Monday, May 15, 2023

Graduation Season


It is graduation season, and our lives are filled now with endings and beginnings. I never let graduations pass me by, I always enjoy them. This year is no exception.

I spent Saturday with the Trine graduates. It is always so joyful watching the seniors graduate. The same seniors I had as freshman. Oh, how they have changed and been challenged these four years. They are ready to take on the world. As they passed by me on Saturday, I gave a nod of approval or a thumbs up, or even just a nod to say, “Well done, my friends, well done.”

This year graduation is bitter sweet for me. This is the year Jonah graduates from high school. For some reason, and I really don’t know why, I never thought about grandchildren growing up. This is a new phenomenon for me…I just thought they would always be kids. Lucky for me Abe has four “kids” yet for me to love on. If you have followed this column for years, you know lots about Jonah. He stayed a little pint for a long time as he thought he would never grow. All his friends were well over a head taller than he was, but then one day, he just grew up overnight. Now he is taller than his dad. My studio is still filled with photos of him as a little fellow. I still see that in him when I look at him. I still see that in him when he drives over to chat or show me something. I still see that when I take photos of him for the prom. I will always see that.

Of course, I wonder if my grandparents thought this about me? I am not really sure, and if so, they certainly never told me so. Of course, my grandparents were old, right? Not me, surely! But, alas, alas…here we are.

My Airbnb has been filled with Trine parents of graduating seniors. One set of parents, Penny and Dale, have stayed with me sixteen times over the course of four years. Their daughter, Lainie, just graduated from Trine. Lainie was on the figure skating team for Trine, and Penny never missed a performance. Once, while she was visiting, I came home to an entire living full of skating costumes. There were sequins and threads of all colors strewn from one end to another as she repaired costumes for the skaters. We had to say good-bye on Sunday as our time together is now over. I always looked forward to her visiting so it was hard to say farewell. That is all in the business of Airbnb, but I love meeting friends for life.

Other parents were here as well as they found storage units for all the cumbersome articles too big for the trip ride or flight home. Refrigerators, chairs, microwaves and a plethora of other stuff found in a college dorm room are now packed away until the fall migration begins.

Last night I biked through campus. Everyone gone, and the parking lots are empty. The flowers still bloom even if the students are not here to see them.

I came home and stood in my front yard under my absolutely magnificent crabapple trees. They were splendid this year with thousands of blossoms. Once a year they bloom, and I just can’t get enough of their beauty. But, once again, it is fleeting, and as I stood under the trees, the wind picked up. I was covered in blossoms along with my sidewalks and porch. Hundreds of other blossoms were picked up by the wind and scattered all through my neighborhood. I had to smile thinking about my students scattering across the world as well as jobs and post-graduate work will take them all across the United States and even internationally. Godspeed.

As Trine wraps up, our local high schools are just at the beginning of ceremonies, announcements, awards and, in reality, the rites of passage to our students.

I would love to be a commencement speaker because of all the things I want to tell these young people…including Jonah.

Terry Bradshaw touched on a few of these on Saturday. “Smile. Be kind. Shake hands,” he said. I will add a few comments of my own. Be curious. Be willing to go the extra mile for your co-workers and your family, love this life, and always be appreciative. Always.

As the poet Robert Browning (1812-1889) once said, “Love is the energy of life.”

Monday, May 08, 2023

May Day


As quickly as April appeared, May did the same thing. Turning the calendar over to another month seems to go faster these days. Of course, the first day of May does not exactly feel like the first day of May!

The month of May, the first of May is different from all the other months. All are spectacular, and have their own beauty, but May really does bring on the last of the spring months.

When I was a kid, on May Day, we danced around the Maypole. Now looking back at that, I have no idea who built the Maypole! I don’t even know if we were ever told the meaning of May or the Maypole, but did we even care? I think not! We wore our fancy dresses to school with those patent leather shoes and twirled through those ribbons on May Day. I do think it would be a bit chilly to be dancing around the Maypole on this day in a fancy dress. Maybe we wore leggings and jackets! Funny how I do not remember the details, just the fun.

