Chihuly in Indiana

Today’s one word prompt: Glass.

We were in Indiana a few weeks ago and saw some beautiful works of art by Dale Chihuly, who specializes in glass sculptures.

Tower of glass
Tower of glass – Children’s Museum, Indianapolis. The tower is 43 feet tall and weighs 18,000 lbs.

The ceiling, also in the Children’s Museum, was spectacular, with hundreds of pieces of glass in a myriad of shapes, sizes and colors all jostled together to create an amazing glass mosaic. There was a sign challenging viewers to find different shapes. But I enjoyed just sitting on the circular, slowly rotating sofa in the middle of the room with my head resting on the top, gazing upward in awe.

A piece of the Chihuly ceiling, seen from below
A piece of the Chihuly ceiling, seen from below

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Our last day in Indiana we took a side trip south to Columbus. This small city is the sixth city in the U.S.A. for innovative architecture. (The other five are all large cities.) There are tours you can take to see the various architectural wonders, by such illustrious architects as Eliel and Eero Saarinen and I.M. Pei. There are interesting works of art all over town also. In the Visitors Center, our first stop (and where you must go to start any of the tours), there was this beautiful Chihuly chandelier over the stairway. At night, we were told, it is even more spectacular – it lights up because it’s filled with neon tubes!

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There were two small Chihuly pieces actually for sale (the price wasn’t marked, but I didn’t bother to inquire!):

 

Dale Chihuly’s works of glass art are integrated into landscapes all over the country. I’ve seen them in botanical and cactus gardens. It’s always a pleasant surprise to encounter one!

Daily Prompt: High School Memories

Today’s prompt: A song comes on the radio and instantly, you’re transported to a different time and place. Which song(s) bring back memories for you and why? Be sure to mention the song, and describe the memory it evokes.

Hello Good-bye by the Beatles is probably the most evocative because to this day it brings to my mind a particular event that I remember pretty clearly. It was mid-December, 1967 at Verde Valley School, nestled among the red rocks near Sedona, Arizona, where I went to high school.

Aerial view of Verde Valley School campus
Aerial view of Verde Valley School campus, with Cathedral Rock as a backdrop.

(Sedona was mostly unknown then and not the tourist attraction it is today.) It was the day we were all preparing to go home for vacation and gathering in the dining hall/quad area, our luggage in tow. Suitcases were piled up on the covered porch of the dining hall, waiting to be loaded onto the school’s green buses for the trip to Phoenix airport, two hours away.

The famous view of Cathedral Rock after a snowfall.
The most famous view of Cathedral Rock after a snowfall.

The unusual thing about this day was that it was snowing! Sedona typically will get a dusting of snow a few times during the winter months, edging the red rocks in white and creating a silent beauty. But it was not just a dusting that we got on that day. This was a sort of freak storm, the snowflakes coming down fast and heavy and covering the ground in a thick blanket of white. (The storm affected the entire northern half of Arizona, I later learned, causing hardship and a few deaths on the Navajo Reservation where people did not have heating and were not accustomed to weather that cold).

Hello Good-bye blasted  from the speakers in the nearby common room.

The patio outside the common room probably looked pretty much like this that day.
The patio outside the common room probably looked pretty much like this that day.

The song was on the 1967 album Magical Mystery Tour, but it was only that song that evokes these memories, and appropriate for the occasion, I suppose! It’s upbeat with a happy sort of rhythm and enhanced the euphoria of the student body, already excited to be going home as well as by the snow. The vast majority of the students were from Arizona or California, most unused to snow.

What was going on in my mind was, if it’s snowing this much here in the Southwest, what will the winter be like back in Wisconsin? (I needn’t have worried – surprisingly, not only was there no snow at all when I got home, but there was no snowfall the entire three weeks I was home, not even at Christmas – I was disappointed!)

Meanwhile, some of the California kids were going a bit crazy with the snow. A few tried to build a snowman (it was wet, “good packing” snow) with bare hands – hardly anyone had gloves or mittens. One very tall, lanky African-American boy from Oakland was picking up snow and forming it into balls to throw at people. At first he wasn’t very good at it – the snowball fell apart in his hands and scattered harmlessly when he threw it – but eventually he got the hang of it and started packing small, hard snow missiles, ready to throw at anyone who came near. He laughed when he hit his target, thinking it was great fun. He mostly hit people in the back or front of their jackets or on their legs, but one of his snowballs barely missed my head!

