Where Am I?

Ever go walking in your own neighborhood and take a new turn that you’ve never taken and find yourself wondering what world you’ve stepped into?  In my town of Wauwatosa, I discovered that there’s a 420 million year old limestone reef tucked away behind an industrial site…used to be a quarry.  I wandered down there after a rainstorm last week.  I saw stuff I didn’t expect to see…

…even though there’s no access to the reef just yet.   We can all be travelers, even within a 5-mile radius.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

My father was born on July 10, 1933.  He died in 2010.  He had a group of work colleagues who were also born in July, and they used to call themselves the SRA Cancer Society.  My father did have prostate cancer at one time, but surgery eliminated it completely.  He died of Alzheimer’s.  He was never one to celebrate his birthday in any obvious way, but he did enjoy fine dining.  Fortunately for him, he had the wherewithal to enjoy the very finest.  I benefited from the “trickle down effect” of that boon, meaning that I have dined well on his generosity myself.  On the occasion of his 70th birthday, we stayed at The Benbow Inn near Garberville, CA.  Located on a river in the redwoods, this beautiful resort was established in 1926.  My father counted it as one of his favorite places.  The first time I went there was on the way north to Oregon for my sister’s wedding.  My 9-month old daughter Susan was with me.  Ordinarily, children are not allowed in the dining room after 8pm, but the management made an exception for my father, who promised that the baby would be beautifully behaved…and she was.  Later that evening, I realized she had a bit of a fever and digestive distress, but that only mellowed her out.  The next time I visited the Inn was my father’s 70th birthday.  I had begun to notice signs of memory loss and confusion during that trip, but he was completely in his comfort zone at the restaurant. My mother and brother look a bit skeptical in this photo:

I remember the delight he showed in settling in at the bar and sampling from their extensive selection of Scotch before dinner.  I compare it to my absolute thrill at finding a decanter of sherry in my room.  So nice of them!  The next day, we had them pack us a picnic to eat while out hiking.  It was elegant and tasty, but a far cry from the granola bars and such that my father usually took on his woodland walks.  

I think I set the camera on a tree stump and used the self-timer on this one…

My father would be participating in the heavenly banquet of eternity right now, and I can imagine him enjoying himself immensely in that setting.  I’m off to get myself a little supper, probably just some hummus and a glass of Shiraz, but I eat and drink to his honor in gratitude this evening.  I love you, Dad.  To Life!!

The End of an Exciting Day

For my second day of training at Old World Wisconsin, I got to finally get away from paperwork and training videos and get on site to see the historical buildings where I’ll be a costumed interpreter.  I gotta tell you, I AM SO EXCITED!!!!  My first stop was to see St. Peter’s Catholic Church in the Yankee Village area.   This church was built in 1839 and has a wood stove right smack dab in the middle of the center aisle of the nave.  No bridal procession is gonna get around that sucker!  One of my jobs will be to pull the rope on the carillon to start and end the day.  Swingin’!  I also got to play the pump organ.  I have never even attempted this kind of feat before today.  It was a bit like trying to pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time, as my feet had to keep the bellows going while my fingers worked out the four-part harmony, but I managed to squeeze my way through a verse of Amazing Grace without too much difficulty.  What fun!  After some consideration, I realize that hymn is probably not Catholic, although it may be from the right period.  I still have so much research and learning to do!

I had to cut my time in the Village short and ride up to the German immigrant area to see the place I’ll be working on week days and with school groups.  It’s an 1870s farm with a two-story house, bake house (or summer kitchen), granary, pig barn, regular barn, smoke house and three garden plots.  I will be the interpreter for all these areas.  I will be making bread in the big brick oven (it goes back about 8 feet!), tending the garden, keeping an eye on the pigs so they don’t escape, chopping wood with a mallet and froe, greeting guests and inviting them to interact with the place.  Oh, so much fun going on!  AND, I got fitted for my corset today!  I can hardly stand it!!

Came home to turn my computer on for the first time and saw more than a dozen e-mails.  Then I checked the poetry prompt for the day.   It looks like fun, but frankly, I’m too pooped to poet.  I have so much homework to do, so many questions to answer about the world I am stepping into.  Instead, I will leave you with these sunset shots from our trip to the Mississippi and let you think about settlers moving west into the unknown.  Why is history important… in the big picture?  Why is experience important?  Why is it important to share experiences through stories?

Treasure Cave

I was up early this morning and sat through 6 hours of information in training for my new job, most of it filling out administration paperwork.   My post today is a small escape into creativity, but I fear it lacks the patience and pace of a truly open process.  So be it.  The poetry prompt from NaPoWriMo for today was to write a poem inspired by a photo.  The site provided 3 photos, but I have my own to post, so I let them act as my muse.  I promised spelunking and sunsets, and posted a shot yesterday of myself disappearing into a cave in the bluffs over the Mississippi River.  Here is what I found:

Treasure Cave

Spreading fertile earth, penetrated by relentless drops,

Her fragile rock abducted by the wind,

Exposing a shameful cavity of twisted darkness.

