What’s “Up”? This week’s photo challenge theme…a movie I never saw…my youngest child’s very first word (although she said it ‘uppy’ meaning, “Please pick me up, Mommy!”). What’s up with me? I’ve been working at Discovery World Museum and keeping our home business, Scholar & Poet Books, running, so I haven’t been online for two days. But I am up for this! (and down with it as well) The sky’s the limit! Things are definitely looking UP!
After a delicious Sunday breakfast buffet and a quick photo walk in downtown Parkersburg, Steve and I headed back into Ohio toward the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park. Steve has always been drawn to Native American archaeology and has experience working for the National Park Service at Wupatki National Monument. The information we gathered at the Hopewell site was truly fascinating. The native Americans in the Scioto River valley constructed enormous earth works, mounds and borders of giant proportions, geometrical shapes duplicated exactly many miles apart. The burial mounds contained artifacts made with materials from distant regions. The scope of this culture, the complexity of the ideas they represent, is amazing. Of course, our conjectures about the meaning of the clues they left behind will never be verified. Mystery will always surround this place. The sense of a sacred reverence hangs in the very air, though. It felt, to me, very similar to what I felt when I visited Chichen Itza in Mexico. Time, space, geometry, astronomy, mathematics, religion, life and death coming together in physical art. These were a people who understood the interconnectedness of all things and represented that in a conscientious way. To say that it’s “primitive” misses the mark completely. It certainly seems more primitive to plow over the entire area time and time again to plant corn or bulldoze the hill to quarry gravel…which is just what the white settlers did and still are doing.
We spent the afternoon slowly embracing the place and then drove home in the dark on speedy Interstate highways. We were back by 11pm. On Wednesday, we continued our research on Native American mounds and early Wisconsin history by going to Madison and visiting the Historical Museum on Capitol Square and the UW Madison Arboretum (which has an impressive bookstore!). We are still in the process of discerning how we will contribute to the conservation of this sacred planet on a local level, to what work we will devote our energy, and how we will live in awareness of the impact we make here. It’s a time to stay open to possibilities and opportunities and to be ready to move with a purpose when a specific vehicle of conveyance appears pointing toward our goal.
The season for Old World Wisconsin ends in October. Steve and I are gearing up for a 2-3 week road trip. We have about 9 possible itineraries, National Forests and Parks mostly. We’ve come to call this “our trip to metaphorical Maine” because although Maine is one of the top contenders, it is really just serving as the title of an unknown eventual destination. This is how Steve prefers to travel, and he is teaching me to appreciate the spirit of living in the moment rather than planning for safety and control. Not that Steve is an “extreme” kind of guy, a risk-taker for the sake of it, or anything like that. It’s really more a Zen kind of thing of being aware of conditions as they arise and dancing with them rather than putting on blinders and sticking to a railroad track.
We recently borrowed the DVD of “The Sheltering Sky” starring Debra Winger and John Malkovich. I’m sure the book was better, but the film has some terrific cinematic landscapes and brings up a lot of interesting questions. Like, “What is the difference between a tourist and a traveler?” A tourist wants the comforts of home. A traveler seeks adventure. I recently had a conversation with a co-worker who talked about a visit to France and only mentioned that there were no bugs or birds and that French waiters substitute Sprite for lemonade. This guy never thought he’d leave the country in his lifetime. Maybe he shouldn’t have!
I feel like I have been working on my personal demons (neuroses, grief, all that baggage) and have gained some courage and self-confidence since our last big trip. I did have one memorable meltdown in a rest stop off the highway in the pouring rain from about 2-4 in the a.m. That was April of 2011, and we were on the road for 4 weeks. Here’s a shot taken somewhere near the Colorado River in Utah that illustrates one of the many decision discussions we had. Do you want to take this road or not? Why?
There’s no “right answer” and there’s no judgement, Steve told me. “I just want to know what you think about when you make decisions.” What are we here for? What do we call “living”? Is it “to be safe and have children and grandchildren”? Is it “to learn to praise God and serve Him”? There are a million ways to answer that question. Steve describes his answer to me every time we have a conversation. He wants to meet life with awareness, engage in nuance and complexity, question and think critically, try to discover delusion, respond in the moment to what is before him, and participate in the adventure of living, as holistically as he can. Yesterday, I read a short science fiction story by E.M. Forster called “The Machine Stops”. It describes a futuristic world where the human race is run by Machine and never ventures to the surface of the earth. It’s eerie how much that could be the life of modern individuals plugged into the Internet with no experience of the physical phenomenons of Earth. What kind of life do I really want to live? What kind of courage do I have to face the adventure of living? Do I prefer comfort to challenge? These are good questions to take out for a road test. I’m looking forward to it!
Who do you want to be? How do you want to live? What do you want to do with your life? Where do you want to point your canoe?
Late in the afternoon yesterday, some VIPs came to tour Old World Wisconsin. Unfortunately, they arrived only an hour before closing and didn’t have ample opportunity to view the 575 acres and 50 buildings that comprise this living history museum. So today, my day off, I took them back to the site and gave them a personal tour. I also secured for them a copy of the historical gardening book that our expert, Marcia Carmichael, published last year. Putting Down Roots: Gardening Insights from Wisconsin’s Early Settler’s includes historical references, tools and plot layouts, produce recipes from each ethnic area, and a lot of other wonderful information and sumptuous photographs of the meticulously researched and maintained gardens. I know this couple is beginning to practice organic gardening, and they are eager to learn all they can. In addition to that, the young man is a carpenter, and was thrilled to see the craftsmanship on the original structures. They were able to get some behind-the-scenes photos and detailed descriptions of the building methods of the 19th century. Each of the interpreters in the various houses were in fine form, communicating information and interest in a very friendly and professional manner. The weather was perfect for our visit, and we skipped the tram rides and walked the entire circuit of trails through the site. It was an altogether delightful tour, and I enjoyed seeing parts of the museum that hadn’t been included in my training schedule. I consider it a privilege to have been invited to host this marvelous young couple. Who were they? My daughter, Rebecca, and her boyfriend Joe.