“Michael,” I admonished him. “Be careful where you’re throwing that! You don’t understand about snowballs! I come from a place where there’s snow every winter, and I’m telling you they can really hurt someone.”

He didn’t believe me or didn’t care, delightedly continuing to scoop up handfuls (he actually was wearing a tight-fitting pair of leather gloves) of the wet stuff to throw at anyone or anything he found. Fortunately no one was hurt because his aim was terrible!

The students gathering in the quad mounted – the buses were late leaving campus due to the storm.  A few kids were transported in smaller vehicles by staff members to nearby communities, so they were able to leave before the rest of us.

The quad after a light snow.
The quad after a light snow.


The ride to Phoenix in a crowded bus full of chattering students was charged with excitement caused by the snowstorm, the music, and the prospect of seeing family and friends at home. For awhile, looking out the window, I saw nearly whiteout conditions, but little by little the snow dissipated, eventually consisting merely of a few stray flakes floating over the arid landscape. By Phoenix, warm temperatures and a high cloud cover returned.

I don’t remember if my flight to Chicago was delayed or not. I just remember anticipating snow at home and feeling let down by a boring landscape of dead cornfields, naked trees and lawns where nothing was growing, just bare ground of soggy, dead grass!

Greeting card showing snow falling outside the dining hall.
Greeting card showing snow falling behind Brady Hall. The dining hall is on the far left.

Note: None of these photos were taken by me. I downloaded them from Google.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning

Beginning: a New Year, a sunrise, a newborn’s first day of life, a new pet, the first day of a trip. All of these come to mind immediately when I think of “beginning.”

I’ve taken many pictures of sunsets, but few of sunrises. I got lucky on Dec. 18, 2013: I was on my way to work on one of the shortest days of the year, so the sun was rising during my drive. The rippling pattern of the clouds that morning spread some beautiful colors across the sky, and made for a gorgeous beginning of the day. I looked for a place to stop so I could take a picture, and found one just north of a local park, at the entrance to a road leading into an industrial complex.

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Another beginning I’ve had recently is the adoption of a cat, after 20 years of being petless! We found this beautiful tortoiseshell at a CARE shelter, named Hazel; her story was compelling: she’d been found as a pregnant “teenager” and put into a foster home that usually fosters kittens. There she gave birth to 6 kittens (all “torties” like their mother) and she was a devoted mother. One of the kittens was kind of a “runt” who had trouble learning to walk. Hazel nudged her and leaned against her to help her take her first steps. Two months later, mom and kittens were taken to the shelter, and subsequently all her kittens were adopted. But mom Hazel stayed at the shelter waiting for a “forever” home for more than a year and a half before we arrived just before Christmas.

We fell in love with Hazel and took her home the day after Christmas. This picture is one of the first that I took of her at home. We bought a combination toy/scratching area which she took to right away: she loves batting the ball that goes round and round in the outer groove.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Another one of my first pictures of her is this one, lying next to the dining room table. Next to her paw is a feather from a carrot-shaped catnip filled toy that she had already begun to rip to shreds!

????????????????????Hazel was very scared the first few days with us, since she’d been at a shelter so long and suddenly had a two-story house to explore! Now she owns the house – and us!!

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Community

I looked at several of the posts for this challenge and realized that community can mean different things. It can be a small community of people who live and work together to farm, cook and weave. In Peru, I visited a rural community called Isca Pataza. In this photo, the community of women enjoy each other’s company as they spin and chat. Some of the menfolk of the community sit behind them.

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A group of students who works on a public project together is a community. Although some of the faces have been rubbed out, I could feel the spirit of these 5th graders who put together this “turtle” of artwork that was meaningful to them to beautify a public park in Beloit, Wisconsin.

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One feels a sense of community when united in a common cause. Participating in a strike with coworkers and colleagues I’d never met before gave me a feeling of closeness withthis community of teachers, marching, picketing and singing  in solidarity for the benefit of Chicago Public Schools and working conditions for staff.  (Chicago Teachers Union strike, Sept. 2012)

On the chilly morning of Sept. 11, our strike group gathered to remember the tragedy of 9/11/2001 and say a prayer for the families of the victims.
On the chilly morning of Sept. 11, our strike group gathered to remember the tragedy of 9/11/2001 and say a prayer for the families of the victims.
Picketing in front of Disney Magnet School on Marine Drive in Chicago
Picketing in front of Disney Magnet School on Marine Drive in Chicago: participants were adults and children, carrying homemade signs and premade ones, shouting to motorists on Lake Shore Drive, singing songs and walking to the beat of some colleagues’ drums.

