The Hollow Brings Fullness

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July 25, 2017, Mooreland, OK-

I have a penchant for finding lush canyons and small forests, in places that are mostly noted for being “featureless”.  Nowhere is featureless.  The scoured and glaciated plains of Kansas are punctuated by riparian arroyos, which offer a pleasant break for the distance traveler, as well as a hangout spot for local youth.  One such is The Hollow, in Sedan, about which, more in a bit.

I decided, after breakfast with my cousin, Lisa, to forego the Oklahoma Turnpike and take US 166 across southern Kansas.    My first stop was in Baxter Springs, which celebrates its tie to the Mother Road.  Another shutterbug, a young lady, was quietly taking in the even quieter scenes of downtown Baxter, as I checked out “66”.

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I had miles to go, as yet, so I left Baxter Springs, after about twenty minutes, continuing on through bustling Coffeyville.  Sedan, though, called out to me, to take the right turn into town, where I spotted a sign for “The Hollow”.  This town is known for its “Yellow Brick Road”.  A couple of teen girls, very much owning downtown, at this mid-day, sauntered down the yellow bricks, not long after I took this shot.

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Sedan also is notable for a museum dedicated to Emmett Kelly,  a famed circus clown of the 1930’s-60’s.  Emmett was a native of Sedan, so his statue stands in The Hollow Park.

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Some elements of The Hollow are vintage Great Plains:  There is the old St. Charles school house.

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There is also the requisite gazebo, but with a pointed twist.

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I can sit in gazebos for hours, but this time, forty minutes for lunch and contemplation were enough.  I wanted to have a few minutes with the hollow itself.  An iron ring, extracted from the creek, when the junkyard, which once occupied this land, was being cleaned up, is interposed between school house and gazebo.

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The garden area of The Hollow is marked by ruins of the junk yard office, of all things. The boardwalk leads through the garden, and down to the arroyo, which has a waterfall, in times of heavy rain.  There was no waterfall today, though.

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This little spot reminded me of small crevices that I used to fancy my “caves”, when I was a little boy in Saugus.

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Here, the official trail ends, but I am willing to bet that there are plenty of kids who have made their way quite a bit further north, along the creek bed.

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My Sedan visit was capped by a salad bar and sandwich lunch, at Seasons Rotisserie, a solid little place, with a handful of regulars, three of whom had just returned to Sedan, from several years elsewhere.  Two sisters, from Ohio and Pennsylvania, were on a road trip as an homage to their late father, who grew up in a small Kansas town.  They were visiting several such towns, in Kansas and Oklahoma.  I was glad to be able to tell them about The Hollow.

This part of Kansas is favourable with hunters, as is illustrated by this acrylic painting, on Seasons’ wall.

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I later learned that there is a sizable property, Red Buffalo Ranch, that caters to outdoorsmen.   If you happen by Sedan, the ranch is, no doubt,  also worth a visit. I might check it out, one of these trips.

Arkansas City (pronounced the way it looks), saw me pass through, without so much as a by-your-leave. It was getting late, and  I was concerned about checking in with my friend, J.E., in Enid, OK.  He is hanging in there.  I also wanted to stop in at Da Vinci Coffee Shop, as the owners were such welcoming hosts, the last time I was there.  I needn’t have bothered.  The owners weren’t there, and the baristas were a bit surly and suspicious of me and my out-of-state car.  You never know who will greet you.

After several minutes talking with John, I headed further west, to Mooreland, which is just shy of the northwest Oklahoma cow town of Woodward.  Mooreland Motel and Cafe is run by a tough, but gracious, grandma, who proudly showed me pictures of her “babies” and said she was closing for the night, so she could go be with them, and I would be the last guest to check in.

I think I like Mooreland, quite a bit.

 

 

 

Wide Murals and A Long Market

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July 23, 2017, Paducah, KY-

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This old river town, now also a regional hub for the Confluence- (people in Cairo, IL refer to Paducah as “town”), has two places that drew me back, all the way from last year, when I passed this way after dark, and ended up in Marion, IL.  The first is the Ohio Riverfront.  Middle America has done well, in making the most of its waterways, both the great rivers and the Great Lakes.  Retaining walls are accompanied by walkways and adorned by murals.  Public events, ever with music, are a given- especially in summer.  This is Paducah, named by William Clark, who gave the local Comanches the name Padoukas- a corruption of the Kaw term for them: Padoka.