I would love to hear of any school celebrating this day or your experiences as a kid on this day! The fact is no one told us May first was the Cross-Quarter Day between spring and summer and is known as Beltane. Halloween, the counter-part to May Day gets all the attention! It, too, is the cross-quarter day between Autumn and Winter.

May Day is also known at Beltane which is another ancient celebration. Whereas, Halloween celebrates spooks and impending darkness, Beltane celebrates just the opposite. Beltane celebrates tender evenings, and gardens in honor of Flora, goddess of fruits and flowers.

In Celtic times the May Queen, known also as Flora, was celebrated as the goddess of the flowers. She is also Lady Marian in Robin Hood and Guinevere in the Arthurian cycle! (Even if you have not read the Arthur tales, we all know “Camelot” and all the songs in that musical!) The May Queen also fights off the Queen of Winter sending her away for six months of so!

Not only did we dance the Maypole, we gathered flowers, and made flowers out of tissue paper to place in small cones and attached these offerings by pipe cleaners to door knobs of friendly houses. We used to make these in school and pass them out on our way home. Always, and I mean always, we hid in the bushes after we rang the doorbell to see the delight on someone’s face as they gathered up their treasure! For several years, Jonah and I did this! It was great fun making these small baskets and placing them on doorknobs.

I am not sure that anyone is dancing around the Maypole today or making baskets! However, most of us are involved in a bit of gardening. I checked out the Farmer’s Almanac for our area to give you a list of plants and seeds that could go into the ground this week. Surprisingly, there are quite a few as we keep in mind another frost or snowstorm would not be unusual for us!

So, what can we plant? Here is the list (alphabetically) for our area: arugula, carrots, chives, cilantro, dill, okra, onions, potatoes (if you have not already planted them!), parsley, peas, and turnips. Go ahead and get your garden ready to put these seeds or plants into the ground. For me, I am waiting for my once-a-year Mother’s Day gift of a load of mulch from Aaron, and someone to start up my little tiller.

In the meantime, it is May, the lovely month of May. In days of yore, villagers would gather on the hillsides throwing the last of the winter’s wood onto a heaping pile and setting it on fire. Later on, in the evening they would look into the hills or the woods watching for the faerie lights which were always summoned back to the gardens on this day. Of course, very few of us are looking for faeries on our lawn, but why not? My grandfather always had us listen for faeries during May. Did we hear them? That is my secret. In the meantime, it is May, the lovely, beautiful month of May.

Robert Fitzgerald (1910-1985) once wrote:

“Awake! And in the fires of spring

Your winter garment of repentance fling.

The bird of time has but a little way to flutter

And the bird is on the wing.”

Monday, April 17, 2023

What treasures do you have hidden?


This past weekend, with warm temps and blue skies, I decided it really was time to get outside to play in the dirt…at least a little! After a winter of snow and sleet and broken branches, it is interesting and fun to see what treasures appear this year in the garden. What changes should I make?

I think the winter brings items to the surface. I don’t really know how that works! One year I was walking at Pokagon with a friend and dropped my car keys. It was in early October before the leaves, before the hunters, before the snows of winter. We looked and looked to no avail. I called the locksmith and made my way home in the dark. Months later, in April, we were walking the same path and there were my keys just sitting on top of the ground waiting to be found. I think about that story often. How did those keys end up on top of the ground after all those months?

How do the trinkets end up on top of the ground? I found a tiny shoe of Faith’s, a slew of marbles from Noah, and even small trucks and items from when Jonah was a child. I love finding these treasures of play, these trinkets from days gone by. I do not collect them, but I bury them back into the ground where they belong. Maybe someday, another child, another family will find them and wonder about the children who played in these gardens.

I think leaving remnants of our lives behind is fun to do and so easy. Maybe you are not comfortable with this topic, but alas, alas…it will happen.

