Monday, October 28, 2013


   Yesterday was a gorgeous day, perfect for raking, but I decided I needed to get out and stretch my eyes a bit.  You know what I mean?  Like when you've been only using your closeup and medium distance vision for too long, and now you feel cramped and need to look far away?  (Or maybe it was just a convenient excuse for NOT raking...?)
   I decided to head east, leave behind the purple and yellow Vikings fans, and hang out in Packer Country, Wisconsin.  (I am a Packer fan and sometimes I get slightly nauseous amongst all the horrible purple hype in Minnesota.)

See? There is such a thing as Packer Country.  Here's the sign! 
There were hawks everywhere, soaring in the big blue sky, even hunting from trees beside the road. I saw lots of Canada geese gleaning the fields and two Bald-headed eagles circling overhead.
This is a Red-tailed hawk.
   I needed a pumpkin to make a jack-o-lantern for the chair on my front porch.  There were pumpkin stands everywhere along the road.  I chose this one because they had a pile of pumpkins for only $1, which was exactly the price I wanted to pay.
Which one is just right?


Yes, I need a few of these, too.

Thursday night is Halloween in the U.S., when the kids dress up and go from house to house and collect candy.  My grandsons are practicing saying "Trick or Treat!" when someone answers the door.  It's pretty exciting, being out in the dark and all.  I saw a reproduction of an antique card in a shop that said this:

"At midnight neath the witches' tree,
Who dares keep Hallow-E'en with me?"

I'm well stocked with candy, so come on over.  I just hope I recognize you in your costume!

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Thursday, October 24, 2013


  With weathercocks on my mind from my last post, I thought I would share another rooster photo, this big blue guy.
This is  Cock  by Danish artist Katharina Fritsch and it occupies the interesting Fourth Plinth in London's Trafalgar Square.  He is huge, and his blue color is pretty, well, eye-catching!

   The Fourth Plinth was built at the same time as the other three, but money ran out before the planned statue could be commissioned and the Fourth Plinth sat empty for 150 years.  Finally in 2005 the first sculpture was commissioned and placed.  It depicted an artist, Alison Lapper, who was born with no arms and only short legs.  Since then there have been five more works placed on the Fourth Plinth.

When I was there in March, I saw this bronze sculpture of a boy on a rocking horse.  All the other statues in the square have historical significance, with ties to war.  I think it's interesting that the Fourth Plinth sculptures seem to have peaceful and sort of everyday human themes.  In 2009, ordinary people were invited to pose for an hour on the plinth holding anything they could carry up there themselves.  They could be viewed live on the Internet.
   I'm not sure what is planned next, or when.  But I have a suggestion.  Most permanent scultures in Trafalgar Square represent men, males (even the lions!) and their achievements.  I think it's the ladies' turn!
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Monday, October 21, 2013

Cock-a-doodle-doo! (or neighhhhh!)

   When I was a kid, many barns and churches had a weather vane on top. 
    My grandpa's barn had one and we've often wondered what happened to it. It might even still be there.  Dad said that there were travelling salesmen who came around to the farms selling weather vanes and lightning rods to the farmers, important devices that had a job to do back when. How else could the farmer say with certainty what direction the wind was blowing?
    These weathercocks are part of a display of Americana at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Not all weather vanes are roosters.  Above is a horse and below is an old weather deer. And I've even seen weather angels blowing trumpets.

There is a story that a 9th century pope declared that churches in Europe would display a weather vane in the form of a rooster to remind the faithful of the denial of Jesus by the apostle Peter the morning after the Last Supper. 
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

   The flowers of summer, that is.  We have had an unusually long fall, but sadly tomorrow the killing frost comes, followed by a freeze this weekend.  Here are some late bloomers to feast our eyes upon until spring.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Land of the Corn

  So, what do we Minnesotans do when it's too late to swim in the lake and too early to go deer hunting?  Give up? 
We celebrate the harvest!
We fill a big pit with corn, climb up on some hay bales, and jump in!

We park an old truck in the field and shoot pumpkins at it.  Score!


 We get something warm to drink and watch the kids run around on the hay bales.
We make pumpkin art!


Minnesota farmers are proud of their corn!
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Sunday, October 13, 2013

'Good Morning, Sunshine!'

"With each sunrise, we start anew."

"The grand show is eternal.  It's always sunrise somewhere."  John Muir

"May every sunrise bring hope, every sunset peace."

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Monday, October 7, 2013

London - The Churchill War Rooms

   (I spent two weeks in September in London. I've been there five times before, some of those trips leading groups of high school students.  The goal of this trip was to visit some of the lesser known sites I've always wanted to see, such as this one.)

   The Churchill War Rooms were built secretly to protect the government and the Prime Minister in the dangerous days of World War II in London during the Blitz. From 1940-45, hundreds of people lived their lives in this underground bunker beneath the Treasury Building, Whitehall, where the war work went on around the clock. 
The Cabinet War Room was where Churchill, his military commanders, and his cabinet planned the strategies and battles to win the war.  There are said to be scratch marks on the arms of Churchill's chair, attesting to the agony of the pressure and tension in this room.

   In the Phone Room phones were color-coded for different uses, one especially for use by Churchill and U.S. President Roosevelt. The green phone scrambled and encrypted messages via a machine on the floor.
Women were part of the underground work force that worked 18 hour days, then slept in dormitories in the bunker.  I listened to an interview with one of these women who remembered Churchill as an exacting and exhausting taskmaster.

The dormitories where most workers slept were in a "basement" below the working area, furnished with bunkbeds and non-flushing lavatories.  These were hated by everyone and added to the unpleasant, um, ambiance of the ventilation.

The rooms for those with more rank were small but there was a chamber pot furnished, a step up from the lavs downstairs.  This room was for a detective.

Churchill's room was nearly as basic.  However, he slept only a few nights here during the war, preferring to return to 10 Downing Street whenever possible.
 The bunker was built in total secret.  After it was occupied, it was reinforced with steel beams and a 5 foot layer of cement above, and one wonders how all this activity could have been missed.  It would never have survived a direct hit, but fortunately it never had to.
On August 15, 1945, the lights were turned off and workers dispersed to their peacetime lives. 
 The rooms were sealed off, many left exactly as they were that day, not to be opened again until 1948 when a museum was first proposed, finally opened to the public until 1984.

                                      *  *  *

   What an amazing opportunity to see history frozen in time. I was very affected by the atmosphere that was created by the museum in sights and sounds, and I could imagine the rest: the tension, the stale air, the smell, the claustrophobia of being deep underground while bombs are falling on the world above. I will never forget the hours I spent at this museum. 
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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rembrandt and Me, a Love Story

   This is the only Rembrandt owned by the Minneapolis Institue of Arts.  Whenever I am in the area, I stop by to gaze upon "Lucretia" and sigh and say hello. 
   Like most of Rembrandt's paintings, there is a story behind this one.  Lucretia was the wife of a Roman nobleman, known for her great virtue.  Her youthful beauty was desired by the son of the ruling emperor who told Lucretia she either slept with him or he would kill her and put her body into bed with her manservant.  Lucretia made the devastating confession of her "choice" to her husband and father-in-law. Then, in their presence, she plunged a knife into her own heart.
   She is so young, so sad, so beautiful as her life pours out.  And Rembrandt's genius makes me want to reach out and hug the poor child!   I always walk away with a big sigh, as if I have just had a good, cleansing cry.  

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