Monday, August 31, 2009

St. Bonaventure University

Taking John back to the airport in Buffalo, we stopped at St. Bonaventure University, in Olean NY. I knew that Bob Lax, who had grown up in Olean, had left most of his manuscripts to the University. I wanted to see them - or at least one.

The campus itself was unique. John took some “door” photos for his collection. It felt very “Catholic” to me, in a good sort of way.

I like the St. Joseph Oratory, a little round chapel, right in the middle of campus. Inside there was a statue of St. Joseph, with bench and cushions going around the wall, like a little meditation room. I have special place in my heart for St. Joseph, so I sat for a while.

This was a Sunday, and between school sessions, so I knew that I would be lucky if I found anyone around. The art building was open though - I wish I had had more time to browse that place, boy did it look interesting - and I was directed to the library. A young woman was waiting there, and said that it was open from 12:30 to 2:30 on Sunday. So I waited.

Unfortunately, the student who was in charge of the library didn’t know anything about Lax, and the best she could do was show me the website the school maintained for Lax. I know those papers are in there, I think that they should have a public room exhibiting photos and Lax’s manuscripts.

They did have a photo of Merton in the lobby, saying that Lax had introduced him to St. Bonaventure’s, and there was a brochure for a walking tour that would take you to the places that Merton mentions in his journals, like the statue of St. Therese of Lisieux where he heard the call to Gethsemane.

Merton gets all the fame, but Lax was very much a part of the inspiration, and an internationally acclaimed poet in his own right. St. Bonaventure’s has missed the boat, if you ask me.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

How To Build Community

This was on the wall of the eco-house, where we stayed in Western NY State (Wellsville):

turn off your tv - leave your house
know your neighbors
look up when you are walking
greet people - sit on your stoop
plant flowers
use your library - play together
buy from local merchants
share what you have
help a lost dog
take children to the park
garden together
support neighborhood schools
fix it even if you didn’t break it
have pot lucks - honor elders
pick up litter - read stories aloud
dance in the street
talk to the mail carrier
listen to the birds - put up a swing
help carry something heavy
barter for your goods
start a tradition - ask a question
hire young people for odd jobs
organize a block party
bake extra and share
open your shades - sing together
share your skills
take back the night
turn up the music
turn down the music
listen before you react to anger
mediate a conflict
seek to understand
learn from new and
uncomfortable angles
know that no one is silent
though many are not heard
work to change this

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hitachi John in Illinois

The new Hitachi John photo, at the Coffeen Plant in Coffeen, Illinois. One more week ...
(Note: it appears that blogger is no longer preserving the resolution of the uploaded photos :-( ... photos look look a lot fuzzier than they really are!)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Whoever knew that Florida could be so beautiful in mid-August, with its billowy clouds stacked high in the sky, delivering little rain squalls here and there? Whoever knew that my home could be feel like such a sanctuary and paradise, with overgrown weeds and pine needles clumped all over the patio, or that I would gulp the sweet, moist air coming in off the Atlantic Ocean.

Jubilee can’t stop smiling.

The lighting is different here. Sunglasses are not an option, they are a necessity. Florida is that much brighter than the rest of the country. And whereas I chugged to get over the mountains of PA and WV, my old car could glide down the Florida peninsula, keeping up and even passing everyone else. ( I WAS in a hurry to get home.)

I especially like the looks of West Virginia. Always I’m intrigued with and drawn toward the low country of South Carolina and Georgia. There are so many trees most everywhere on the Eastern side of the USA! From afar, each individual tree must look like a blade grass.

I don’t know where to start. John is still in Illinois, and I may want to express some impressions I got from living there for 2 1/2 months. There are some things to tell about the trip home, though, in no particular order ...

Ninety-five year old Aunt Louise showed up at the pig roast in the middle of PA (near Wellsboro) where we were celebrating Jon and Heather’s wedding. One morning at breakfast she told us the story of her visit to the doctor last year when she fell and hurt her wrist. They couldn’t find any medical records for her and asked when was the last time she had seen a doctor. Well, Dr. Harry Spalding used to be my doctor. He retired 15 years ago, they said. Well, I have 2 son-in-laws who are doctors. Do they treat you, they asked. Well, no. So what kind of medication are you on? Well, I eat an egg every morning and I take an aspirin every night, and I just don’t see any sense to going to the doctor when I feel ok.

What a healthy attitude she has toward aging, death, and doctors!

There was the funky little collection of cottages on Lake Erie, where we had ice cream and yellow Lake Erie perch.

We stayed in an “eco-house” in western NY State where we walked a labyrinth. I want to remember the eco house because it was so simple yet complete, feeling like everything that I could ever want or need in terms of a living place.
There was a deeper sense of the meaning of hospitality - that our lives really are home for the souls of each other.