Daily Prompt: Food, Marvelous Food

(June 4) If you could get all the nutrition you needed in a day with a pill — no worrying about what to eat, no food preparation — would you do it?

No, I don’t think I would, although I might like the option on a day in which I don’t have time to eat. But I cannot nor would not want to imagine a world ????????????????????????????????????without the taste of sweet chocolate, juicy strawberries or barbecued shish-kabobs!

The pleasure of eating is something we all experience. Having to eat forces you to slow down – maybe just a little if you eat fast – and reflect on how your day is going, talk to a companion, or entertain yourself with reading or TV. Everyone is in such a rush these days that they don’t take time to interact with others and to enjoy the pleasure of delighting their taste buds. When I was growing up, my family of seven all gathered together to have dinner. It was rare that we were allowed an exception to watch a favorite TV program. It was a time to converse with family members and to display good manners: “May I please be excused?” was a required request to leave the table. I don’t think I would know the names of most of my parents’ friends or much about the lives of my brother and sisters if we hadn’t spent time together at the dinner table.

Nowadays, it seems that many families do not have that time together – whether it’s no longer valued or because everyone is in a rush. Sometimes schedules don’t coincide: children come home from school when Mom and/or Dad have gone to work, or an older sibling works the late night shift so is still sleeping at dinner time. Kids have electronics in their rooms to entertain them. They might munch on their fast food while playing a video game or watching TV. I’m not sure they even pay enough attention to the food to enjoy it or think about the taste. The purpose of eating to people who eat on the run is to satisfy their hunger – they have to eat. These are the people who probably would like to take a nourishment pill.

But sitting down and eating a meal is an important part of our society, even of humanity. If at home, someone has to take the time to prepare it – which they may or may not enjoy doing. This also takes time, but it also adds to the appreciation of the meal. Many of our celebrations center around food: banquets at weddings, barbecues on the fourth of July, buffets at a variety of gatherings.

quinoa with shrimp & beans, plate of colorful raw veggies
quinoa with shrimp & beans, plate of colorful raw veggies

It’s an excuse to get together and catch up with friends, family and acquaintances. It’s a time to meet new people – many people meet their future life partner at a wedding, funeral, anniversary or birthday party.

What would life be without the simple pleasure of an ice cream cone in the summer or a brownie at a potluck? What can beat treating ourselves to dinner at a nice restaurant with those we love to celebrate a special occasion? Food can have nearly an infinite variety of tastes and textures – some we like, some we don’t. It’s a conversation piece. Food is a prominent part in most, if not all, cultures around the world. Food played an important part in history – when would the New World have been “discovered” by Europeans if they weren’t on a constant quest to obtain spices from the East? Perhaps we would be speaking a Native American language today. Without food, our history would be completely different.

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Rural villagers in southern Peru share a meal of mostly potatoes, their main staple.
Rural villagers in southern Peru share a meal of mostly potatoes, their main staple.

So before the next time you sit down to eat, take the time to arrange the different foods on your plate. When you sit down at the table (and NOT in front of the TV), look at your plate and appreciate the variety of tastes, colors, textures and nutrients before you even take a bite. Then take that bite – but don’t rush! Savor it. Talk to whoever is with you. Be glad for our Earth and its bounty of food. Without it, life would be terribly dull!     

Baked brie with peach jam & pecans served with buttered French bread (at The Vine in Minocqua, WI)
Baked brie with peach jam & pecans served with buttered French bread (at The Vine in Minocqua, WI)

Daily Prompt: Seasons

The April 8 (yes, I know, but I haven’t checked my email since then) daily prompt was:

For many of us, winter is blooming into spring, or fall hardening into winter. Which season do you most look forward to?

This one is easy – summer, always summer. I like spring because I like to watch the earth come alive again, but also because it leads to summer. Summer means warm weather. Summer means vacation. Summer means watching thunder storms at the cottage.

Summer means long bike rides and hikes. Summer means shorts, t-shirts and SANDALS!

You would probably be hard pressed to find a teacher who didn’t like summer the best. Summer is the time when we can do those things we don’t have time to do during the school year, or just to RELAX. Sometimes, though, summer is a time to catch up on classes we need for a further endorsement or credits toward renewal of our teaching certificates.