The Ohio is joined by the Tennessee River, not far from here.    Then, as you may recall, the Ohio itself conjoins the Missisissippi, a few miles further west, at Cairo.  Thus, one might set sail in Huntsville, Alabama and make one’s way clear to Billings, Montana, or Wichita, Kansas, with clever navigation.

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The preacher man was too busy singing, to introduce himself, but he is apparently a local fixture, as many of those in their lawn chairs said they’d be at his gospel festival, a few days into August.  He covered all the timeless classics, and got me to croak along, on a few of them.

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The triptych mural, on Paducah’s floodwall, covers different aspects of the river’s heritage.  This one, of the riverboat, looks at a period of time that fascinated me, as a child.  The gamblers and the roustabouts of the early river communities were among my favourite characters, on shows like “Daniel Boone.”

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River traffic made Paducah prosper, in the mid-Nineteenth Century, even into the beginnings of the Rail Era.  The solid buildings still maintain a bustling downtown.  Even on Sunday evening, when most everything was closed, I got a sense of the city’s vitality.

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Every Midwestern town, it seems, has a gazebo, and Paducah is no exception.  This gazebo spawned its own park, and Garden Club.

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Should I pass this way again, I would make certain to come when the long Market Hall is open.  Growing up with Boston’s Faneuil Hall, I am perfectly content spending hours in a public market.

Along Broadway Street are some ever-enticing abstract murals.

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Lastly, this evening introduced me to St. Clair Court, the site of a three-story wooden hotel and theater, across from the Market.  It was destroyed by fire, in 1895.  Adjacent to it is this brick and mortar wonder.

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So, there is a taste of one of Kentucky’s interesting river towns.  Like any region, the Ohio Valley would offer a full experience to the discerning and curious traveler.  Alas, I must head westward, though through other interesting areas, to my own exhilarating Home Base.

NEXT:  A Tale of Two Campgrounds

The Ohio Knows

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July 23, 2017, Jeffersonville, IN-

I stayed, last night, at an off-the-beaten-path inn, made all the more interesting by there having been an intense storm, which had caused a power outage.  Spanish Manor Inn lies on the eastern outskirts of a small Bluegrass Country town:  Olive Hill, itself a far exurb of Lexington.

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The motel is run by a pastor’s wife.  The  pastor himself uses one of the buildings as a wedding chapel.  They graciously received me in their home-office, and explained I was fortunate to get the last available room.  Given the intensity of the storm, I scarcely blame them for putting up a no vacancy sign, as soon as I headed back down the hill to the rooms.  There was no Internet, of course, but I surely got a restful sleep, despite the booming and crashing outside.

I texted my nephew, who lives in the Louisville area, just across the Ohio River from the city.  It has been a game of schedule tag, up to now, for me to meet his wife and children.  Today, though, they had a few hours, so off I went towards Slugger Town, going through a bit more rain on the way.  I ditched the rain, around Shelbyville, stopping only to pick up some gift items for the young family.

I had no trouble finding their suburban home, and after an impromptu tour of the house, the five of us went to a pleasant Mexican restaurant- my second confirmation this month, that there are people in Indiana who do such cuisine right.  This takes care of the contention of several people, that there is no proper salsa in the Midwest.  We had it, aplenty.  Once back in the house, I joined my nephew, niece-in-law and grand niece, in the family room, to watch Aladdin, for the first time in twenty-five years, while grand-nephew took his nap.  Once it was time for life’s errands to resume, I bid thank you and farewell to the wakeful members of our family’s Indiana branch.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The Ohio knows when to be gracious to a visitor.  This often overlooked sibling to the Father of Waters has been on my radar for a visit, for many years, and there was no time like this afternoon, at the Falls of the Ohio, a sometimes tempestuous section of river, shared by Louisville, on the south bank and Jeffersonville, on the north.  The Indiana side has an Interpretive Center, closed on Sunday.  The river itself, however, offers a wealth of walking trails and rocks on which to sit and meditate, or, as several were, fish.

