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Carlsbad Cavern f autoPS

On The Trail In The Big Room, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico, mailed in 1947 from Whites City, New Mexico, vintage postcard found in Monticello, Minnesota, March 2011, Colortone © Curt Teich & Co., photo scan © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Jim White, the discoverer and explorer of Carlsbad Caverns has his experiences written up in a book of thirty-two pages with 30 illustrations, of which 16 subjects are in beautiful colors, and a wonderful colored cover entitled: Jim White’s Own Story.” Be sure and read these thrilling experiences of a lone cowboy three days under the world in Carlsbad Caverns.”


Before Ione wandered through the Joshua Trees & Desert Sands of California, she went spelunking deep in the underground caves of Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. She would have accessed the park’s only entrance road, New Mexico Highway 7, by turning north off of US Hwy 62/180 at Whites City, New Mexico – which is 16 miles southwest of Carlsbad, NM and 150 miles northeast of El Paso, Texas.

The scenic entrance road stretches 7 miles from the park gate at Whites City (formerly the entrance to Walnut Canyon) to the Visitor Center and cavern entrance (which explains why the card is postmarked Whites City). To make it even more confusing, the address for the park’s Visitor Center is 727 National Parks Highway, Carlsbad, NM, even though it’s located 23 miles from the actual town.


Carlsbad Cavern b

Carlsbad Caverns – Jan 23 1947, Whites City, New Mexico, vintage postcard found in Monticello, Minnesota, March 2011, Colortone © Curt Teich & Co., photo scan © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Carlsbad, N.M.

Here we are at the Caverns. You can’t imagine what they are. The most desolate country around here. All well. Everything going fine.

Ione.


Ione would have traveled 1300 miles from Dover, Minnesota to Carlsbad Caverns a year before the new visitor center was built, and one year after Jim White died in Carlsbad, on April 26, 1946 at the age of 63. Did you know April 16th – 24th is National Park week? What is your favorite national park? If you took a visit to Carlsbad Caverns you would find:

  • 117 (known) caves formed when sulfuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone
  • During the Summer, the caves are home to 400,000 Brazilian (more commonly called Mexican) free-tail bats [NOTE: To learn more about bats, visit Bats, Beautiful Bats! a piece about bat evangelist Michelle McCaulley who spreads the truth about the benefits of bats and other wildlife. Michelle runs the Rio Grande Basin Bat Project, which was created by her late father, Jim McCaulley.]
  • Carlsbad Cavern is only one of over 300 limestone caves in a fossil reef laid down by an inland sea 250 to 280 million years ago. The limestone rock that holds Carlsbad Cavern is full of ocean fossil plants and animals from a time before the dinosaurs when the southeastern corner of New Mexico was a coastline similar to the Florida Keys.
  • Twelve to fourteen thousand years ago, American Indians lived in the Guadalupe Mountains; some of their cooking ring sites and pictographs have been found within the present day boundaries of the park.

Jim White began to explore the cave as a teenager in 1898, using a handmade wire ladder to descend 60 feet into the cave. As an early visitor to Carlsbad Cavern, you might have entered the cave via an old guano mining bucket. In 1901, Abijah Long, a fertilizer expert, realized that guano could be used as a nitrate rich fertilizer. The following year, Long filed a claim for guano mining inside the caverns, and he offered Jim White work as a foreman. In about 20 years, an estimated 100,000 tons of guano were taken from Carlsbad Caverns at as much as $90 a ton. It wasn’t until years later, January 6th, 1912, that New Mexico officially became a state. If you had visited the park in 1928, you may have bumped into Amelia Earhart who gave underground park tours that year.

Though there are many legends and myths about which immigrants first discovered “The Bat Cave” (Native Americans knew of the caves thousands of years before), Jim White spent much of his life trying to convince others of the need for preservation. In October 1923, President Calvin Coolidge declared Carlsbad Caverns a national monument, and Jim White became cavern guide. In 1924, geologist Willis T. Lee explored the caves with White and wrote an article for National Geographic attracting national attention. On February 9th, 1937, Jim White began selling his book Jim White’s Own Story (ghostwritten by Frank Ernest Nicholson) in the cave, and his wife Fanny continued to sell it until her death in 1964.


