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Friday, May 31, 2019

Closeup Magic

I have a story about horsetails that I'll save for another time. Today you should simply appreciate the beauty of sunlight on morning dew on these little prehistoric survivors. And the closer you get, the more magical they will appear.

Sailboat in the Fog

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Trillium Hill, In All Its Glory

It’s hard to say which is most charming — a single flower beaded with raindrops, the wider view of many flowering plants, or an entire hillside of trees with the spring ephemerals blooming on the ground below. 

And then, which is the more enchanting flower, the pure white trillium or the blazing yellow cowslip, a.k.a., marsh marigold? Both flowers, blooming by the hundreds, together in one scene, are unforgettable.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Man in the Kitchen!

The architecture of Bob's apple pie
My brother-in-law Bob is a kitchen genius. He doesn't rest on his laurels, either, but puts his all into everything he prepares. For apple pie, he cuts fruit slices (Granny Smith) a bit on the chunky side and places each slice carefully by hand. 

Bob's crumbly crumb topping is applied carefully, too -- one spoonful at a time, crowning the sweet, rounded hill of apples.

The long, slow simmer of Bob's chicken soup
When Bob makes a pot of chicken soup, he starts early in the day to make a rich stock. Already it smells so good it's hard not to take a dipper to the pot!

A little later in the afternoon, with the pie in the oven and the soup approaching completion, the aromas in Bob's kitchen could drive an even slightly hungry person wild.

My sister Deborah's salad

When I call it "Bob's kitchen," I only mean to indicate that he was chef of the day. My sister, herself an excellent cook, was busy entertaining sister (me) and dog guest (Sarah), but she took time to assemble a beautiful salad, another architectural marvel. 

Here is the soup ready to go into our waiting bowls, chicken and carrots and mushrooms added to onion and garlic, plus a little lemon and Bob's secret chicken soup spice. I wonder if he would mind my sharing his secret?

The pie is out of the oven, too. With the crumb topping hiding the apples, there is no way anyone would guess at this stage how beautifully -- and with what loving care -- the pie has been put together. 

Of course, the proof of the soup and the pie (and the salad) is in the eating, and I'll just say that there were no disappointments!

Brother Bob, I'm so glad we are family!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The High Price of Having Too Much Fun!

My sister and I decided to take Sarah to the dog park so she could run around off her leash and have a little fun, which we figured would be fun for us, too. Little Ms. Sociable got right into it. All was going well. The three below were all puppy age. Sarah (above with two of the young ones) was by far the senior member of the play group. Older and wiser? Let's see....

Above are all four dogs, sniffing the ground and each other and just generally observing their little world. 

Oh, boy! Fresh water! Well, it was fresh when the dogs started drinking, which was before Sarah put her dirty front feet into the water dish. 

And here she is again (below), still looking respectable.

But then -- not only did she run down to a muddy area but she decided, heaven knows why, to roll in the mud! She was so pleased with herself! I was so exasperated with her!

No way was a dog this dirty getting back in my sister's car! Another section of the dog park had a hose, and we did the best we could rinsing off the dirt, but our best wasn't good enough in my book. And so we were off to the -- doggie wash!!!

She had an oatmeal shampoo! It was the price she had to pay for having had way too much fun at the dog park, so I didn't add to the penalty by photographing her mid-bath. I did take a picture of clean Sarah, obviously chastened, sitting in the back of the car: 

All's well again now. Sarah is clean and dry again, and she was brushed and combed and had some minor clipping done, becoming  so very presentable once more that she is again welcome in the kitchen, begging whatever smells good that is in preparation for the dinner of her human companions. Is that a good dog? She's sweet and old and clean, and she's our girl, so what can I say?

Did Time Forget This Prairie Town? Will Anyone Remember?

Once again, not far from our day's destination, we left the big road to  visit briefly a small town, and once again we found a place that had clearly known past glories (if only in a small, rural way) and had since fallen on hard times. We enjoyed a walking tour of the central square. The search for a cafe was a failure, but the dogwoods in bloom were cheery, and I felt the statue of Stephen Douglas and the story of Douglas and Lincoln made our detour worthwhile. What first excited me, I must admit, was that I recognized Stephen Douglas from my first sight of him, face and name hidden from my view!

Do you know this prairie town? Hint: Stephen Douglas taught school and began his legal career here.

What you see in the photo above is not the original county courthouse. The original used to stand in the middle of the square (I can't tell you what happened to it) but the ornate replacement pictured here is on a corner diagonal to the square. Other buildings facing the square and off on streets branching away in different directions show the past glory of the little town and the contrast with its present sad state.