The Ohio is not always accommodating, to put it mildly, and there is much deposited in the woodlands, on either bank, from Devonian and Silurian fossils, in the soil, to broken branches from the roiling storms of summer and winter, alike.

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Here are some scenes of the cataracts, which both draw people to the salubrious banks and make life difficult for those plying a trade, along the Ohio.

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I chose this spot to sit and reflect on how nice the drive through Kentucky and southern Indiana had been.

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Of course, the River answered, “Thank you”.

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This is a surreal view of Louisville, hidden by a railroad bridge.  There is a sign, on I-65, that warns of a toll booth, but I saw no toll booth on either northbound or southbound, and there were no cameras, either.  Methinks the toll has been discontinued.

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Lastly, before I headed south again, en route to Paducah, a wink to Lewis and Clark was in order.  This area was integral to the planning phase of their monumental exploration, and there was a family tie:  George Rogers Clark, who secured the then-Northwest Territory for our fledgling nation, was William Clark’s brother.  Clarksvillle, Jeffersonville,  New Albany, Corydon and Vincennes are all filled with historic sites, associated with the Clark family and the pioneers of the Ohio Valley.

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My spirit guides were calling me westward, to Paducah, for a further appreciation of the Ohio River, just a few miles shy of its meeting with the mighty Mississippi, at Cairo, IL.  So, on went the Hyundai and I.

 

Fortresses and Myths

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July 22, 2017, Lexington, VA-

I stopped, overnight, in a town I love:  Harrisonburg, home to James Madison University, to two young couples, who I love as if they were my own children, and to another young lady, whom I also love like a daughter, but who has become a bit estranged, over the past year or so.  I visited the former, at their establishment:  Artful Cafe (formerly known as Artful Dodger), in the heart of downtown H’burg.  Readers might remember this place from my 2016 excursion.  They were coasting, on Friday night, saving their energy to lovingly greet participants in the Shenandoah Pride Festival, which was today’s big event.  I stopped by, again this noon, on my way out of town, and purchased enough cold brew coffee to keep me happy, on the way to Lexington.  The definitely straight young husbands were bare-chested, in solidarity with the Pride group-who, ironically, had not a bare chested person among them.  Their wives sported rainbow bandanas, as their contribution.  Me?  I am very happy with my woman-loving self, and I accept other people’s sexuality, without casting the judgement that belongs to the Creator alone.

I spent about thirty minutes with my Lost Angel,

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J filled me in on her life, of the past two years and, more importantly, of her dreams for the next few.  She seemed a bit embarrassed to not have any great achievements to recount, but you know, just seeing her and knowing that she was essentially okay, was more than enough.  J, and the other four kids, are people who I just want to see happy, as I do with my son and his lovely girlfriend.

I headed south, on I-81, with Charleston, WV and beyond on my radar screen.  Then, I saw a sign for Stonewall Jackson House, as Lexington loomed ahead.  I know, “He betrayed our country!”.  There are those who beg to differ, so being an admirer of some OTHER aspects of his life, I left the highway and drove past the formidable fastness of Virginia Military Institute, where Stonewall was an instructor, prior to the cataclysm.

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My interest in Thomas Jonathan Jackson, though,was not in his military exploits, but in his creativity and in his foresight.  His garden was decidedly Jeffersonian, incorporating many of the ideas put into practice at Monticello, including drip irrigation and organic crop rotation.  As you can see, he did make every square inch count for something.  The scarecrow was a “falcon”.

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Stonewall also, to the consternation of Lexington’s other citizens, believed Black people should be literate, and taught his “house servants” to read the Bible.  I would not be surprised to learn that this action of his actually led to his being coerced to join the Confederate Army, whose cause, despite his ferocity in battle, he only tepidly supported.  He died at the hands of one of his own sentries, which could very well have not been an accident.  Saddest of all, his own sister, an Abolitionist, declared him “dead to her”, upon the secession of Virginia and his being recruited by Robert E. Lee, in 1861.

TJ was a man of culture, and did foresee the end of slavery, war or no war.  He believed in the universality of learning, and maintained a progressive home.