Let’s start in my studio which is filled top to bottom with books. The books in my studio and on my shelves all over my house are all still in use with me! The books I put out in my Little Library are usually donated books or even books that I buy at a book sale! Anyway, back to my books. I hide things in books. Dried roses. Plane tickets. Love letters. Cards. Newspaper articles. Photographs. In one book, I hid a hundred-dollar bill. That alone will keep my kids busy looking for treasures! I even surprise myself when I pick up a book to peruse or read and find one of these tidbits. I enjoy it for a bit, and slip it right back into the book.

Let’s talk about pictures. You know, the ones we hang in our houses! Most of mine have stories and other photos tucked into them. My theatre art is all over my house with photographs of my casts for various plays. Most of these are autographed on the front. However, it is the back you do not see, but is just as important. On the back I have taped the playbills, some other photos of the cast, ticket stubs and other various information for each show. It is fun for me to lift a picture and turn it over. Most of my other pictures have stories attached to the back! I have hand-drawn pictures from Jonah and Brianna. Inside these lovely pieces of art are stories and photos of the artists themselves.

Recipes are the same. I love that I have many hand-written recipe cards from my grandmothers. I also have notes written all over my recipe books: “This one was great.” “I think it would be better with butter.” “My boys loved this!” “Don’t ever make this one again!” Most of my recipe books are old and falling apart, but contain most of my kitchen history!

Now this idea may not be for you! This is my welcome wall which is in the hallway going upstairs. When I first moved in twenty years ago, I had friends over for dinner. My first dinner party, but I had failed to buy a guest book. I thrust a marker into someone’s hand and simply said, “Just sign the wall.” One guest was mortified and said that she could never, but she eventually did. Just a few little signatures and notes on the wall. What was I thinking? It didn’t look like much then, but the signatures and poems and drawings on that wall has grown and is a focal point of visitors!

Of course, there are always blogs (yes, I have one), books of hand-written poetry (yes, I have that too), and albums of photos!

I love knowing I am leaving treasures behind.

Friday, April 07, 2023

Welcome April!


I turn around and the calendar says April…just like that! Once again, I exclaim, “Where did March go?” Nonetheless, April is here and it is such a lovely word. Saying it out loud conjures up purple violets, soft fresh green grass, and poetry month, of course!

With the play behind me, I now have time in the hours before twilight to get outside into my gardens! I still have twigs to rake up from the ice storm! Of course, it is time to prune the raspberry patch, gently pull leaves off of blooming daffodils and lots of other April chores. The colors of spring are just emerging with yellows and purples from the crocuses to the daffodils. I also noticed the chives were coming up out of the ground too. I am sure you have also noticed the lengthening of the days. I even have laundry out on the line as we speak!

Before we get too excited about spring, we need to remember we could still have snow up until the end of May. Some of these last snows are known as Blackberry Winter, at least in folklore. Melted snow is good for our gardens. There is a lovely old saying, “Snow in the fields, corn in the granaries.” It would be just a slight snowstorm, but it is still possible. It is time to plant those early crops, even with the possibility of snow. By now my grandpa would have potatoes and peas in the ground! I am way behind in planting, but I am sure it will get done in time.

This week also brings us the full moon of April. This full moon is known as the Pink Moon which refers to the phlox which grows by the roadside. There are other names for this full April moon. These include the following: Moon When the Ducks Come Back, Moon when the Geese Lay Eggs, Frog Moon and Sucker Moon. It is also known as the Paschal Moon which is the first full moon after the spring equinox. This is also the determining date for Easter which occurs the Sunday after the Paschal Moon.

This will moon will be shining above us on Wednesday evening and early on Thursday morning. Of course, it will be beautiful and a good night to sprinkle rose petals out onto our garden! Don’t worry what the neighbors think…just imagine how lovely to be outside under the light of the full moon scattering rose petals for the winter-hidden faeries.

April also brings National Poetry Month. For years I have been celebrating this month with poetry all over the county. This month is no exception. My classes will be reading Shakespeare on Thursday, and I will be out and about reading as the month goes on. These will be random locations with poetry popping up here or there. If you would like for me to pop up with poetry at your business or even your house, send me a note, and I will pop by with a poem or two! Otherwise, I will be out on the square or other places. Maybe it would be good to keep a poem in your pocket in case you want to join me. I would love that.

