Home. A weighty concept in some ways, but also tending toward the sentimental. It can connote fortification, shelter….and yet, homey can be quaint and trivial. We invent and reinvent our relationship to home throughout our lives. A place to go to, a place to run from, a place without, a place within. Maybe the truth about ‘home’ is that it is changing and fluid. That’s what I want to illustrate.
This photo was taken out of my bedroom window, from within the warm nest where I find safety, comfort, and respite. And yet, the window is transparent. It doesn’t completely shield me from the cold visually, nor does it keep me from feeling it (it’s an old drafty house, not well insulated at all!). It lets me come face to face with the physical realities of frost and even pulls me beyond the immediate perimeter of my house, across the street, up into the trees, and all the way out of the Earth’s atmosphere to the Moon. And still, this is all my home, too. The Universe is where I live. Home is near as well as far. And why should I not feel safety and belonging in all of the world’s manifestations? Cold and death and distance and infinity do not annihilate me, nor do they exalt me. They are familiar and comforting, too. I do not control my home as I do not control the weather…I live in it. And life is bigger than most of us imagine.
For another picture of home, mundane and temporal but nevertheless real and interesting, my last post was about our home business, Scholar and Poet Books. Please click here and take a look!
Our online store is up and running with over 200 items — finally! Check out the link in my sidebar to visit the site and find out what I’ve been photographing. Our Rocky Horror Picture Show Scrapbook is up for sale for the next 6 days. Buy It Now or give us your Best Offer…the perfect Valentine’s Day gift! Or check out our Vintage Toys and Games & Puzzles. Our first vintage toy sale was a thrill for me. He was a little Schuco wind up toy, a clown faced monkey that played the violin and shuffled around in a circle, made in US zone Germany right after WWII. He was in his original box and in excellent condition. We asked what we thought was a reasonable price after having researched other items of the same ilk…and there weren’t many! Within a few hours he was snapped up by a buyer in Braunschweig, Germany. It made me very happy to think the little guy was going back home! We shipped him off and just received confirmation that he arrived safe and sound and is making his new owner very happy.
This is the latest adjunct to Steve’s online book business which he’s been running from this location for about 5 years. In the process of buying books from estate sales, he’s also been in the position to pick up other items as well. He used to rent an antique mall booth to display and sell these things, but now we’re doing it all online. I am his new business partner, and so far, I’ve been “specializing” in Children’s Books, Toys, Games, Puzzles and Hobby Kits. That means I get to research where all these curious things originated and when they were manufactured. I tell you, I’m learning a LOT! Frequently, it’s a LOL experience, coming face-to-face with humorous cultural idiosyncrasies and fetishes. There’s a lot of history thrown in as well, which I find fascinating.
So pop on over and satisfy your curiosity. There’s much more to come! Haven’t even begun to list the German LPs, stamp collections, and QSL cards…
My weekend working at Old World Wisconsin is over for this week. We’ve survived the brutal heat, although the beeswax candles in St. Peter’s did not…one suffered from heat exhaustion to the point that it fell out of its holder and now lays tangled in the brackets of the sanctuary lamp chandelier. Another of its mates is listing at about a 90 degree angle. We’ve had no significant rainfall since June 16. Crowds have been sparse, way off the season norms. How do I stay sane while the sweat drips down my corset? I meditate and sew. I was taught to make pinballs during my training week. These are dodecahedrons (12-sided spheres) of 5-sided bits of fabric, sometimes called “Bucky balls” (named after Buckminster Fuller and his geodesic domes). They hold pins and needs like a pincushion, but can also be used for playing hackey sack or juggling, or hung with a ribbon on a Christmas tree (not that anyone in the 19th century used them for that!). I find it fun to pick out the bits of fabric and mix and match the colors…and it’s a whole lot simpler than quilting. I can sew 12-20 stitches per inch by hand. I’ve made about 10 of these so far; a few have not been stuffed yet because finding the scrap wool and fabric to put inside requires a “supplies requisition form”. I have begun to hand hem linen towels as well, and when I’m at the Hafford House on Tues. and Wed., I crochet rag rugs. So here are some photos of my handiwork, and a shot of my favorite visitor today: a butterfly who landed on the 173 year old wood and spread his magnificent wings for me.
Hope you had a great weekend; maybe unlike you, I look forward to Mondays because it’s my day off!
The Raspberry School is part of the Norwegian area of Old World Wisconsin. The one-room schoolhouse dates back to the late 19th century and brings back memories for lots of visitors who went to schools like this one. One fellow I talked to said he loved telling people that he graduated 3rd in his class…and omitting the fact that there were only 3 pupils in his grade level.
Multi-aged classrooms became a “new” education idea again in the 70s when I was in grade school and when my kids were in elementary school in the 90s, but ours only spanned two grades. I remember when we all walked home for lunch in the middle of the day. No lunch pails needed.
Each desk at the school has a slate and a slate pencil (no chalk, just slate on slate) and a copy of one of the McGuffey Readers. I never used one as a child. What about you?
But I found the most fascinating thing I learned last Monday at this school was about the Pledge of Allegiance. The 1892 version by Francis Bellamy reads: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” With so many immigrants from different nations, allegiance to a new flag was part of public school education. It wasn’t until 1923 that the phrase “the flag of the United States of America” replaced “my flag”. Bellamy protested, but his opinion was ignored. Twenty years after that, in Japanese internment camps, all those over the age of 17 were asked if they would swear unqualified allegiance to the United States and “forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, to any other foreign government, power or organization”. It wasn’t until 1954, when atheism and Communism were perceived as national threats, that “under God” was added. Francis Bellamy’s granddaughter asserts that the author of the original pledge would have objected to this change as well.
