Monday, November 01, 2021

November 1st...

 



“November comes

And November goes,

With the last red berries

And the first white snows.

With night coming early,

And dawn coming late,

And ice in the bucket

And frost by the gate.

The fires burn

And the kettles sing,

And earth sinks to rest

Until next spring.”


– Elizabeth Coatsworth

Sunday, October 31, 2021

 


“It was a dark and stormy night…” Of course, everything is this time of year, but for some reason this year is a bit spookier. Perhaps it is the rain and the early dark causing us to skitter into our houses, or back out into the night. For me, I skitter back out into the night during this season often with a dark cape around my shoulders or a pointed hat upon my head. Okay, sometimes it is just a cool, fun sweatshirt, but it is Halloween, and I am open to all of it.

Poe Night came and went with a blazing fire, and with mingled voices of the community and Trine University students. It is amazing for me to think that a man, Edgar Allan Poe, could be celebrated in a little northern Indiana town 172 years after his death. Not only did we read the works of Poe, but we had a scholarly vision of the man who we still see as the father of macabre. I am always proud of my students for exchanging the engineering hats to read poetry! They are all amazed too as one student said, “I had no idea it would be so fun. Can I do it next year again?” I love it when that happens.

A few nights later, as the rain began once again, Lola and I found ourselves weaving through the back gate of the Cline Museum. It was dark and grey as I meandered through the yard and up the back steps. Stepping into the Cline Museum is like turning the clock back 150 years. This time the ghostly collaboration was put on by the Steuben County Historical Society and the Historic Preservation Commission. Then event was to be held outside until the gray October skies opened up, so quickly all was moved inside. Arriving early gave me a chance to tour the old house without much commotion. Inside the Dr.’s office was the creepiest mannequin. It looked so real, and I expected him to turn around and look at me any moment. I couldn’t help myself but to look over my shoulder at him every now and again.

With a full house, Hope Wilson and Heather Burkett put on a haunting show of buildings that used to be once upon a time. The research was scholarly, the photos were eerie and with rain pelting one could only imagine this little town of us long ago. I was honored to read a few of the stories about my favorite prominent folks…the Gales, the Gilmores, and the Hendrys. Most of the ghostly buildings were lost to fire as the structures were wooden. But some magnificent architectural structures were simply torn down to make room for something new. Hopefully, with historic preservation, some of this can be halted to keep the history in our town. You missed the show? Perhaps we will do it again. It is always good to know where we live, and how we all got here.

I stayed to help put away chairs, and divvy up the extra Halloween candy. With one last look at the staircase (really, what was I thinking would happen???), and one last glimpse of the good doctor still sitting, much like The Raven, we shut out the lights and headed out into the gloom of night. I was glad to get home to my cheery old house, put on the lights and my electric fireplace (I can imagine it’s real, right?) and put on the kettle.

Ah, but not all is over. Today our town is bursting with events. Don’t stay home on this day. Come on out to Pokagon for fun events all day long. I will be telling “grown up” stories at the CCC at 1:30. Or spend your day in town at the festival complete with a hay maze and plenty of music, if you feel like dancing in the street.

The costume contest is once again our favorite. Please meet in front of The Brokaw Movie House. Registration begins at 3:30 and the contest is at 4. There is a category for all ages from 0-100! Everyone can participate.

After all the events, let the littles (and the bigs) commence to trick-or-treating. My old house is full of treats so bring them on by so I can fill up their bags.

It is Halloween week-end, and nothing, but nothing is as fun as being in town for the festivities. See you around the square.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Lifting the Covid Fog....

 I had a dream this week about websites. That truly is uninspiring and not hardly the essence of beautiful and lovely dreams. Perhaps it was more of a nightmare than a dream. When I woke I had this eerie feeling (well, it is October) about websites and mine more specifically. In the dark dawn of morning I headed into my studio to check out my own blogger website. It felt strangely familiar, yet not so much. First of all, I needed a new password, and I don’t remember ever even needing a password for my blog site. I just automatically logged on. Well, that took a few moments as I had to go back and forth between blogger and email to establish a new password. Then, just like that, I was connected. It looked vaguely familiar, yet oddly, not familiar. As I began to read through my daily blog, I realized my last entry was March 17, 2020. The truth is, I could not believe that. I mean I have kept up this blog for over fifteen years almost on a daily basis. I love my blog site. I post my travel, my stories, my adventures. I post events in town, poetry, opportunities, thoughts (rather deep thoughts), yet here it was staring me right in the face, March 17, 2020. The last entry was the story of Carolyn and me deciding to stay home from ukulele camp as this Covid event was somewhere…doing something. There is a photo of the two of us and how sad we were not to go. It was also light-hearted making light of washing our hands and taking care.