National Poetry Month was founded in April of 1996 by Academy of American Poets in April 1996. It is the largest literary celebration in the world, and I am honored to be part of it in spreading the love of poetry to my town.

As we begin this beautiful month of April, there are so many things to look forward to in the coming days…the sweet scent of flowers, fresh laundry on the line, a beautiful full moon and the Easter holiday.

In 1841 Robert Browning wrote and published a volume of poetry entitled, “Bells and Pomegranates.” He sold this volume for a mere six pence. It was not well received or even purchased by the public, but he republished the same piece under the title, “Poems,” in 1849. At that time, he received much more attention and, well, the rest if history. Here is the most famous part of that collection. This piece I had to learn as a youngster in elementary school, and I have never forgotten it.

The year's at the spring
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn:
God's in his heaven—
All's right with the world!

Pippa Passes

Robert Browning

Monday, March 20, 2023

Happy Spring!


First flower of spring in my garden!

Today at precisely at 5:24, the Earth balanced and spring arrived. I think she arrived quite regally with a day of sunshine and garden crocuses that are on the very brink of blooming. I did have one bloom a couple of weeks ago…a tiny little flower which was, to me, a harbinger of spring.

Where did the winter go? It was quite an easy one with a few snowfalls, a bit of cold weather, and an abundance of gray clouds. The ice fishermen had just one week to drag buckets and tents out to our lakes and collect a few fish for a Friday night fish fry. I know Aaron looks forward to ice fishing more than anyone I know. Even as a kid he could sit outside down on our frozen pond for hours…fish or no fish. Some years the ice is so clear for skating as well as for fishing, but it all fell a bit short this year. I am sure many of you feel winter was just long enough. For me, though, I didn’t finish all my winter, indoor projects. Well, I guess, there is always next winter!

This past weekend was another music and story filled weekend starting with open mic at the new 6 on James. I was anxious to see the new location for 6 Autumns. For the past several years, I have loved listening to folk music and attending the jams. Last month Carolyn and I signed up with our friend, Ken, and played and sang with our ukes. (Is this our new band, I ask?) We were going to sign up last Thursday, but we became a little intimidated with the new space and surroundings. Ah, maybe next month we will be braver and actually take the ukes out of the car!

Friday night was Herman’s Hermits at the T. Furth Center for the Performing Arts. It was a great concert. I attended with my friend, Jan, and I think we stood and sang the entire time. Yes, we knew all the songs! I have such a new fondness for the Furth Center. Oh, I have always loved it, but now that I spend four nights a week there in rehearsal, I feel a special kindred spirit for the place.

On Saturday, once again, Carolyn and I climbed into my Jeep, Lola, and set off in search of more music and stories. (Can one really ever get enough?) We stopped at the Pizza Hut south of Fort Wayne to join the Fort Wayne Ukulele Club. Long tables were put together to seat over 25 players from all over the region. It was great meeting new folks, playing new songs and letting the joy of music just wash over us. “We will be back,” we called out to our new friends as we loaded the Jeep back up and headed to Indianapolis.

My friend, Patrick Ball, was on the last leg of his tour with his magnificent harp. Patrick lives in Ireland, in County Clare to be exact. During his performance at the History Center sponsored by Storytelling Arts of Indiana, we were mesmerized by his Celtic stories and his pure command of the harp. It was an exquisite evening with just enough energy left to enjoy a late-night salon dinner party at Ellen’s with Patrick and other Indy friends telling stories late into the night.

By Sunday morning Carolyn and I packed to come home, and Patrick packed to go back to Ireland. I was so happy to introduce her to Patrick. I knew she would love his music and stories.

This week finds the rehearsal sign back of both doors. (Do not be offended if you drop by this week and see the signs. Of course, if you need in, come on in, but please tiptoe!)