The damp mystery in danger of collapse

Now sheltered in a chamber of aged secrets.

No Bull

Today’s poetry prompt from NaPoWriMo is to write a parody poem.  Inspired by the prospect of another basketball game tonight, I decided to go for a tribute to the Chicago Bulls ala Edgar Allan Poe.  This is a project that is now taking up WAAYYY too much of my morning.  So, here are two verses, some photos and a polite exit so that I can spend time with Steve’s family.

Join the running of the Bulls –

Chicago Bulls!

In computer graphic imagery upon a screen so full

How they rumble, rumble, rumble

Down the wide Chicago streets!

Toward the stadium they stumble

At the enemy they grumble

And their digital hoof beats

Growing near, near, near

Filling lesser hearts with fear

As their mesmerizing energy upon your senses pulls

Seeing bulls, bulls, bulls, bulls,

Bulls, bulls, bulls–

Seeing snorting, fuming, sporting cartoon bulls!


See the dance team of the Bulls –


With their long, loose hair a-flyin’ and their outfits minimal

See their skanky bodies shakin’

And their pom-poms all a-quakin’

While the players calmly practice with the ball

Getting ready for the game

For the glory or the shame of it all.

Oh! from out the sounding fans

What a gush of harmony is swelling from the stands!

How they cheer

How they leer

At those bodies, healthy bodies

Nicely honed, nicely toned,

The athletic celebration that is Bulls, Bulls, Bulls,

That is Bulls, Bulls, Bulls, Bulls,

Bulls, Bulls, Bulls –

This amazing team of crazy, grazing Bulls.


Wish I had a picture of the enormous bull I saw in New Glarus on Wednesday, but I was too scared to get out of the car and take one!

What's inside the cave? More to come....

Close Up

There are a million wonders along the path, many of them missed if you’re traveling too fast.  You have to slow down to catch life in close up.  Our culture resists this vigorously, of course.  So I choose to live differently than most.  I suppose this difference has been highlighted this week while I’ve been filling out government tax forms, listening to party politics and preparing to step back into the 19th century for my new job at Old World Wisconsin.  I am not trying to move “up and to the right” like the business graph.  I want to follow a different trajectory.  

This morning I’ve been reading some blogs written by women who are caring for their aging mothers through stages of dementia.  My father died two years ago from Alzheimer’s, but I was not a care-giver in his life because I live halfway across the country.  I was a care-giver to my husband who died 4 years ago from coronary artery disease, kidney failure and diabetes.  The perspective of life across different physical, mental and psychological ages intrigues me, and provides the inspiration for today’s poetry and photos.  The photos are again from our trip to Wyalusing State Park.  The first one was something Steve noticed as we walked.  “Look,” he said, “little teenaged Priscillas!”  He was looking into a stream where some water striders were sheltering between the rocks.  My mother used to refer to me as a water strider when I was in high school.  The poetry prompt from NaPoWriMo was to write a sonnet, 14 lines because today’s the 14th.  I did not attempt to compose anything with a more formal frame than that.  No iambic pentameter or rhyming scheme, just 14 lines.  So, here we go with the pictures and poetry!

Skimming the surface, supported by tension

Riding the tide of everyone’s angst

A mere shadow in the depths, a dimple of contrast

Slender legs splayed out, weightless, of no consequence

A teenaged water strider, this youngest daughter.

What rock will plunge her universe,

Reverse the level of her lens and fasten her,

Securely, where the current flows and tugs?

In the wet of things, completely drenched

Attending top and bottom feeders, gasping, flailing,

Always moving, face in the water with wide opened eyes

Until another metamorphosis, an aged knife,

Severs the lines and sets her adrift

Above the ripples once again, that much closer to the sky.

Dutchman's breeches

Shooting star

Over the River

Happy Friday the 13th, everybody.  I’m not superstitious, but why is it that the printer is on the fritz today when I need to get my tax forms copied and out to the post?  Never mind.

I have selected another batch of photos from our camping trip to Wyalusing and found a way to tie in the NaPoWriMo poetry challenge as well.  I promise I’ll get to spelunking and sunsets, but not today.  Today, it’s about the river….or rivers, as the Wisconsin and the Mississippi meet up.  Riparian zones (as scientists call the interface between river or stream and land) are great habitats for lots of diverse flora and fauna.  I told you about the wild turkeys in my last post.  More majestic in flight and about the same size, I found turkey vultures (or buzzards) and a bald eagle also enjoying all the area has to offer.  Bluff skimming, aerial gliding and diving, wind surfing…I think it would just be a blast to be one of the soaring carnivores.  You have to forgive me for not being equipped with the kind of camera equipment that can capture some of that flight.  Imagine instead that a swift shadow passes your peripheral vision, and you instinctively look upward, like any small mammal might.  Your gaze follows this heavenly creature until the last feather passes from view, and you realize you’ve forgotten to breathe.  They do that to me.  I don’t even think about trying to take a photo.   I also didn’t photograph the little field mouse we saw on the path we had just trekked a few minutes ago.  It wasn’t there the first time around.  It was obviously dead, but not marked or chewed.  My guess is that it was a fresh catch that got accidentally dropped from the height of flight and left for lost.  That picture stays in my mind only, out of respect.

