VIP Tour

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  Putting Down Roots: Gardening Insights from Wisconsin’s Early Settler’s includes historical references, tools and plot layouts, produce recipes from each ethnic area, and a lot of other wonderful information and sumptuous photographs of the meticulously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. 

In the sauna at the Finnish Ketola farm

One of the friendly faces on the tour

 

I Love My Mom

My mother makes a very satisfactory leader of my Fan Club.  She is, undoubtedly, First Fan, as many mothers are.  The hallmark of her grace is in the way she embodies this position, not simply as a role, but as a genuine expression.  I never get the feeling that she encourages me out of obligation.  I believe she really likes me.  What a stroke of good fortune!

This morning I got an e-mail from her titled “catching up on the blogs”.  I felt her heart bubbling over like she had just emerged from an afternoon reading a favorite novel.  She had associations, appreciations, memories, connections to share, like her synapses were fireworks going off.  From a reader to a writer, this has got to be the highest praise.  She started off by remarking, in all caps, that there has to be a book in this somewhere and that she wants an autographed first edition.  Aw, Mom!

My mom is not a literary push over.  She has a degree in English from Radcliffe (now coed with Harvard).  She devours books regularly and always has.  Her typical posture these days is sitting in her high-backed rocker with knitting in hand, book strapped in on her reading stand, mind and fingers flying.  She used to hide away in her bedroom with a bag of snacks and emerge an hour or so later with renewed energy to tackle her household obligations, sporting a kind of secret glow.  Get her talking about one of her recent historical sagas, and she will enthusiastically engage for hours!  I love seeing her pull thoughts that have been carefully laid aside like unmatched socks and bundle them together with a flourish of discovery and pride. 

She recently told me that her doctor mentioned her good prospects for living another 20 years.  That would make her 97; she wasn’t sure she’d want to live that long.  But think of all the books you could still read!  Or that could be read to you, if the cataracts cause the eyes to fail.  I can still hear my father’s voice reading to her behind the bedroom door.  His partnership to her intellectually was so rich, until Alzheimer’s whittled his brain away.  I wonder if she feels the same phantom guilt I have in enjoying a healthy body and a sound mind after our husbands’ deaths.  Well, I suppose consciousness is a responsibility to approach with reverence.  We live, we feel, we think, we read, we make connections still.  May we both bring life and light to the world like fireworks, Mom, as long as we are able. 

Mom (photo credit: DKK)

New Year, new goals, new reads

Monday morning, back to work.  Orders for Scholar & Poet Books piled up on our dining room table over the weekend.  We’ll be taking more than 35 packages to the Post Office to be mailed today.  Some are self-help books on diet, procrastination, and clutter management.  Some are theology books, some poetry, some fiction, some children’s books, some history.  Words to buttress a new year of aspirations.  Which words will I apply to my year?

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, really.  The sense of obligation and failure tweaks too much of what I’m trying to outgrow.  It struck me as I was flipping through a book of poetry by a Korean writer that we have our cultural and familial flavors stamped on us pretty early.  Guilt, shame, obligation, work ethic, judgment.  If we are aware and astute, we grow to recognize it.  If we are brave, we engage with it and come to a deeper understanding.  My Anglican family leaned toward perfectionism, rationalism, judgment.  There was always a “right” way to do something.  I want to push myself to get past that kind of assessment  and look more kindly at what is in the world.  I’ve noticed a few things that are: I’m getting older and putting on weight more easily.  Without judging myself too much, I want to be aware of my health and support it.  I’m aware of my desire to write my memoirs.  I want to turn that desire into an artifact.   I’m also aware of my desire to live lightly and gently on the planet.  Without nailing goals to the doors of my consciousness, can I make efforts and decisions that will guide me closer to the life I envision?  We’ll see.

Steve & I finished reading D.H. Lawrence’s The Plumed Serpent, so we set up another book selection.  This is kind of a game for us.  Steve picks a box full of likely candidates and numbers them.  I pick two numbers, look at the books, and choose one.  The reject is then out of the running.  I keep doing this until I’ve gotten down to one book.  This is sometimes an agonizing process because I want to read them all!  This is where I have to tell myself that I can’t make a “wrong” choice.  If we get stuck with something we don’t enjoy, we can always abandon it and choose something else.  If we pass up something intriguing, we can always go back to it.  So, out of 24 books, I came away with Italo Calvino’s The Road to San Giovanni.  I feel bad about putting Rilke’s Letters on Cezanne on the reject stack, but I’ve been dipping into it anyway.  No, I’m not “cheating”.  I am living.  No, I’m not “undisciplined”.  I am feeding myself.  I think of Anne Lamott in Traveling Mercies describing the epiphany she had when she broke through her habits and learned to eat.  It’s not about setting up rules so that you can get neurotic about them.  It’s about feeling a hunger and responding to it.  Choosing what to read, choosing what to eat, choosing how to live.  It can be a simple, graceful process.  Why do we often make it torture?

Joyful possibilities set before us. Happy choosing!

So Many Books…

…and so many writers.  I was preparing shipments for our online book business (Scholar & Poet Books – available on Amazon, Alibris, ABE and Half.com books; pardon the Christmas season advert, but it might help!) this morning and thinking about “being a writer”.  I am planning to enter a Memoir/Personal Essay contest at the suggestion of my teacher.  I had a dream that probably relates to this idea a few nights ago.  I dreamed that I was in a dance studio with gym mats on the floor and a wall of mirrors.  I was in line to attempt a splits leap.  I had a press photo of David Hallberg in mind, and I wanted to see if I could look like that.  Of course, I know I can’t, but I wanted to try.  So I got to the front of the line, and all the others are turned to watch me go, and they totally blocked the runway.  I kept asking them to move, but they were still in the way.  And then some of them started pulling up the mats.  “Hey!  I still haven’t had my turn yet!”  I was trying to put the mats back and move the people and all chaos was breaking loose, and I woke up.  So I told Steve about my frustrating dream and how I just wanted a chance to try, even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it well.  He responded, “You know who those people are in your way, don’t you?”  Of course.  Everyone in your dream is you.  The people getting in the way of me attempting my big leap are…me.

David Hallberg (photo by Gene Schiavone)

So I’m going to submit an entry, and I’m going to call myself a writer in my mind because that’s what I’ve been doing since my last birthday: writing.  And I’m aware that I may never make any money doing this.  I look at the book jacket photos of writers and handle their wares on a daily basis almost.  I read blogs by published writers.  I still have a feeling that they are a different breed.  They have degrees in writing; they have ambition.  I have thoughts.  I am dreamy and lazy and I don’t “work”.  And I’ve never lived in New York.  It seems like any “real” writer must have lived in New York at some point.  Too bad.  At least I can get out of the way of my own runway and give it a shot.   I am old and not too flexible and I’ve never been able to do the splits.  But it might be fun to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I go leaping by.  It’ll probably end with me having a good laugh.