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Satisfied that I had confirmed my suspicions about the decent side of Colonel Jackson, I headed west, across the Mountain State.  At a rest area, off I-64, east of Beckley, WV, I took a photo of the Blue Ridge, and found what looks like another being, inserting self into the view, gazing northward.

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Being far from alone, then, I continued on, into more rain and made it to Olive Hill, KY, before stopping at Spanish Mansion Inn.  More about it, and the Ohio River, in my next post.

 

Vale of Three Mountains

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July 21, 2017, Harpers Ferry- After experiencing the intensity and blood-echoes of Antietam, I headed the back way southward, through tourist-clogged Shepherdstown, to slightly less congested Charles Town, not to be confused with the West Virginia capital, Charleston, which lies a good 3 hours to the south.  There, I spent a restful night, on the outskirts of town.

This morning, after driving past the even more-overpopulated Harpers Ferry KOA, a mini-city, I opted to first take a ranger-guided tour of the approach to Lower Town.  Ranger Michael gave us a fully- detailed visit to what had been Storer College, an institution of higher learning, founded in 1865 and aimed at training African-American teachers.   The school closed in 1955. It is now part of Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, with a National Park Service Academy (Mather Training Center) and Lockwood House, a Union Army hospital and later headquarters for Gen. Philip Sheridan.  When Storer College was founded, Rev. Nathaniel Brackett made Lockwood House the administration building.  It is now a research facility for the National Park Service.

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Behind Lockwood House lies Harpers Ferry Cemetery.  Michael led us through the burial ground, en route to Jefferson Rock.

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Thomas Jefferson stood on this rock, in October, 1783, and was extremely impressed by the view.  From that point on, the rock has borne his name.

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St. Peter’s was not there, back then, but you get the idea.

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We walked past the ruins of an Episcopal Church, which was there in 1783, before Michael bid us farewell, so he could conduct another tour.

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I took the shuttle bus back to the upper parking lot, and drove back down, for further exploration of Lower Town.  I stopped, for about twenty minutes, at the headquarters of the Appalachian Mountain Club, this being the midpoint of the Appalachian Trail.  The staff and several through-hikers were encouraging of my pipe dreams of someday walking that venerable long path.

Here are a few scenes of the business district and Virginius Island. These are the ruins of Shenandoah Pulp Mill, built at Halls Island, by Thomas Savery, in 1887 and destroyed by the Great Flood of 1936.

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These days, Virginius is popular with swimmers, along the Shenandoah River and with the ubiquitous deer.

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Thankfully, it is only accessible by footbridge.

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I walked on down, to Lower Town, and gazed at the confluence of the Shenandoah, with the Potomac.

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The small fire station, which once served as a “fort” for the abolitionist John Brown, faces the two rivers, at the edge of Lower Town.

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The last stop, before heading out towards Harrisonburg, was The Coffee Mill, where the heat of afternoon called for a root beer float.

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Harpers Ferry certainly had a hard time being hemmed in by two rivers and three mountains, during the strife of 1850-1865, but it has found a place in the hearts of grateful citizens, in this day.

 

The Red Cornfields of Indian Summer

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July 20, 2017, Antietam-

Visiting the site of the bloodiest single day battle in American history was not something I particularly relished, but in these days of sanitizing history, I am doubly determined to not ignore any lesson- nor will I pretend the horrors never happened.

Antietam Creek, the farms that surrounded it and the rowdy townsfolk who, then and now, challenge those from somewhere else, make for a difficult and compelling story.

I arrived here, right around 1:30 p.m.  A twenty minute walk around the Visitor Center, and its immediate surrounds, gave me a sense of the field of vision that was afforded Generals McClellan and Lee, as they prepared for the horrific face-off of September 17, 1862.

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The most intense initial fighting took place around a church- shades of Brandywine.  Like Birmingham Hill Friends Meeting House, during the Revolutionary War, the Dunker Church served as a makeshift hospital, for wounded of both sides.

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Many of the states which sent troops to battle have monuments at Antietam, just as they do at Gettysburg.  Here are photos of several monuments, from both sides. Pennsylvania, followed closely by Ohio, has the largest number of monuments here.  The Philadelphia Brigade’s monument is the tallest of any at Antietam.

