Saturday, December 31, 2016

Rural Wisconsin {Favorite Finds Friday}

I love driving through rural Wisconsin.  Always it feels fresh, and ripe for the discovery of some possibly brief but enticing new thing; always it feels familiar and comfortable and close to home.

Today I made the one-hour long drive from our home in far northern Illinois to Jefferson, Wisconsin.  Rather than taking our usual interstate route I opted for the alternate; the patchwork of state highways that registered only three minutes slower on my gps.  I could surely spare three minutes for a journey through the land rather than past it.

As I drove, 30toes playing Mother May I from their seats behind me, I began to notice how familiar the route felt, even upon entering the portion I had never traveled.  Certainly this is due to the character of the landscape itself; a patchwork, like the roads that cross it, of fields and farms and always distant tree lines.  It is a gently undulating expanse framed on all sides by an open horizon.  Surely I have seen this view before.  Surely I have loved it before, and felt its familiar comfort and promise. 

I spent the rest of the day attempting to keep my attention on this familiar newness and wondering what else was to be found in it.   

This is the affirmation of the everyday; the brilliant rhythm of the familiar that repeats and repeats again.  I am reminded that always I return to nature for the answer, for the inspiration, for the reason.  Always I look to the land when I am seeking; not to take me away, but to bring me home. 

With gratitude,

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

37 {for my mother who gave me poetry for Christmas}

When I was 37 I rediscovered poetry; that was yesterday, it is today.  37 means nothing to me, I feel as though I could be seven or seventeen, eyes open, looking up for an answer, a direction, an affirmation.  And in that looking I find upon me the tasks and responsibilities of adulthood, of parenthood, of the idea of being almost 40.  

Who is this person who longs from the other side of the wall to lay on the floor and play, but does not know how - who does not remember ever knowing - but longs.  Who is this person who seeks affirmation to be what I wish to discover - why?

If only the being and the longing would come into one.  Then I would be an adult blessed with the childlike rather than a child clamoring to juggle the mature realm.

I will be 38 next week and reading poetry has made me feel giddy, like I have been at play; like I am waiting, fully dressed, to be released into a wild and wondrous snow storm with no expectation of when I must return - maybe there is hope for me yet!


With gratitude,


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

a few photos {connection}

I thought last week was going to be about space.  About feeling or reflecting on the space I gave myself to make a difficult decision. But it wasn't; not exactly.  

What rose from that pause, was not the space itself, but connection. The connection to within that comes from accepting that space is necessary and that our limitations exist whether we accept them or not.  

It was a connection to understanding, again, that this world is greater than me and its answers or understandings are not to be found in the fodder of my own thoughts, but through a willingness to let go and feel small and look out the window and allow my soul to be saved over and over again by looking into my child's eyes.

December 16

There were many stunning experiences during our four weeks on the road this summer, but the one most impactful was how small I felt in the face of all the millennia we crossed, marked in the land, the grandeur and the expanse. I was relieved to feel small, relieved from the worries of my own mind, overcome by all that is so much greater; the land, the experience of it, the experience of my family, the grace of that opportunity. I sat down briefly with a pencil this afternoon to wonder what I would notice; the ever constant humming of the fish tank; and the ever constant chatter of my own mind, loose of that smallness and largely consumed by the minutiae, adrift in the internal churning. There are times when we must look within, but there are times that we must look out and allow ourselves to be reminded of all that is greater and joyous.  

December 15

This package of delight arrived in my mailbox last night, my handmade Inner Compass ring by @innercompassdesigns, this was a kind of year end gift to myself, a reminder and an affirmation.  And even though they are so different, it was instantly a perfect companion to my grandmother's WWII Navy ring which brings me strength and comfort. Thank you Deb for the lovely and inspiring package, the hand lettered quote brought me to tears, this is beauty indeed! "Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike" {John Muir}

December 12

There is something in this boy's face that speaks eternity to me. Something that reassures me, that reaches into me; that has since he was an infant. Long before he could do anything but look at me with his deep eyes and need me desperately to keep him alive, this thing in him helped keep my soul alive.

