“Trees were so rare in that country, and they had to make such a hard fight to grow, that we used to feel anxious about them, and visit them as if they were persons.”
―Willa Cather, My Ántonia
I’m staying in my childhood home in Burke, South Dakota. Today I got up very early to write. I made coffee and stepped out on the porch for some fresh air. I was dumbstruck by the beauty of the sunrise and the moonset in unison over the east-facing field.
Left: today’s sunrise/moonset Right: last night’s sunset.
The moon was so seductive to me that I actually felt a little “witchy”. I hopped in my rental and headed east on gravel roads to get closer to the moon. Deer. Stars. A light wind. Birds chirping. Lovely.
NOTE: Speaking of “witchy”, I was born with an extra finger on my left hand (as was my daughter, Lucy). I’ve been told that it’s the sign of a witch, although from what I’ve read, it was mostly the patriarchy and the churches afraid of women who used herbs and other methods of healing. Oh, men, always so threatened by powerful women.
Once thought to be a sign of witchcraft, extra digits are actually the most common developmental abnormality found at birth. About two children in a thousand have extra fingers or toes.
Marilyn Monroe didn’t have extra digits, urban legends notwithstanding, but Anne Boleyn and Winston Churchill both did. And Atlanta Braves pitcher Antonio “The Octopus” Alfonseca was born with six fingers and six toes.https://www.futilitycloset.com/2005/02/10/a-great-big-hand/
I don’t have a telephoto lens or the patience for long exposure images, but I was able to capture these images. A perfect October experience in South Dakota…chasing a waning crescent moon.
My mother always told me that I looked a lot like Winston Churchill as a baby. Now, I know why—Lucy and I share a rather unique trait with him.
Thank you for all of the lovely memories.
I learned a lot about myself over the last three months,
it wasn’t easy, but truly necessary.
With Loving Gratitude,
PS The autumnal equinox arrived in the early morning hours of Sept. 23 (at 3:50 a.m. Eastern), the halfway point between our longest and shortest days of the year. It’s funny how my “middleness” shows up in nearly every aspect of my life.
Well hello autumn, you know you’ve always been my favorite… shhhhhhh don’t tell summer.
Ain’t it funny how the night moves
When you just don’t seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
With autumn closing in
—Bob Seger, Night Moves
No wonder I love this time of year, I’m constantly reminded of my “middleness” in nearly every aspect of my life.
“Once the fabric of a just society is undone, it takes generations to weave it back together.” —Deepak Chopra
As my girls head back to their second year of college, the memories of my family’s past summers are making me exceptionally nostalgic this year. Last week I walked Cape Cod’s, Town Neck Beach in Sandwich before heading north to Vermont.
So much flooded back to me…oh, the remarkable nostalgia of middle age.
While admiring the rocks, I got an idea for a photo series and a way I could honor this time of transition.
My memories feel both permanent and somewhat elusive, they can come and go as the tide shifts…just like these rocks do every six hours.
New England Patriot’s recently retired tight end, Rob Gronkowski once remarked, “I just like the beaches in summer, man.”
I wholeheartedly agree, Gronk.
This post-it note was visible through a garbage bag while I waited for my tank to fill. I had to tear a little hole to fish it out (and scrape off some gum). It was worth it to me.
Was it written and then discarded or received by the person who cleaned out their car? I’ll never know. I will always wonder.
This message works for a lot of different occasions and situations throughout in my life.
I just finished reading Main Street for the third time. First, I was 20 (college), then 25 (just married) and last week at the uniquely tender and remarkably nostalgic age of fifty-two.
Lewis’ character, Carol helped me understand both why I had to leave South Dakota and why the prairie is so doggedly a part of my identity (and my art)…even though I left nearly three decades ago.
“The days of pioneering, of lassies in sunbonnets, and bears killed with axes in piney clearings, are deader now than Camelot; and a rebellious girl is the spirit of that bewildered empire called the American Middlewest.”
― Sinclair Lewis, Main Street
June 6th, 1907 is Frida Kahlo’s birthday. She truly was a women so extraordinarily ahead of her time. Her example of individuality, boundless creativity, courage, and resilience is needed now more than ever. Frida’s influence throughout the world is a marvel.
Frida, please help me understand, why it’s taking so damn long to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment? Phyllis, I’m well aware of why after doing some research.
“EQUALITY OF RIGHTS under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.“
I needed to learn more about the history of the opposition to the ERA. Feminism, Gloria Steinem, ERA—these were almost dirty words when I was growing up in South Dakota in the 70s and 80s. I was told that it was Phyllis Schlafly who had womanhood and traditional gender roles all figured out.