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Indiana’s monument is also quite formidable.

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New York has several, including two which align with one another.

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The Texans, who fought perhaps more ferociously than most, have their state memorial, across the road from the New York pair.

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Georgia, likewise, has honoured its soldiers,with a monument facing those dedicated to the Union cause.

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The reality of defeat, along with the vow to regroup and press on, is signified by these stacked rifles of the Pennsylvania regulars.

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There were several farms in the area, all of whose owners stood with the Union.  At the Popfenberger Farm, however, Clara Barton set up a full field hospital, to treat the wounded of both sides.

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The Mumma Farm was a key supplier of provisions to the Union Army, and as such was a thorn in the side of Robert E.Lee.  His troops took possession of the farm, in midday, and burned it to the ground.  The Mumma family had, of course, fled to a church, six miles away, well before the Confederates arrived.

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A sunken road, to the south of the property, built by Joseph Mumma, served as a trench for the Rebels, and became known as Bloody Lane, for the thousands of casualties that occurred there.

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The David Miller Farm, west of the Mumma property, was likewise, a key supplier of the Union effort, and was also the scene of some of the most intense fighting of the day.

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As I continued on, to the southern and western segments of the Battlefield, just southeast of Bloody Lane, there is a tower, from which one can spot twenty miles, in any direction.  This was built in 1890, to provide such a bird’s eye view,

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Here is a southeastward view, from the tower’s observation deck.  The town of Sharpsburg is seen, eight miles away.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The Irish Brigade, composed of  immigrants from that country, has its own memorial, at the base of the Observation Tower.  It was commanded at Antietam, by Gen. Thomas Meagher (“Marr”), a refugee from the United Kingdom.  This unit also formed part of the Zouaves, who have their own, collective monument, on the east side of Sharpsburg.  Here is the Irish Brigade’s monument.

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Lastly, here is a look at Burnside Bridge, named for the Union general, Ambrose Burnside, who miscalculated the difficulty of crossing Antietam Creek, just to the south of the bridge, and cost his troops a chance to ambush the Confederates, who were waiting in Mumma’s Lane.

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With the end of the day, there was a consensus that the Union Army, by staving off Lee’s invasion of Maryland, had turned the tide of the war.  Although the Confederates would go on to attack Gettysburg, PA, a relatively short distance to the northeast, a year later, Lee’s army would never again have the upper hand.

The legacy of war is often more war.  People can’t be forced to change their hearts, though I am certainly glad that government-sanctioned slavery, at least, has been brought to an end.  Having had enough of the Civil War for one day, I found a place to rest, in Charles Town, WV,

NEXT:  Harpers Ferry

 

 

Charlottesville

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August 13, 2017, Prescott-

It’s rather ironic, that my journey series has reached the point where my next few posts will be about Antietam, Harpers Ferry, Harrisonburg/Lexington and Olive Hill, KY.  I did not visit the seat of the University of Virginia, this time out.  It is my late wife’s alma mater and Charlottesville is the first place where Penny heard about the Baha’i Faith.  There is a strong Baha’i presence there, to this day.  Were my fellows in faith to be given charge of this weekend’s gatherings, they may well have had white and black extremists cordoned off in one area, as was done at a Baha’i gathering in Orlando, several years ago.  It taught more than a few of them the absurdity of their positions.

Fear has a lot to do with what went on, on both sides.  Fear makes people do prudent things, like staying aware of their surroundings, watching where they put their hands and feet, not picking fights with those who could seriously cause harm.  Fear also can make people do stupid things, like assume a person, who has certain physical features or styles  of dress/adornment, is dangerous or argue a point, that they know is ridiculous, “could possibly be right.”

I believe every life matters, too.  I believe it is right to learn from history and that it is wrong to try and erase history.  There was once an emperor of China, who tried to expunge the record of every ruler who came before him.  He wanted to rewrite history, in his own hand.  It’s said that history is written by the victor, but that didn’t turn out so well, for said Emperor.  Others kept records, then, and others will keep records, now.  Those who remove our statuary are not being honest with children.  They are no better than those who gave short shrift to the legacies of people of colour, over a nearly 200-year period.  History needs to be full and balanced, if we are to learn from our errors, as a nation and as a species.