With gratitude,


Monday, December 12, 2016

a few photos from the past few weeks {perspective}

A little more than three weeks ago I decided I would start posting a photo a day on Instagram.  This is not a new idea, but neither have I started an official photo a day project with any guidelines or projected outcomes.  I am not particularly good with daily rituals, they generally come to feel burdensome, and inevitably I miss, a day or several, and when my streak is broken the perceived failure typically wards me off from returning. This holds true for creative projects, self-care projects and weekly house cleaning intentions.  It is some kind of self-defeatism that is decidedly unhelpful. However, I think that the structure of a project can sometimes overshadow the intention of a project and we can become focused on the achievement and loose the experience.  So this is not a project, but something I have just decided to do. Originally I thought I would share my weekly collection here, every Saturday, with some reflection or review.  I haven't started that yet.  I don't know if I will.  But I have found some value in my daily photos and that is something that I would like to share.  

Because my photos are accompanied by words it has become almost in equal, a daily writing exercise, not by intention, but by default. I sketch in words, rather than images in pencil and paper, it is the characters of the letters; they are how I process and understand.  One of the things I find interesting about writing is the ability of our own words to speak back to us. Perhaps our words can speak better to us than any intended audience, particularly over time.  They reflect our feelings; they remind us of understands, that have sometimes faded; sometimes they are embarrassing; sometimes enlightening; but always they are a window back to ourselves; they are perspective.

My daily photos have shown me the character of my days, I have tried to choose images that reflect some aspect of my day; my thoughts or activities, and as I look back over them I can see how varied my daily experiences actually are, how quickly the weather changes, how diligently time passes.  They help me look quietly when my mind wants to move fast, faster than my days, which are moving quite fast enough. 

They are tiny reminders, reflections and rebirths; here are a few of my favorites. 

November 17:

Sometimes dreaming about being someplace else is the best way to remember what you have right here...

November 18:

I spent the late afternoon cleaning up my garden, readying it for winter and sneaking out a late and final harvest of zesty greens. Winter in the Midwest is more than a season, it is the coming of a new lifestyle. In truth I have come to dread the approach of winter, not for its beginning but for its conclusion; that each year comes to feel so long overdue. Winter does not end here, it merely creeps away, slowly displaced by the life that was lain dormant by its presence. And we will enter the world again as well. Those moments seem a long way off today as I indulge in the final bounty of this seasons life. And I am reminded of the cycle and that is where the awe lives.

November 19:

These guys are my little brother's but I look up to them so much; they are kind, passionate lovers of life. Last month I had the chance to spend nearly a week with them in Door County, Wisconsin...I will treasure that always.

November 25:

I was out today for Flood the Streets with Art and feeding my soul

November 3:

My baby turned 7 today, she smiled ALL day and my heart is full to the brim!

December 4:

First Snow!

December 4:

This old man has been my companion and confidant for thirteen years, he came into my life just when I needed him and I am still thankful every day...

December 7:

I get a homesickness this time of year, a longing; for the air and the trees and the deer in my mother's yard, for the damp ground that sounds crisp and feels soft underfoot, for the damp air that envelopes and chills and smells of sweet pine. It's a dull ache in my bones that would be, that have been chilled by that damp air, longing to be quenched by that familiar mist.

December 8:

It is her face I miss, the wrinkles that meant time and glory and yes, pain. It is her hands I miss and their soft, soft touch, their ridges and groves that held and made and clenched and caressed. It is her voice I miss and the assurance it carried. It is her presence I miss and the intimacy of being that it revealed. Today my grandmother would be one hundred and one years old; she loved the redwoods, she called them the big trees

December 9:

I think there are times I look so hard for perspective there is no chance I will see it, no chance its subtle presence will be noticed, heard. What happens to wonder, to curiosity? What happens to awe? What happens to seeing? When do we learn to look; over and through and right past everything that is all around us, settling in on only what we wish was and wasn't there? If only we would stop looking we would find all of life to be so breathtaking...

December 10:

The in-between is a place we must learn to dwell, for mere moments if we are lucky; but often it is longer, stranger. And if we are patient it is the dawn we find on the other side, the dawn of new experience, new understanding; the morning of acceptance...

December 11:

My great-grandmother's thread box

With gratitude,


Friday, September 2, 2016

wonderland {adventuring home 2016}

For me, Yellowstone was to be the capstone of our trip. This place had been a legend since childhood, it was about to be made real.