I’m tired, but it feels good to be home.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


(gonna make the turn tomorrow)

There’s something about leaving a place, moving on ... As I was setting out I invoked the memory of many people I had known who had died to watch over me. It’s my way of praying. My mother’s 2 sisters, Louise and Mary B, were put in charge of making sure I was safe. My cousin Doug was in charge of making sure the car ran ok. Sister Charles Benedict, my old high school Latin teacher was to take care of Jubilee.
I’m in Dayton tonight with my cousins, Bill and Mary Ellen, whom I’ve known forever. It was an easy drive from Greenville. The land undulates more as you get into Indiana, and I recognized that this was all old territory for me. Coming through Indianapolis I remembered the Indiana State Fair of 1964 when I saw the Beatles perform.
The winter of 1972 when I was working in Chicago and John was still at the University of Dayton. Many weekends I would drive from Chicago to Dayton, once during a snowstorm. I could barely see so I just stayed in the wake of a big truck and let him lead the way.

Anyway, I got to Dayton early and stopped by the University of Dayton. At first I didn’t recognize the place. I was only here for 1 1/2 years, but I sure don’t remember it being this pretty.

I first met my husband John in front of this house - the house on the right (I think). John was living in the house and his roommate, Frito, left the cutest little black puppy, Kilo, out in front. It was the dog that I fell in love with first! I remember climbing out on the roof to have a cigarette - the summer of 1970. The house looks better now than it did back then.
This is the dirty deli. It looks the same as it did back then.

And this, my dear readers, is where my husband and I first kissed. A bell tower (Carillon Park) on the banks of the Miami River.

Friday, August 7, 2009

My last day in Greenville

Today is my last day in Greenville.

There is something in the air. It is slightly overcast today, not quite hot, but with a fairly strong wind. They say that a big heat wave is moving in for the weekend, with an expected heat index of 107 tomorrow.

I went to the Greenville library. It was built in 1905 with funds from Andrew Carnegie, hence it is known as a “Carnegie Library”. More than 2500 libraries were built with Mr. Carnegie’s money, often the library was the most imposing structure in town. The one in Greenville is quite impressive.

The clock in the round “Ladies Room” was built in 1800 in Bardstown KY and brought to Greenville by one of the early settlers who migrated from Bardstown to Greenville. So most likely I have some kinfolk here. Most of the early white settlers came from Kentucky, Virginia, or North Carolina. Accustomed to wooded lands, they were actually afraid of the open land of the prairie. I read that some of the older ladies were afraid that it would “swallow them up”!

The young man at the front desk was most helpful pointing things out to me, especially the Bible, which was the library’s first book. He said that not too many libraries could boast that claim.

I asked about newspapers. They had the St. Louis newspaper, the Greenville newspaper. The New York Times? No, but they had the Wall Street Journal. Bummer.

I also got some more photos of the art that is on some of the buildings around town. Someone told me that this was all done by the high school students. The doctor is on a Medical Building, the woman carrying the chair is a at an antique store, etc.

This is the old firehouse turned into an artists’ coop.

Just as I was bemoaning the insularity of small Midwestern farming communities, a woman with a Harvard t-shirt came right up to me and we started talking about small towns and Florida and radio stations! She wasn't the least bit suspicious of me!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Bond County Fair

Last night was the Bond County Fair Parade. I walked with my fellow Curves ladies, giving sparkly beads to the many children along the route. "Beads, Beads!" they all called as we came by.

Animals, tractors, pretty girls and more ...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Corn Tunnels

The corn is so high that it feels like you're going through a tunnel when you drive through.

the long journey home

A big journey is coming up for Jubilee and I - the long winding trip back to Florida. In less than 5 days we will be on the road. I can’t believe it is coming up so fast. First we will cousin-hop across Ohio, visiting Billy Hart in Dayton and then Felicia and Aunt Louise in a cottage on Lake Erie somewhere outside of Cleveland. Then we will head over to western NY where my sister lives. We will stay the week there, preparing for the big pig roast to celebrate the marriage of Jonathan and Heather (which took place last year, but we’re just getting around to celebrating). Nephews and nieces-in-law and grand nephews and more.

From there we will wind our way down to Florida, visiting whomever we can find along the way.

The summer has been delightfully cool. Not like the summer of last year (in Missouri) at all. This morning it was in the low 60s. Cooler than Chicago. Maybe the coolest place in the state. Not quite as cool as Badlands, but getting there.

I keep thinking that the Big Heat is coming, that August for sure will be super hot to make up for the cool days. Dennis says, no, that this is a cool summer. The pattern of weather from the north is set for the season. It’s part of a bigger weather pattern that is more than just one year.

I am ready to be moving on. I may write more publicly about my impressions of this part of central America when I get a little more distance and can put it in a better perspective. It may be that I was not able to break into the local culture enough to make a valid assessment.

I don’t know what will happen in the future to places like Greenville. These towns don’t exactly look like they are primed for thriving in the future. I don’t see a lot of young people. Maybe when the kids come back to the college in the fall things feel differently. There is an art coop downtown that sells locally made arts and crafts, but that is the only business that I found that was the least bit innovative.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Back to Mahomet!

We spent the weekend with the McMillan clan in Mahomet Illinois. Dennis and Barbara are our friends from the 70s and we have reconnected with them since our returns to the Center of America (see here and here.)

It was a fun time with lots of good food and good friendship. Barb is an artist with so many talents. The flowers and landscaping of her yard is but one of her many endeavors.

We came across this along the Illinois highway. Kind of scary. John said “I wonder what Muslims think when they see that?”