I am very saddened by the needless and premature death of Heather Heyer.  This wanton act of murder had nothing to do with a certain number of Antifa members being mixed with the anti-Nazi protestors.  Ms. Heyer was not with Antifa, nor was she “bused in by George Soros.”  She was a Charlottesville resident, employed as a paralegal.  It had everything  to do with the killer’s being an impressionable young man, of questionable emotional stability, being influenced, to some degree, by the words and taunts of a good number of Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Party members.  The reactions of many of the alt-right protesters does indicate they were not out to kill those who confronted them.  The obscenity-laced comments filling the air- on You Tube videos- did, however, set some people off, including the errant driver.

It’s  long past time to start serious, but respectful and frank dialogue.  Let’s do it, anyway.  It’s long past time for the President to set a strong tone of domestic leadership, aimed at getting differing sides together, peacefully,  but nose-to-nose, if necessary.  The air needs to be cleared of the noxious.  Citizens, however, as was said this evening, at a candlelight vigil here,  also need to set the moral tone, at their level..  No far-off politician can do all the heavy-lifting, nor should a local demagogue be allowed to stir up the passions of one segment of the populace, as happened in Charlottesville.

I am not any kind of supremacist.  I am not any kind of ideologue.  I have lived long enough to know that we lose, mightily, by excluding any group, based on any physical characteristic, faith or creed.  So, on we go, without the vivacious young paralegal, who just wanted to love her community.

The Art of Durability

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July 19, 2017, Philadelphia- 

Whilst waiting for some family members to meet me at downtown Philadelphia’s Cafe Ole,

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A brief walk showed that this belonged to a museum and art gallery, the Center for Art in Wood.  I spent about an hour, in the astonishing museum, which showcases both the traditional plank art of northern Europe and several contemporary pieces, from around the globe.  Several variations use the root word, Mangle, meaning cut, as their base.  Below, is a Danish piece, called a manglebraette.

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Bear with me, I am taking the liberty of interspersing the traditional ware with contemporary pieces.  This one, by an American, Michael Scarborough, celebrates Buddhism.

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Australian artist, Ashley Eriksmoen, presents this Judeo-Christian piece.

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Who wants a wooden sheep?

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These Icelandic pieces are examples of that nation’s trafakefli traditional craft.

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Sweden’s variation is known as mangelbraden.

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Norway’s woodcraft, mangletraer, is displayed at the front of the exhibit.  Some pieces are in glass cases.

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Finland adopted the art form, as well, and is the easternmost country in which the mangleplank tradition took root.  Its form is called kaulauslandet.

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Surprisingly, it is the Netherlands which is credited with originating the art form.  Merchants of the Hanseatic League spread it to the Nordic lands.  The Dutch form is called mangelplanken.

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The variety, in both styles and uses, of woodcraft could capture one’s interest for hours, I think.

Here are a couple of other contemporary pieces.

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I will definitely be back here, next summer, at the very least as a customer-for one of the gallery shop’s more utilitarian pieces, while learning more about plank art.  I, who whittled as a child, could possibly fashion something of use, one of these fine days.

Philly On The Water and Celts Above the Freeway

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July 19, 2017, Philadelphia-

In the past, we would drive along  and bypass the large cities of the East Coast, Boston and Washington being exceptions.  I have continued to do so, pretty much, since Penny’s passing.  With Philadelphia being the venue for a major family event, next summer, and with my brother and sister-in-law being here for a visit, I made my way into  town for two days.  This was the second day.  I was on my own until 4 PM, as the family had to tend to planning activities.

So, after saying farewell to my nephew, at Brandywine, some downtown Philly time was in order.  My first stop, after parking the Hyundai, was Penn’s Landing.  Here, William Penn did disembark his boat, after sailing up the Delaware River, in 1682.  He’d be amazed at what is there now.  I walked along the pedestrian bridge and along the overlook, watching people in the pop-up amusement park, below.

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After purchasing a bottle of water, from one of the ubiquitous vendors, who line Penn’s Landing, in summer, I found I-95 park, perched above the freeway.  It is a shady place of comfort for those living on the Near South Side, and has several remnants of what dominated the area, before the City of Brotherly Love.