Little more than a year ago, we began conjuring the idea of a ‘big trip’ as our kids would come to call it, the following summer.  The original idea was simply to drive to Oregon where I grew up, have a family visit and stop at a few interesting places along the way.  And then I realized that Yellowstone was along the way.  It would finally come true, the dream of childhood, we would go.  And now I would get to take my own children, something that seemed a solid reflection of life’s perfect poetry.

Yellowstone was introduced to me as a young child through the works of Frances Joyce Farnsworth who wrote two books about a young bear cub who visits the park and experiences its vast and amazing wonders with his mother; Cubby in Wonderland (1932) and Cubby Returns (1935); and a third Tike and Tiny in the Tetons (1954) about the same ‘Mommy Bear’ who later takes her twin cubs on a tour through Grand Teton National Park.  Farnsworth was a Wyoming author and possibly a school teacher who lived, 1881 to 1962.  She also wrote a number of other books about adventurous animal characters.  Little else about her life and work is readily available even though a fairly extensive online search.  She is now on my research list.

Perhaps I want to know who she was because of how profoundly she influenced my consciousness, creating a resting place in my mind, one distantly awe inspiring and yet wholly attainable.  She did not create in her pages a wonderland that I could merely dream about, but gave me access to one that was distinctly real and reachable.  She in a sense gave me my first goal, some way of understanding how to reach beyond myself, that the world was big and beautiful and awaiting me. 

She came to me through the hands and voice of my mother who read her words to me and my grandmother who had read them to my mother.  Passed along with a kind of awe that I am sure Farnsworth intended and hoped for. 

And so when I realized that we could indeed plan our route to take us through Yellowstone there was no doubt we were going.  As it would turn out our visit to Yellowstone would be less of a capstone than I had believed it would be; not because of any disappointment in that place but because of the general wonder in all places its mythology had helped to create.   

But when we left at about 8:30 in the morning on July 7th Yellowstone was, in my mind, our only significant destination.

With gratitude,

Monday, August 29, 2016

30 days in 74 photos {adventuring home 2016}

It is Friday, and I can’t believe we have been home for three weeks.  Three weeks is nearly the amount of time we were gone, time that seemed unmeasured and unaccounted for in a wonderful way.  These past three weeks have passed on the calendar in reference and contrast to things coming and going.  They have passed in minutes, hours and days, they have been counted. 

The four weeks of our trip passed only in places and the distances between them.  There was no such thing as bedtime and awake time and the time on the clock measured only how long before we were to arrive in a new experience.  This sounds ideological, but it is almost without exception true.  Four weeks could have been one or twelve, it did not matter, they existed purely in their own capsule.

Now real life has resumed and those unmeasured moments have faded into the background of my ever changed consciousness.  I think experiences are real when the nostalgia is slim.  Those uncounted moments did not pass without some stress or frustration or longing.  But for the most part those were compared only to current circumstances and therefore became acceptable as a reflection of the present moment much the opposite of how general life stress becomes much more about everything else, less present.  Perhaps my only regret is having had (pms) on the morning we went to Disneyland, an experience so long anticipated it nearly never came into the present, but I suppose I can forgive myself for that. 

I have little nostalgia, little longing, few wishes to return.  But I have powerful memories, palpable appreciation and strong desires to go back again.  I have deep appreciation for the time our family spent together, driving thousands of miles with only a few ‘melt-downs’ – graham cracker anyone? - And I have gained a reverence for nature and our natural existence that I thought I had, but that now I see and feel in full color.

I want to go back to Zion, Teton, the tiny town of Prospect, Oregon, the entire state of Utah, South Dakota, my mother’s house, my father’s house and, awe yes, Yellowstone and countless places we passed by, sign pointing just a few or a few-hundred miles in a different direction. 

I could live on the road, in the collective places, the expanse that proves all of existence if much grander than I.  I reveled in feeling like a speck in time rather than the center of a universe generated in my own mind through the ins and outs and circulation of everyday life.

And yet for now I am happy to be back, settling into my ever changed consciousness and daily life and hoping that somehow I can take it with me…forever.

Below are 74 images from our 30 days on the road, a lifetime in a nutshell, all posted at @artindiscovery along the way, captioned in real time.

I have countless thoughts and inspirations for writings to come, and hold out hope that they will emerge and continue the journey.