To what or to whom would you pledge your allegiance? Liberty and equality (which Bellamy wanted to include but knew the state superintendents were against equality for women and African Americans) and justice are the three great ideas of the American political tradition, according to Dr. Mortimer Adler. Are we in agreement on supporting these ideas in the U.S.A.? It’s something to think about as Independence Day approaches. Feel free to submit an essay in the comments section. Spelling counts, but neatness doesn’t (it’d be typed, after all).
I took this picture yesterday at Old World Wisconsin. This is Rachel, one of my colleagues, at the spinning wheel in the Kvaale house. Rachel is over 6 feet tall, and it’s a wonder she hasn’t given herself a concussion every day as she passes from this room into the kitchen. The doorway is probably only 5 and a half feet tall.
The Norwegian immigrants knew how to stay warm – a very useful skill in Wisconsin winters, too.
Today was my last day as the historic interpreter at the Schottler house at Old World Wisconsin. I’m going to miss Stud Muffin, the young male pig, and watching him grow fat. He still hasn’t figured out how to go outside…up one little ramp and down another on the other side…who said pigs were smart? I am going to miss the smell of cabbage roses and camomile in the garden. I will miss stringing rhubarb up to dry and making rhubarb pie. Oh! I have to tell you that the rhubarb pie I made DID get eaten after all, at least partially. They cut out a slice to display on a plate with a fork and some school group chaperone ate it while the interpreter was making sure the 45 kids running around didn’t break anything! I am satisfied that it was not too runny, as my objective was to improve upon the last display pie that was baked. And my darling daughter, the Approximate Chef, has told me that she whipped up some rhubarb and ginger sherbet the other day. She sent this photo along to share:
Today was a gorgeous day, though. Plenty of time for slowing down, too. One of the school groups was an hour late, so they skipped my area entirely. The other school group was 3 groups of only 9 kids, so it felt quite leisurely not to be herding 30 kids at one time. That meant that I could sit on the porch sewing, enjoying the quiet during the off hours. Three photographers with tripods and bunches of gear came by and snapped away. The Schottler farm is a still life paradise, really. And so monochrome friendly! Although the delphiniums in full bloom definitely deserve color.
I’ll be a Villager next, five days a week. At Mary Hafford’s house, I do get a kitchen garden with lavender, sage, thyme, and rosemary. And I need to learn how to crochet rag rugs. It’ll be fun. Too bad I don’t know any welcoming phrases in Irish!
Happy First of June! It’s Garage/Yard/Rummage/Estate Sale season, and Steve is prowling the streets looking for used books and anything else that strikes his fancy. He came home today excited by a “find” he had made and eager to get my reaction. It wasn’t what he hoped for. He dug a little deeper, and I burst into tears. Poor guy! It must be tough living with a hormonal woman after all those years as a bachelor.
So, what exactly were my emotions? That’s always an interesting question to ask when the gates are down and everything is flowing, so to speak. I recognize that my typical posture is self-denial. I defer, I sacrifice, I put others before me. I was taught that was how “good Christian women” behave. So I’ve been living with Steve for a year and a half now, in his duplex, with all his stuff, his book business and collections and whatnot, without so much as a closet for my own things. He promised me a closet a year ago. “My” closet is stacked 6 rows deep in his books. Still. My photographs, in albums and framed pictures, are in his storage unit because there’s no room for them here. I miss having them available to look at when I’m feeling sentimental. That’s one angle. Here’s another. My late husband was a lot more materialistic than I am, too. He liked to spend his earnings on toys and gadgets and things that struck his fancy. The stuff he brought home was not second-hand, garage sale-priced stuff. It was usually the latest thing. I rarely saw the need for these purchases or agreed to the justifications, but I practiced swallowing my opinions because, hey, it was his money.
What do I really care about? It’s not about stuff, really. It’s about identity. Who am I when my environment is being shaped by someone else? I am the lady who loves baby pictures of her grown-up kids. I am the lady with a collection of elephant-shaped things. I am the lady with a few very sentimental pieces of jewelry. I have a million stories illustrated by artifacts which are now hidden away. I would like to tell my stories, display my pictures, showcase my collections and clear away the stuff that overpowers them. Or at least blend them with my partner’s. Equally. Fortunately, equality is really important to Steve, and he loved putting together “our museum case”, and he loves it when I stop deferring and actually tell him how I feel. So I told him.
Here are some photos I took last Friday of the Dodge Antique store in Algoma, owned by “Tom”.
Guess what I made today in the wood stove at Old World Wisconsin? Rhubarb pie! First time I’ve ever made it and first time I’ve ever used a wood burning oven. It’s a display pie, meaning no one is going to eat it. The crust was a tad dark on one side, but it looked pretty good. I have no idea how runny or crunchy the inside is. Maybe someone will cut into it tomorrow. It was lovely just sitting by the wood-burning stove, keeping toasty in the 50 degree rainy weather, smelling the pie bake and hemming handmade linen towels. We didn’t have many visitors, so I felt like I was having a cozy day in my own little corner of the 19th century, by myself. Nice work, if you can get it, I think.
So now that I’m back home, I’ve got to figure out if there’s something I can whip up for dinner in this century. Plus, I’ve got 3 days of dirty dishes in the sink to wash. Domestic bliss. For your entertainment, let me showcase a guest photographer: Steve. He took this shot while we were hiking on the Ice Age Trail on Monday.