The famous Lincoln-Douglas debates were not held in this little town but in Chicago, Springfield, and seven other Congressional districts in the state of Illinois. Douglas, however, from this town is largely responsible for Lincoln's return to politics after he had run for senator twice, on two different tickets, and been defeated. Lincoln's famous "house divided" speech came out of his debates with Douglas and catapulted him to national fame and his successful run for the presidency. 

We looked around the empty streets and closely inspected architectural details of some well-preserved and other decaying buildings and thought about how vibrant the town must have been in the mid-nineteenth century. 

All across the United States, towns like this can be found -- towns with beautiful old buildings, towns bypassed by interstate highways, even locals having deserted the small shops to buy online. What is the future of these little old American communities? So many of them, to my eye, have the potential to be much more charming, friendly, and comfortable places to live than crowded cities and acres of cookie-cutter suburbs. Will they be rediscovered and revitalized, or will they fall into ruin?

Monday, May 6, 2019

A Little of What We Saw in Kansas

We crossed Kansas on the diagonal, from SW to NE, and did it in a single day. That wouldn't be a big deal to many people, but for us it was really making tracks, because we are, in general, pretty pokey travelers. We don't, generally, put in 10-12 hour driving days, and we do a lot of stopping and poking around. In general, that is. Not this time. This time we stuck to business (covering the distance) much more than we usually do, and so most of the photographs I have were taken out the car window -- that is, when it wasn't my turn at the wheel.

The Frida Kahlo cross above was a gift made by our Santa Fe friend. As I looked out the windshield, the brightly wrapped cross and Frida's face lent another dimension to the landscape beyond. We saw many, many long trains.

We saw many instances of the wind being put to work, also, along with inventive ways merchants had to catch the eye of potential customers speeding by.

With my family's railroading background, I can never pass an old train station without pausing -- and mourning the many routes no longer carrying passengers. If it could talk, the old station at Great Bend would no doubt have many stories to tell. And if only the distance a dog is allowed to travel on Amtrak were not limited, we might be crossing the country in leisurely fashion, in old-fashioned style! Freight trains, however, are still going strong west of the Mississippi and Missouri, and all the grain elevators give some idea why this would be so.

We took a short detour off our main road to explore Alma, Kansas, which bills itself as the "city of native stone." Old downtown buildings, as well as some of the older, larger houses, are built of limestone block, very familiar to me from the Illinois town where I grew up. Quite attractive, I always think. Sort of like 19th-century American castles. Sadly, our tour of Alma went by too fast for me to photograph the gorgeous old limestone buildings. 

We did make one stop to get out of the car in Alma, though. See below! My first thought when I saw it was gypsy wagon! David initially thought, houseboat! My second guess, caboose, is the one we finally agreed was most accurate. You can see how a couple of dreamers' eyes would be caught by this old derelict object, can't you?

Sometimes simply stopping for gas, though, was enough reason to employ my camera. I would have liked to see green and yellow in the lineup of semis below, but the billboard to the left (read the bottom part) convinced me to snap to shot, even without the full truck rainbow.

Not exactly photographs the state tourist bureau or any town chamber of commerce would leap to publish, are they? 

I have to tell you that there is a completely different album of photographs in my mind, from New Mexico and through corners of Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and across Kansas and Missouri. One electrifying and unforgettable image I can't show you is of an overturned long-distance hauler that had caught fire -- either before or after it rolled; who knows? -- its blackened hulk lying on the shoulder of the highway, trailer cracked open about midway and spilling piles of green cabbages out onto the side of the road. I'll bet you've never seen that photo anywhere! I can see it right now, in memory. 

The last time we went through Atchison, Kansas, we saw a gorgeous sunset, and that's still what I see in my memory album of the town. The only photos I have to show of Atchison are much more pedestrian, taken under a cloudy, end-of-day sky. 

To paraphrase what a friend says of the piano she plays in the corner of her mind (as contrasted to the one in the corner of the room), if only you could see my mental photograph album of our cross-country trip! I can't help imagining future visits (with camera and tripod and all manner of great lenses and all the time in the world) to all the places I didn't get to photograph, but it's unlikely that will ever happen. All those future visits, like the photographs that didn't get taken, are more mental objects than any part of the public world. As it is, however, I like to think that the images I do have to share of Kansas are not ones you have seen a million times before. If you like any of them at all, which is your favorite?