Day 1 : My mom read this book to me when I was a young child and for as long as I can remember I have had a yearning to visit the wonderland called Yellowstone, and now we are on our way!

Day 1 : On the road today I had one of those incredibly nerdy and incredibly exciting moments...visiting a South Dakota rest area tipi for the first time! 

Day 1 : These things were built in the late 1960s during the height of interstate construction, during an era that has taken on the nostalgia of Americana, they were built to be points of interest, representations of a culture and a history, built to tell a piece of a story and to entertain...and they are still cool!

Day 2 : At some point I came across the idea of mailing home a postcard every day as a way of documenting a trip. I love this idea. I love the thought of returning home to a collection of cards waiting to tell me again about where I have been. I love the thought of them traveling home as I am still traveling on, the process they must go through to get there; and we will meet again at the end of our respective journeys...I mailed card one today from the tiny town of Montrose, South Dakota, it was an accidental stop at the end of a gas tank, but proved a perfect little encounter with a place we otherwise never would have seen.

Day 2 : Badlands National Park

Day 3 : Mt Rushmore National Memorial 

Day 4 : The Black Hills rise abruptly from the South Dakota prairie, we entered them just after a light rainfall and while driving lowered the windows to be met by cooled air and the smell of fresh pine and tears filled my eyes.

Day 4 : Crazy Horse

Day 4 : Junior park rangers! {Jewel Cave National Monument}

Day 4 : Wyoming 

Day 5 : More Wyoming, it is incredible how quickly the landscape changes. 

Day 5 : In five days of travel we have crossed nearly 1000 miles and incredibly diverse landscapes, the one constant for me has been how humbling it is to look upon these places in progress for millions of years, it is as John Muir said...'one learns that this world though made is yet being made, this is still the morning of creation' {Big Horn National Forest}

Day 5 : Now this dude is rad! {Big Horn National Forest}

Day 6 : Yellowstone! 

Day 6 : It really is that amazing {Yellowstone National Park}

Day 7 : White Dome Geyser  {Yellowstone National Park}

Day 8 : Mammoth Hot Springs  {Yellowstone National Park}

Day 8 : Mammoth Hot Springs  {Yellowstone National Park}

Day 9 : Grand Teton...It is as if they held out their arms to us and said: come, all you wild things, come and live with me. I will take care of you. I have homes for you on my steep, rocky walls. Come, wild things, live with me...Mommy Bear, Cubby in Wonderland, Frances Joyce Farsworth, 1932

Day 9 : Chapel of the Transfiguration in Grand Teton National Park, built for ranchers and tourists in 1925, this tiny chapel was my grandmother's favorite place in the Tetons.

Posted at the entrance gate:  The name "transfiguration" is taken from the event in our Lord's earthly life in which, during a time of prayer and meditation in the mountains Jesus appeared to His disciples "transfigured" They saw him no longer as a simple man, in an intense light they perceived a glory beyond his ordinary appearance. The name is apt because in the presence of this magnificence and grandeur, some small hint of that eternal majesty is conveyed to us who pause in quiet worship. Like the disciples on the mount 2000 years ago we would like to stay here. We cannot - we must return to our lives - but, like those disciples, please take away with you the vision of the power and beauty of God's presence in the world. 

Day 10 : Driving across Idaho, so far our most exciting encounter was spotting these cool modern style picnic shelters in a rest area/scenic overlook on Hwy 26, and actually that was pretty great!

Day 10 : It's growing!  {Somewhere in Idaho}

Day 11 : OREGON! And oh yeah, that's my favorite number!

Day 11 : Killer Americano!  {Bend, Oregon}

Day 11 : One more because I can't help myself!  {Deschutes National Forest}

Day 12 : Fodder in the forest!  {La Pine State Park} 

Day 12 : I haven't been able to spend very much time with my brother in the past several years...I am so glad we are getting this opportunity!  {Paulina Peak Overlook, Newberry Crater National Monument}

Day 13 : The Big Tree {La Pine State Park}

Day 13 :  Historic ranger station, built in 1933 in remote Nevada, moved to this sight in 2008 for preservation, I a delightful conversation with the volunteer attendant, a retired forest service ranger. A true treat!{The High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon}

Day 13 : Walking through a prehistoric lava tube {Lava River Cave, Newberry Crater National Monument}

