I know very little about…

my great-grandmother or my grandmother for that matter on my maternal side. Nora died in 1938 before my mother was born and my grandmother, Mildred died before I was born.

However, in this chapter of my tender, and profoundly inquisitive, middle-age life, I want to know more about the women I share DNA with. They’re a part of me, my mannerisms, my choices and so much more that I’m completely unaware of. I need to know more.

Who was Nora? Mildred? What did they love? What did they fear? What made them laugh?

Unraveling the mystery of who they were simply will not leave me alone right now.

My father died just over a year ago and I so wish we had videotaped him telling some of his favorite stories. When families start losing a generation, the stories often disappear too.

This Thanksgiving folks, ask the elders at the table to share their stories. Let the kids ask questions and record their responses. You will be so happy to have the assurance that these treasured stories won’t disappear and can be shared for generations.

Enjoy your time together asking about the good ole’ days.

Happy Thanksgiving!

PS To any Kyte or Millette relatives who might read this, please contact me. I would love to learn more about Nora and Mildred. I would be so grateful for anything you’re willing to share.

Today, I’m choosing…

to imagine a world filled with wonder…this requires some effort, especially when the world doesn’t seem so “wonderfilled” to me right now.

WONDER/noun:  a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable…

Ooh, this definition gives me chills.

Ummm, let’s see…do I want to listen to the news all day, filling myself up with stories that make me feel fearful and angry—OR, do I want to do a little “wonder seeking” that could lead to something interesting that fuels me creatively?

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If what we think about grows…

Today, my musings lead me to imagine my daughter, Willa swimming in a tower I photographed by the airport in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  This image made me think about other possibilities of where else she might be swimming and that cracked me up…many more images to come, I’m sure.

 

ancestral wisdom…

Today, I picked up, “The Literature of South Dakota” by John R. Milton.  This book was a gift to me from my grandfather when I was in college.  It fell open onto a short story, “ARCADIA IN AVERNUS” written by my great, great uncle, Will Otis Lillibridge 1878-1909.  Actually a pretty racy story for the time.  “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” is the subtitle.  Here’s the summary.The literature of South Dakota

Unhappy wife leaves marriage of convenience for another man, the couple running away to the Dakota prairie to set up housekeeping. All seems romantically well… until the ex shows up. Surprisingly modern (if a little theatrical) novella from the early 1900’s. From the posthumous collection of Lillibridge short stories, A Breath of Prairie, 1911. Arcadia In Avernus
There’s a term that’s haunting me.  In the short story a woman has a dream that she’s in a desolate place and she hears out of the darkness the sounds of human suffering.  The voices grow louder and she sees a man and woman walking toward her.  They are bent beneath a tremendous burden and both have wounds where they’ve carried the load.
lillibridge swing and farmhouse wall
In her dream she asks the man, “What rough load is that you carry?” and he wearily answers, The burden of conventionality“.
“We dare not drop it”, says the woman, hopelessly, “lest that light, which is the searchlight of public opinion return, showing us different from the others”.
He answers her gently, “But the burden isn’t useless, the condemnation of society is an hourly reality.”
We all must carry the burden of conventionality sometimes.  However, we also can choose to write novels (or join the circus or whatever) because we just never know how much time we have.
Thank you Uncle Will, you’re unconventionalness is a source of inspiration indeed.

Lillibridge looking back at SD

 

 

Happy Father’s Day!

One of my favorite memories with my Dad this year was surprising him at his induction into the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  The banquet was held right around the time of the state tournaments in March.  Basketball was a really big connector for my family—both watching and playing.

I wasn’t a great player by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m sure I was better because of Dad’s coaching and shooting hoops after supper.  My Dad actually sent someone into the locker room at half time to tell me that I wasn’t getting my feet off the floor on my jump shots in a game against our rivals, Gregory.  He was right and I don’t remember exactly, but I suspect that didn’t make me jump much higher.

It was a privilege to hear all of the other high school basketball stories from around South Dakota.  We laughed, we cried and we celebrated hard work, talent and competitiveness.

So on this Father’s Day in 2017 thank you for helping create the woman I am today.  And if you don’t feel like claiming any responsibility, well that’s OK too Dad.  No harm.  No foul.

 

ego vs. heart

Somehow folks, photographs of Herrick, South Dakota struck at the heart of many people…actually WAY more people than had ever read my blog before.  So, at first it fed my ego.  I was obsessively checking the number of viewers I had for those Herrick photographs.  (Obsessively is almost too small of a word for my behavior.)  I kept thinking about the comments of people who grew up in Herrick and moved away.  A former babysitter of mine wrote and people were connecting about their love of Herrick and rural South Dakota.  That was a blast for me.  Thank you.

This morning in my NIA dance class we did a move that protected our hearts and then we gave them out to the world.  Arms closed and wrapped in protection across our hearts then opened wide. It made me think about EGO vs. HEART—protecting the way the world sees me vs. vulnerability & social risk.  I was thinking about the volume of traffic I had to my site and then it all went straight to my heart.  Arms wide and then crossed.  Try it, it’s kind of a cool way to get a sense of vulnerability and protection in your body.  I’m not surprised that my pictures of Herrick, South Dakota sparked so much interest and dialogue.

I think the geography of our upbringing is in our bones.

lillibridge-take-the-girl-out-of-south-dakota

“…voluntary settlement to a frontier area tends to produce individualism.”  Geographical Psychology; Exploring the Interaction of Environment and Behavior edited by Peter J. Renfrow.  Cool, huh?  I often think about the freedom and spaciousness I was allowed growing up on the prairie. It was awesome AND I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Burke.  To quote Joni Mitchell, “I got the urge for going”.

lowell-s

My settlement in Burke was involuntary at my birth, however, it did produce a sense of individualism in me.  I suspect in many others too (judging by your response to my photos, shut up ego, let the heart take over).  In the book I referenced it suggests that people in frontier areas are naturally more suspicious of outsiders because of the potential to spread disease.  Fascinating lizard brain stuff, huh?

For many reasons “pioneer & frontier thinking” has been bouncing around in my head a lot lately.  Last week a relative sent me this article about my Great Grandfather, Lowell Stanton Lillibridge, pioneer banker. These few paragraphs tell a great story about pioneer life in South Dakota at the turn of the century.

I’m grateful I have a different lens to view the landscape that informed who I am.  I’m not wild about some other middle aged issues, but I do appreciate the wisdom.

I haven’t lived in South Dakota since 1989.  I moved to Vermont on New Year’s Day 1990, and yet an image of a South Dakota two-lane highway is my constant muse.  Funny how different things look with a quite few more years in the rear view mirror.

I encourage you to think about what specifically speaks to you about the geography you experienced growing up.  What’s your “South Dakota two-lane”?  That image got me through some rough dental work last week.  You might want to consider a landscape as a sort of meditation…a “go to” place when you need to settle your brain down.

Thank you for reading.  I’m truly grateful for your time.