I’m a feminist and I was a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes I dreamed of working, while my working friends dreamed of being home. Many Dads worked part-time or at home. The kids were fine. Marriages survived. We didn’t have a culture war. And yet…100 years later, the same crap is still being debated and the Equal Rights Amendment has not been ratified. EQUALITY WILL RUIN FAMILIES, REALLY?
The Equal Rights Amendment to me seems like a matter of simple legislative “housekeeping” just as Phyllis Schlafly thought women should be delighted to do at all times. Only one more state is required to ratify the ERA…come on Virginia…Arizona?
A few details about Phyllis Schlafly’s life were conveniently left out of her anti-ERA messaging. Perhaps a classic case of, “do as I say, not as I do”. I doubt it would have changed anything though? She certainly was a brilliant grass roots organizer and marketer. I have to give her credit where credit is due.
Phyllis Schlafly had her law degree and according to her LA Times September 5, 2016 obituary: “Critics said that though Schlafly presented herself as a traditional homemaker, she often traveled, had a full-time housekeeper and a personal assistant, and a resume that most feminists would envy.”
So, while thinking about womanhood and the examples of Frida & Phyllis, i realized that they have both been inspiration to me—in very different ways.
Sometimes, we’re inspired by someone and their life just ignites our imagination. Other times we need someone/something to push against, so our own views and voice can emerge with more clarity and depth.
Thank you Frida & Phyllis.
LEARN MORE: https://www.frida-kahlo-foundation.org/
“At the end of the day we can endure much more than we think we can.” ―Frida Kahlo
Driving around New Mexico last week made me feel like my 23-year-old self, even though I was competing in the National Senior Games. In 1989 I almost moved to Santa Fe with my college friend, Melissa. At the very last minute, we somehow decided quite randomly to move to Vermont instead. My post-college and midlife selves uniquely collided while I drove around soaking up all of the beauty I was drawn to thirty years ago.
The National Senior Games is a subculture I’m so proud to be a part of now. If you’re at least 50-years-old, regardless of your athletic ability, you should find out how to participate. There are so many options—archery, bowling, table tennis, swimming, track & field, cycling, basketball, golf, road races, volleyball and more. Check out the senior games in your region, many are open to out-of-staters. I might hit Nebraska’s games when I’m visiting South Dakota in August. https://nsga.com/state-games
One year ago at this time, Dad sat in his truck and watched me practice throwing the discus in my hometown of Burke, South Dakota. I wanted to take this trip to the National Senior Games in Albuquerque with Dad. I prefer a lot of time alone, just like he did.
Funny things happened that made me feel like he was indeed traveling with me.
- When I arrived in Albuquerque, I got my rental car and headed north to Santa Fe. While looking for a radio station, a song, Dad surprisingly loved came on: JUKEBOX HERO by Foreigner. I sobbed.
- I had a headache when I arrived in Santa Fe late afternoon, so I (we) laid down to watch TV…Everyone Loves Raymond was on. Dad watched it all the time.
- I wasn’t really hungry for dinner after resting, all I wanted was ice cream—Dad’s all-time favorite food.
- The morning I went to throw, in the lobby of Hotel Albuquerque I met two Vermonters who played on a men’s 75-year-old basketball team. They reminded me of Dad and they were so encouraging. I promise them I would go watch them play in the afternoon.
- I went to the University of New Mexico’s track and field complex to compete (I got 5th place, but didn’t throw as well as I had been practicing). However, I learned something about myself and my over-reliance on Dad’s spirit to give me the extra boost I was hoping for. 2019 Vermont Results LINK: https://www.vermontseniorgames.org/more-vermont-gold-in-tennis-track-and-field-and-swimming/
- That afternoon, during a time-out, Stan and Don came to ask me how I did and told me to go watch the Detroit Metros play (former NBA player on their team). I did. I smiled when I walked into that game, the Detroit Metros were playing South Dakota, yet another sign from Dad. I went out or burgers, fries and milkshakes with them after they were done. A perfect end to my (our) day.
So, with all of these coincidences, I put an inordinate amount of faith in Dad’s presence with me while I competed. When I got to my last throw in the finals, I truly expected Dad to give me the extra oomph I needed to win or at least take the bronze medal. When I didn’t throw even as well as I had been practicing, I was disappointed.
I kept going over my throws in my head. I realized that I actually relinquished some of my personal inner strength & preparation, relying instead on some form of magical thinking and faith in Dad.
We can have faith in all sorts of ways. However, now I understand that faith alone doesn’t take me off the hook from utilizing my available resources, common sense, inner strength, and resilience.
Dad, understanding the nature of faith might be the most important coaching you’ve done in my entire lifetime.
PS I will do my best on July 13th at the Vermont State Games. https://www.vermontseniorgames.org/schedule/