Day 13 : The cutest cafe you have ever seen, and amazing pie too! {Beckies Cafe, Union Creek Resort, Siskiyou National Forest, Prospect, Oregon}

Day 14 : Home town icon...Yes I grew up in a town known for its association with 1922 a group of local businessmen started a booster group the "Caveman Club" to promote local tourism by associating with the Oregon Caves, since Oregon Caves National Monument. In 1972 they erected this statue to welcome visitors to town and scenic hwy 199 and the redwood empire beyond. It's hallmark has always been controversy, but that's part of the fun! {Grants Pass, Oregon}

Day 15 : Overcome with gratitude today; for the inspiring spirit of my little girl and the beautiful generosity of a perfect stranger...

Day 16 : A little dirty work!

Day 17 : Growers Market: it was a pleasure this morning getting to visit the farmers market I grew up with and an even greater pleasure meeting up with old friends! {Grants Pass, Oregon}

Day 17 : On the road again  

Day 17 : Wonder general store. My childhood home was a house my parents built when I was 5 years old across Redwood Highway and up an old dirt logging road. For a few years our only phone was the now gone pay phone in the parking lot of this store...which by the way looks exactly the same as it did 30 years ago. I will always have a soft spot for this place.  {Wonder, Oregon, Rogue River - Siskiyou National Forest}

Day 17 : Big Foot? {Del Norte Redwoods State Park}

Day 18 : Another childhood favorite and Paul still talks to the crowd {Trees of Mystery, Klamath, California}

Day 18 : Yellowstone was amazing, Teton was breathtaking, but give me a redwood forest...{Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway}

Day 19 : We almost saw the Golden Gate Bridge!

Day 20 : Salt water! {Pismo State Beach, Pismo, California}

Day 21 : A living sand dollar, we tossed him back into the sea! {Pismo State Beach}

Day 22 : Sometimes it's hard to move on...

Day 23 : Proud! 

Day 24 : Tired but happy! {Disneyland}

Day 25 : 4,000 miles! And on our way home...
{Mojave Desert}

Day 25 : I thought today's desert drive would be bland, but actually I can't keep my eyes on my work...

Day 25 : Joshua Tree through the window {Somewhere in the Mojave Desert}

Day 25 : I can't help loving this desert landscape today

Day 25 : 27 amazing minutes in Arizona 

Day 26 : Zion 

Day 26 : Well we didn't end up getting to hike, but we did experience a pretty magnificent thunderstorm. {Zion National Park}

Day 27 : It's sunny today as we leave Zion on the historic park road constructed in 1927 which switches back up the canyon wall and passes through a mile long tunnel...this engineering is its own amazement.

Day 27 : I'm impressed Utah! We encountered two little rest stops on Hwy 89, both included these very cool original mid-century combination info/picnic shelters and both deserve five stars for cleanliness! 

Day 27 : We have traveled through some beautiful land in the past few weeks, but today's drive was unparalleled...I think maybe the entire state of Utah should be a national park...

Day 28 : "Open spaces are a playground for our collective soul," James M Robb. Robb was a Colorado legislator and conservation visionary who dedicated himself to the restoration and preservation of natural spaces for public use. This trip has infinitely deepened my appreciation for our country's amazing public lands and parks. We must all carry forth the visions that preserved them for us.

Day 28 : This was a cool first, free books in a rest area! {Vail Pass Rest Area, Colorado}

Day 29 : Seriously cool picnic architecture 

Day 29 : Tomorrow is Friday, so I am getting ready! 

Day 29 : Erma's Desire, sculptor John Raimondi, part of the Nebraska Bicentennial Sculpture Project an effort that placed eight sculptures in rest areas on interstate 80 in Nebraska in commemoration of America's bicentennial in 1976. It became known as Nebraska's 500 Mile Sculpture Garden. {Grand Island Rest Area, Nebraska}

Day 29 : The deep midsummer in the Midwest and it is the last camping night of our trip...

Day 30 : Iowa through the window 

Day 30 : Final cards in the mail, hopefully we will beat these home!

Day 30 : Happy Friday!

Day 30 : HOME

The Recap : 30 days, 14 states, 6033 miles, 8 National Parks / Monuments / Memorials, 3 junior rangers, countless national forests, 8 state parks, 31 postcards mailed home and Disneyland!

With {so much} gratitude,