There was no mention of masks, of school closing, of life coming to a standstill. Yet my blog came to a standstill, and I have not thought of it once since that date. That is so odd. I have thought of everything else.

How deeply have we been affected by this virus that I did not notice my outdated blog for over a year and a half? What happened to my own brain…the brain I think is still pretty good. It wasn’t that I came down with the virus. I did not. It wasn’t that my life completely stood still. It did not. But where did the shut down occur, and did this happen to you also? And, if so, how do we come out of this Covid fog all these months later?

I thought I knew all the answers to these questions. I mean, I have been vaccinated and had the booster shot. I had my first house party last week, I teach my classes, I even  had some storytelling events. (Okay, not many, but a few live events!)

How long is it before the dark cloud of Covid is finally released? Or, I wonder, will it ever be? Will we be changed forever?

The only actual value I see of the big “P” is that perhaps from now on, when we are sick and around folks, we will wear a mask. To that effect, I have washed all my twenty masks and found a place for them in a dark, distant drawer. Okay, to be honest, a few remain out for trips to town or when friends need the reassurance of a mask to spend some time together. I do try to remember to wear my mask to Aldi’s or CVS or into a restaurant before being seated. I often ask now if a mask is required or preferred. I will, of course, honor that as we move forward.

But now, of course, there is that problem with my blog site. Where do I start? I have taken hundreds of photos, written dozens of columns and stories, and even had as many events in this past year and a half. Do I just start over as if March 17, 2020 were yesterday, and today is mid-October, 2021? Do I make an apology? Will anyone even come back to reading my blog after this hiatus? Or do I just close it out as a fun writing chapter of my life and move on? I mean, I never even missed it or thought about it until my dream this week.

And what about you? What have you totally forgotten about?  Is something just now surfacing as some kind of reminder of how it was in the “olden days”?

The “olden days” were just a year and a half ago…but oh it does seem so long ago.  

Published first in KPC, October 17,2021

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Then and Now...Enjoy!

Last year's ukulele camp!!


Today is the first day of ukulele camp. I love ukulele camp. We play from morning til night, and this year is a tribute to the 60’s. Ah, yes, my kind of music. At 4:00 this afternoon there is a mall concert and an hour long of playing the Beatles. I have waited for ukulele camp for a full year because I love it so much. I have the best hippie clothes and earrings! 

But, I am not there. With everything packed and neatly stacked by the front door, Carolyn called. You know the discussion. We decided not to go. 

My disappointment is just one of hundreds, of thousands across this world of ours. And as I sit writing, cancelations of events keep tumbling in across the Internet lines. One by one each event falls, much like a game of dominos. I am trying to wrap my head around this just like you. Each event is not just a cancelation or postponement, but a change in our lives. Our work, our travel, our joy, our sorrows are all put to the test right now. 

I am as sad as you are, and for now, it is hard to keep my tears from spilling across my laptop as I write. I don’t know how to adjust to all of this so I am not going to try and be a politician or a medical specialist or as someone in charge.
No, I am just like you with a house to run, bills to pay, a community to support. What do we do now? I don’t know, really. 

One step at a time for most of us, right? By now we have all probably filled our shelves with the basics: Clorox, Nyquil, Tylenol, and toilet paper. (Really, what is that all about? Ha!) I actually have made those purchases. They are in a basket on the shelf. I did not get in any groceries, no, the cupboard is completely bare. (Traveling for two weeks and then ukulele camp!) I guess that is next on the agenda. Fill the shelves with a couple weeks of food is a good idea.

Okay, we have food and supplies. What’s next? I guess I would say we need to feed our soul in these times, and that might be more difficult. I have been thinking about this all week. How do we, as a society of movers and shakers, survive this free fall? The first thing is to keep our minds active. Thinking about all of this, all of the time, is not healthy. Turn off the news. Pick up a book…a lovely book. The libraries are all still open. Pop on in and get books. Hey while you are there, get some for the kids! I have a stack of books just waiting to be read so now is the time! Getting lost in a book is such a delicious way to live!!