The poetry prompt for today is to compose a “ghazal”Here’s the description from the NaPoWriMo site:

This is an old Persian form of poetry, and rather strange if you’re used to European meter-and-rhyme forms. A ghazal is made of couplets. Traditionally, the the two lines of the first couplet end with the same word or phrase, and then that same word/phrase is used to end the second line of each succeeding couplet. All of the lines are supposed to be of about the same length, although there is no formal meter or syllable count. If you want to get super traditional/technical, the last couplet is supposed to refer to the poet, either by name, or through some kind of allusion.

Photos first, I think, then the poem.  Hope you enjoy!

High up on the hilltop, the breeze makes me shiver

Pushing cloud shadows gracefully over the river.


On invisible gusts, buzzards hover, each feather an instrument

Tuned to the wind, sailing the currents here over the river.


Spring greening the banks, sheltered nests in the reeds,

Weeping willows’ and cottonwoods’ pollen and seeds cover the river.


A sand bar glows golden, inviting for rest any swimmers

Grown weary in late evening’s quest to cross over the river.


As the light glances, changing mood, color and hue, I am breathless

And dreamy, entranced. Miss Priscilla, in awe, can’t get over the river.

Appreciating Milwaukee

Here it is, March in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Some unknown and perhaps magical forces have transformed this place into a balmy paradise.  It is 81 degrees F outside, flowers are blooming, trees are sprouting leaves, and chipmunks are cavorting around the forest floor.  I am appreciating it.  Last year was a very different story.  We had a blizzard at the very end of January, and snow fell into April.  The last two months of snow in a winter that can sometimes take up half the year can be very trying on a person’s patience.  Especially if that person lived in California for 15 years and got rather attached to sunshine and greenery!  So, what is there to do in Milwaukee when the weather is nice?  So glad you asked!

Steve used to live on the East Side of Milwaukee, which is kind of an East San Francisco.  Well, a little bit, anyway.  There are lakefront parks, beautiful old buildings, college students from the University, and a smattering of the nature freak/hippie vibe.  On St. Patrick’s Day, we headed to his old neighborhood to take in some of this atmosphere, which was augmented by people parading about in green beads with plastic tumblers of beer, enjoying the unseasonably comfortable weather on a Saturday devoted to pub crawling.  It made people-watching that much more interesting. 

We ate a late afternoon meal at Beans & Barley, which features a deli and market as well as a vegan-friendly cafe with a huge selection of tea.  I had a grilled balsamic Portobello mushroom sandwich with red peppers and bleu cheese, accompanied by a fantastic curry potato salad and a bottle of New Glarus Spotted Cow beer.  Steve had a black bean burrito with some very spicy salsa, an entree that is approaching “landmark status” since its debut in 1979.  We shared a piece of their “killer chocolate cake” for dessert.

After I was satisfied that every bit of frosting had been thoroughly licked up, we headed over to the deli and market to take stock of their offerings.  It was there that I found this most delightful treasure: it’s an old cigarette vending machine that now provides the customer with a genuine work of art for the price of one token.  All of the Art-0-mat items are the size and shape of a pack of cigs, and decorated in a variety of different ways, by different artists.  Examples are installed on the front of the machine. 

Here is a close up of one example:

I simply love this idea!  I’ve never seen anything like it before.  It’s hip, it’s visual, it’s smoke-free.  These should be everywhere, supporting artists in every community. 

I’m feeling young, artsy, and energized.  We take a walk down to the lighthouse station.  I do a portrait of Steve that I think would look good on the back of a book he will write some day.

I’m having fun discovering something wonderful every day, no matter where I am.  This is how I want to keep myself well and happy for the rest of my life.  A few weeks ago, Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ben Merens did a show on wellness that featured an interview with a personal life coach named Colleen Hickman.  Steve likes to call into this radio station when the topic moves him, and he called in to add to this discussion.  He had two things to share.  First, he said that his partner (me!) was very good at appreciating things, and then he said that his contribution to our positive relationship is that he doesn’t think of life as a problem to be solved or a commodity to be evaluated.  It is something of which to be constantly aware, though.   After he hung up, Ms. Hickman says, “Steve is certainly one of the lights we have in the world.”  That makes me chuckle because it sounds so “media”, but I have to agree.  If you want to hear the broadcast, here’s the link; just scroll down to the Friday, March 2, 5:00pm broadcast and click the Windows Media Player or MP3 icon to the right.  Steve’s call is 17:30 into the program.

What a wonderful world!  Even in Wisconsin in March!