When I was younger, I liked fall the best – crisp, cool air, brilliant colors on the trees, shuffling through the fallen leaves. The worst thing about fall is that it eventually got colder and turned into winter. I have never liked winter because I don’t tolerate the cold well. However, there are some good things about winter also: the Christmas season, drinking hot chocolate curled up under a warm blanket, sitting by a warm fireplace, and when the snow has freshly fallen, the landscape is brilliant and beautiful. I like the way the snow traces the branches of the trees. I DON’T like to shovel it! I’m not into sports, especially winter sports.

All the seasons have their attractions, and I would miss them if I were to live in a place where it is summer all year round. It is a marvel of nature to witness the cycle of life every year. It’s a reminder that nature is really in charge of our planet and that no matter how our own lives are going, nature is going about doing what it always does:

Seeds and bulbs lie dormant, waiting for the sign…

Life is born as tiny plants shoot up out of the ground after a long hard freeze,

birds return to budding trees and sing their joy to the warming spring air,

flowers invite visitors by opening their petals, revealing their fertile interiors,

insects hatch and reappear, their buzzing and busyness signaling their quest for food.

Rain falls, sometimes in tempestuous torrents, providing nourishment to the soil and plant roots,

trees in full foliage provide shade and green beauty when the sun shines down its greatest heat and helps manufacture the chlorophyll

collected by their abundant leaves.

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Green gives way to red, yellow, orange and brown as trees lose their green chlorophyll and the sun diminishes its heat,

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the air turns colder and the wind blows the fallen leaves,

trees are bare, waiting for

snow, which coats their branches and blankets the ground.

The ground freezes and animals hibernate,

the land is white and silent,

early shadows extend over the blinding white landscape,

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snow falls or doesn’t,

ice melts on sunny days, dripping down into the frozen ground,

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snow melts into water and

flows down, down, soaking the ground and the dead grass…

giving a sign, with the help of the rising sun

that it’s time for life to awaken and

begin its cycle again.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

This photo was taken of my mother on the day she moved from her apartment in Independent Living to a room in Assisted Living. She had to greatly downsize and witnessed a stream of relatives visiting her and choosing what they wanted from the things laid out on the guest bed.

Here she sits facing the empty shelves, shelves that had held treasured and familiar things for so long, now packed in boxes or given away. I don’t know what she was thinking at that moment, but the scene is poignant in its representation of the changes elderly people go through as their ability to care for themselves decreases and they see the approach of the end of their lives.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details

I was walking along a path in northern Wisconsin, a few hours after it had rained. I noticed a colorful leaf on the ground with a perfectly round raindrop right in the middle of it. Stooping down, I could see all the details of that single raindrop on a leaf – tiny grains and debris were encased within it. It was as if there were a whole other story to be told about the miniscule objects inside the raindrop, which sat in the middle of a fallen leaf, in the middle of a gravel path, in the middle of the woods in Oneida County, Wisconsin.

I’m glad I was walking that day. Although I love biking, walking allows one to pause to take in the details of one’s surroundings.  A cyclist riding by would never have seen these small objects, the details of nature.

Watching winter birds

January 29th’s Daily Prompt was: Go to the nearest window. Look out for a full minute. Write about what you saw.

From my office upstairs I have a good view of our backyard as well as the neighbors’. Today, for the first time this season, everything is blanketed in white. The two inches of snow we got, however, don’t keep birds from having to find food! Right now, a flock of sparrows are flitting back and forth between the chain link fence and our crooked bird feeder. My husband filled it only a few hours ago with seed. Among the sparrows are also two bright red cardinals. One of the cardinals sits on the back of the feeder to get his fill as the nervous sparrows flutter around him. The sparrows are so fast that one millisecond seems to be enough for them to grab a seed in their beaks before darting back to the fence or the ground below.  The fence has become a waiting room for sparrows!

On the ground below are three squirrels, their bushy tails curled up behind them, gobbling up the seeds dropped by the birds. There is plenty for them to eat! They used to jump onto the feeder from a nearby tree branch, but my husband put a stop to that by adding a flat umbrella-like metal “roof” over the feeder, now laden with snow, and a steep cone on the pole underneath. This is why they must resort to eating the birds’ leftovers.

Over this scene, a thick Comcast cable stretches diagonally across our yard and driveway connecting our house to a box attached to a telephone pole on the far side of the yard. This is the source of our “bundled” telephone and cable services.

In the middle of the yard, a fallen tree branch juts out of the snow. Tufts of tall grass can be seen here and there in the neighbor’s yard. On the other side of the driveway, which has been cleared by the snow blower, paw prints in the snow – little depressions that lead willy-nilly around the yard – indicate the recent appearance of our other neighbors’ black lab, who loves frolicking and barking at anyone who comes by.