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It also has a couple of statues honouring the people of Celtic descent, who provided so much of the labour for building the cities of the megalopolis, from Boston to Norfolk.  This statue pays homage to the Irish immigrants.

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Next to it, another statue tips its collective hat to the Scots, who were so indispensable to shipbuilding, a Philadelphia mainstay.

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This sculpture depicts a family walking past Tun Tavern, a key gathering place in early Philadelphia.  This marker commemorates the site of the old public house, founded in 1686, and named for the Old English term for beer barrel.

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Moving on, from I-95 Park, I spotted this early Twentieth Century office building, which may or may not have had a predecessor in this spot, which may or may not have been used by Benjamin Franklin, during one of his breaks from planning the Indian Wars, at Tun Tavern.

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The Betsy Ross House had a private event this afternoon, so I gave a pass to going inside.

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Like Boston and New York, Philadelphia is filled with little architectural gems, above doors, along windows and on walls.  This wrought iron protects the window, in a most agreeable way.

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I am most amenable to further exploration of this great city, especially next summer.  My next post, though, will focus on one of Philly’s best kept secrets: The Center for Art in Wood.

What happened to Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six?  Nothing, I have five posts left, in that series, and will insert them between now and November 28, when 66 ends.

 

Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part LXI: Brandywine’s Message

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July 19, 2017, Chadds Ford- 

My nephew wanted to hit the trail, this morning, so after a few rendezvous snafus, due to differing GPS entries, we met at Birmingham Friends Meeting House, near the site of some of the heaviest fighting.  The battle raged here, on September 11, 1777.  Today, we were the only people on this little hill, south of Chadds Ford.  The Brandywine Valley, today, is better known for its wineries,  for the Wyeth family’s presence and for the Longwood and Main Fountain Gardens, than for one of the heaviest battles of the American Revolution.

Of course, without the battle, which showed the British victors that the war was far from over, it’s likely that all the beauty of this valley would be under entirely different auspices, today.  We spent the first forty minutes of our visit, in and around Birmingham Friends Meeting House and its Peace Garden. First, though, here are a couple of views of the area that was the battle zone, 240 years ago, next month.

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What is the province of grazing cows, today, was a harrowing encampment, for men on opposing sides, but all far from home.  The hospital where all, regardless of loyalty, would be treated for their injuries, was in this modest building- then and now, a Quaker Meeting House.

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Many of their fallen comrades would be buried, in a mass grave, on the south side of this cemetery.  Hundreds lie here, with no regard for their ideology. All were viewed as humans, by the farmers of Birmingham Hill.

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This plaque announces the Peace Garden of Birmingham Hill.

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Again, the serenity of the day- with the distant echo of muskets and cannonade.

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This verse, by John Donne, is one of several cogent quotes, placed carefully, throughout the Peace Garden.

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William Sloane Coffin also offers a simple comment on the world of today.

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A poignant expression of love, from a local farmer to his departed wife, signifies the ongoing daily life, around the battle and its aftermath.

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After time for reflection, we headed to Brandywine State Museum, and spent an hour or so there, before walking to Washington’s Headquarters. The museum offers detailed exhibits of muskets, British rifles (which were largely responsible for the Royal Army’s early successes) and cannonry.  It is, like the Museum of the American Revolution, a well-balanced institution.

In the nearby woods, this long-abandoned gazebo tells of how nature regards the vagaries of war.  It grows over the remnants, and challenges us to unearth them.

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This was Benjamin Ring’s root cellar.  Mr. Ring was the host to General Washington, and his troops, who camped in the fields.

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The Rings most likely stayed in this “servants’ quarters”, during the Revolutionaries’ encampment.

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Here is the main farmhouse, where the General and his staff planned what turned out to be an inadequate strategy.  Much was learned from the battle, though, and it was the hubris of the British, combined with French and Polish support for the Americans, which led to the rising of the Revolutionary forces, after Valley Forge.

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With this, my nephew was off to pick up his little girl, from pre-school, and I was headed to Philadelphia, after a fabulous lunch, at this bustling, somewhat friendly establishment.

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