When you are not reading, the next best thing it to head outside. We are so lucky it is springtime and not January. Open your windows to let the fresh air come in to wash away the winter dust, and then go outside. I have packets of early seeds such as spinach and kale that are just waiting to be planted. With shovel in hand, I will be planting. Dirt is good for the soul. And a note to my neighbors, I will be raking up the Autumn leaves. (They really are enriching to the soil!) When the weather warms up, I will get back to fence painting. No, really, I am. 

Take a spin around the block on your bike. Take a walk in your neighborhood. Send those kiddos outside to play. They must get outside to refresh their little brains too. It is spring in northern Indiana, and we are so grateful.

Now to the most important task ahead of us: let us take care of one another…our families, our neighbors, our communities. Be on call for special deliveries or a cheery wave out the window. Sit out on the stoop and watch the stars come out, or get up early and listen to the birds. They keep singing, and soon the peepers!
We can all get through this together. Our world is a little different right now, but it is still our world. Take the time to be quiet and listen. 

As for me, I will play my ukulele on the porch each evening. 

Above all, wash your hands!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Spending the day at the Angola Carnegie Library



Miss Jessica



The Angola Carnegie Library is quiet at 8:00 a.m. The silent sound of the furnace chugging mingles with the unread books. The sun is just beginning to crawl across the eastern horizon with a few slanting rays peaking in the windows. 

It is on this day that I hold court with all my Trine classes. Once a semester we take our satchels and books down the hill to the library to explore, and learn about our town library. Perhaps a little history lesson of Andrew Carnegie will be thrown in to the mix. (Who was Andrew Carnegie, they ask?)

Jessica Boyd, or as most children call her, Miss Jessica, is always willing, able and enthused to host this plethora of students into her sacred children’s space each semester. Jessica comes in early to unlock the doors, turn on the lights, and get the pets all settled. Today is National Pet Day so her dog is spending the day also!
I arrange the books I have gathered from yesterday’s foray into the stacks as I wait for the students. The early morning temperatures are barely into the teens so I expect them to drive the few blocks and still come in complaining (or just chatting) about the cold. I am not wrong. With planning the night before, the chairs are gathered and arranged in a circular fashion around the sacred books. The students come in, take seats, and Jessica gives her welcome speech. When she asks how many have been here before, there are just a couple of hands in each class. The two of us look at each other with a “tsk, tsk!”

When she is finished, I continue on with class in the warmth of the surrounding books. It is delightful to be here on this cold winter’s day. The day and the books spill around me like the winter’s sun. One class leaves…another class comes in.
Between the visits, I sit among the books and peruse. I often have the sinking feeling of so many books and so little time, but on this day, I am comforted by the thought I have read so many of these books. I read from Muir and Thoreau. I pick up Jan Brett and Maurice Sendak. And, for some reason, I pick up “The House at Pooh Corner” by A.A. Milne. 

As I read through the book, I note to myself how much this should be an adult novel. I find my favorite passage and find myself crying. “. . . what I like doing best is Nothing." "How do you do Nothing?" asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time. "Well, it's when people call out at you just as you're going off to do it, What are you going to do, Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and then you go and do it.”

Doing nothing sounds so lovely, although it is something I do not do very often. I make a promise to myself to add that to my daily activities. 

During the next break of students, I look up more information on A.A. Milne, 1882-1956. Milne was a prolific writer, screenplay writer, novelist until the publication of “The House at Pooh Corner.” The book was such a great success that he was forever known as a children’s writer. Christopher Robin was actually based on his own son, Christopher Robin Milne. His own Christopher played with a stuffed piglet and tiger along with a pair of kangaroos. The Hundred Acre Woods was also based on Ashdown Forest which was close to his home.

Milne was a writer, a soldier, and an editor. He once wrote, “A writer wants something more than money for his work; he wants permanence.” With his Pooh stories, he certainly has attained that.

The students come and go. Jessica gives tours. I talk endlessly until the clock on the wall tells me it is time to let them go. “Have a great weekend,” I say, “perhaps try to do nothing?”

At the end of the day, I stack the books. Drew Hemlock will have the pleasure of finding homes for all of them tomorrow. I pack up my own bag, say my farewells to the Carnegie staff and head on home.

Work and activities including theatre and hosting Jonah for a week fill my hours, but perhaps I can sneak away for a bit myself and just do “nothing.” What could be lovelier on a cold winter’s day?
Why not try it?