wander the streets and try to imagine all the stories and history that are contained within the shops, the churches and and the stately brick mansions of another era. Even though the weather wasn't "perfect" for Galena's Oktoberfest weekend, it certainly didn't put a damper on our fun.  Poet Mary Oliver can turn even the rain into a joyful occasion, as she reflects in her poem below:
Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,
what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,
smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches
and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing
under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,
and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment
at which moment
my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars
and the soft rain –
imagine! imagine!
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours. 
 I hope I have many more long and wondrous journeys with my husband in the years to come - we are looking ahead to new adventures, but today I'll carry Oliver's words in my heart, and be a tree with happy leaves, or like the rain drops, filled with joy to return to the earth from the clouds above. It's another way of saying that today is a good day for a good day!