I am putting the final touches on my Indiana Landmarks and Storytelling Arts show for next Sunday. If you are inclined, I am performing this on Sunday at 3:00 at the Indiana Landmarks building in Indianapolis. This piece is on the Eagles Theatre in Wabash who just received the Cook Cup. I have loved this research…I always do. If you decide to come down, let me know, and I will save a ticket for you!

After my own rehearsal every day, I am back at the Furth with the students for our Hitchcock shows which opens March 30.

As I said, it is a week of music and stories…perfect for the rites of spring!

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Eagles Theatre

Indiana Landmarks was founded in 1960 to preserve significant buildings in Indiana. The organization has grown and is one of the finest state-run organizations in our county. The main office is in Indianapolis, and there are eight satellite offices.

We are so fortunate to be under the umbrella of Indiana Landmarks for our own Historic Preservation Commission which is volunteer driven. I have been a part of this commission for many years seeking to improve and maintain our beautiful downtown.

Indiana Landmarks partnered with Storytelling Arts of Indiana to not only preserve structures, but to preserve the stories within the buildings. This program is called “If These Walls Could Talk.”

In 2007 Indiana Landmarks inaugurated the Cook Cup to be given to, “the owner who follows the highest standards of restoration in transforming a significant historic building, with positive impact on the neighborhood or community.” This prestigious award is given once a year with a presentation of an engraved silver cup and much fanfare.

Over the years, Indiana Landmarks has carefully chosen the winner, and at times the competition was quite active! Once the Cook Cup has been announced, the search also goes out to a storyteller to write and tell the story of the building! I have been so fortunate to have been awarded these story opportunities over the years. I have researched and told stories of the Charley Creek Inn in Wabash, the Bass Mansion in Fort Wayne, and the Shrewsbury House in Madison. These presentations have been a complete labor of love for me with on-site visits, hours spent sifting and sorting through boxes, and much on-line research through As a storyteller, I am given complete artistic freedom to research and write these stories. I am honored to work on these projects, and very humbled to spend the hours and days in trying to actually tell the stories. Once in a while, folks have lived in these structures so I can tell the story through their eyes.

This year the Cook Cup was given to The Eagles Theatre in Wabash for their massive restoration through the Honeywell Center. I am honored to research and tell the story of the Eagles Theatre. Upon my first on-site visit to Wabash, I spent the day with Cathy Gatchel, the Chief Development Officer for Honeywell, Arts and Entertainment. Cathy spent the full day with me touring the theatre including all the nooks and crannies. My favorite part of this marvelous tour was the stage floor which was original to 1906. Cathy said they debated long and hard whether or not to replace the floor, but in the end, it was saved. Walking across that floor I could hear the echo of the thousands of folks who danced, who sang, who lectured across those wooden floors. I knew then the stage floor would be the focus of my story.

The Honeywell Foundation purchased the Eagles Theatre in 2010 to help save and preserve this historic movie theatre. When the purchase was made, the theatre was in great disrepair. The upper floors were closed. The heating and air conditioning did not work properly. The balcony was closed for safety. It was then they decided on the restoration project in the amount of 16 million dollars, and it is spectacular.

It now operates as a movie theatre, a Media Arts program for high school students, offices, meeting rooms, classroom and balcony suites. The theatre is open for business every night showing the newest (and oldest) films available!

At the end of the day, I walked across the street to the Charley Creek Inn, one of my favorite places to stay! The staff knew I was coming to research once again, and I was given a room which looked out onto the Eagles Theatre marquee. With darkness coming early in December, my room was lit with the colorful marquee. I had dinner in the Cole Porter room and headed back over to the Eagles Theatre for the evening movie. As I crossed the street, snow was coming down, the Christmas lights of the city were vibrant. I felt as if I, too, were in a movie such as “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

My story premieres in Indianapolis at the end of March. With special thanks to Indiana Landmarks and Storytelling Arts of Indiana, and the Honeywell Foundation, I will take the stage and tell the stories. Come on down, be part of our Indiana history, and find out who did dance on that stage!

Graduation Season

  It is graduation season, and our lives are filled now with endings and beginnings. I never let graduations pass me by, I always enjoy them...