-related to posts:  WRITING TOPIC: ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS, greetings from artesia haiku, Roswell, NM — Aliens Welcome Here, and for a more modern visit to the caves check out Postcards From Carlsbad Caverns

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By Marylin Schultz




My Father In Front Of The Family Ford — Earl Russell Biggs II, vintage family postcard, circa early 1900′s, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


Images from long ago—letters, photographs, postcards, communicate family history, like ribbons tying up bundles of memories. I look into the sweet innocence of children’s faces and reflect on what I do know of their lives. Little Earl Russell Biggs, II, my father, placed in front of his family’s first automobile by a proud papa. There would eventually be four generations of men in the family, given that name. Family tradition had each generation alternating the names they were “known as.” My grandfather was called Earl, my father went by Russell. My brother was called Earl and his son was known as Russ, or the nick-name,” Rusty.”

The baby, Frances Louise Oliver, my mother, was as fair in complexion as E. Russell was dark. Their childhoods would also be in stark contrast. He was born in 1910, and she was three years younger. Frances was the adored, pampered baby of her family, with three brothers and a sister, much older than she. Frances always got what she wanted, I’m told, and became a woman who maintained that expectation from life.


My Mother — Frances Louise Oliver, family photo scan
© 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


Russell’s life probably began happily enough. His father and mother, Mary Dickens Biggs, lived in Childress, Texas, where he was a successful businessman in banking, and insurance, as well as owning a cattle ranch, where the family lived. Russell was big brother to Emma Ruth, five years younger than he was. In 1920, tragedy struck the young family. Mary Dickens Biggs, who was expecting their third child, died from the dreaded Influenza that took over 20 million lives in Europe and America.

The parents of E. R. Biggs, Sr. were no longer living, and Mary’s parents offered to care for the children, so the devastated father agreed. Russell and Emmy spent the next two years with the Dickens family, who were living on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota, where Felix Dickens, Mary’s brother, was the BIA Agent.

E. R. Biggs married his second wife, Lillian, and the two children were moved back to their Texas home. Very soon, however, Russell, at the age of twelve, was sent off to a Military Academy, and spent the rest of his school years there, only home for the summers and holidays. E.R. and Lillian had another son and daughter. It was one of those cases of a step-mother, whose “own” children could do no wrong, and the older children felt deeply, the deprivation of approval and affection. Emma, while still a teenager, had a baby, who was immediately placed for adoption, never experiencing even one embrace of the young mother who so desperately wanted to love and be loved.




(L to R) Paul, Harriet, Eloise, Mildred, & Grace Dickens, Russell Biggs (My Father) on right, Seger Indian School, Colony, Oklahoma, March 17th, 1912, vintage family postcard, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


I always wondered what it must have been like to grow up on Indian reservations, which the five Dickens children experienced. As we know from the postcard, they were in Oklahoma, then Minnesota and later in Washington State. As a child, I remember my father’s Uncle Felix visiting us a few times at our home in California. I have a few letters that he wrote to my Aunt Emma, which were from a reservation in South Dakota. These were at a much later date, when Emma was an adult.


Side B: Back of the Postcard of Seger Indian School, Colony, Oklahoma, March 17th, 1912, vintage family postcard, photo scan © 2011 by Marylin Schultz. All rights reserved.


I finally met some of my Dickens relatives in an unusual way. After the deaths of my mother and father, I received all the family documents. In going through the papers I learned that Mary Dickens was born in McGregor, Iowa. My husband and I were scheduled to drive from our home in Bismarck, No. Dakota to La Crosse, Wisconsin, for a convention, the very next day. I looked at a map and saw that McGregor was only a few miles south, and across the Mississippi River from Prairie du Chien. I decided to see if I could find a trace of the Dickens family in the small, riverside town of McGregor.

It was a cold, gray November Saturday. The trees along the river were bare, but the drive along the river was peaceful and I was feeling hopeful. When I entered the town, I saw a building marked “Museum,” and I parked. The sign on the Museum door said something like “Closed. See you next Spring.” The only place open was the Hardware Store, so I went in. The woman behind the counter gave me a warm welcome. I told her of my quest for family members and asked if she knew of any Dickens who were still living in the area.

“Harvey Dickens lives about five miles west of town,” she replied. “Would you like to call him from here?” I answered in the affirmative just as the phone rang. She spoke to the person for a few minutes, and then I heard her say, “There’s someone here who wants to speak to you,” and handing the phone to me, with a big smile, she said, “It’s Harvey Dickens.” I gasped in amazement at the coincidence, and took the phone. I gave a very brief explanation of who I was. He invited me to come to his home, and I scribbled down the directions he gave, handed the phone back to the woman and thanked her. She smiled and wished me good luck, and I hurried to my car.


Harvey had given good directions to his farm, and I found it with no problem. The plain, two story home, painted a soft yellow, with dark green shutters at the windows, was well cared for. There was a row of pine trees to the west of the house, offering a buffer from the prevailing prairie winds, and a hedge of Lilac bushes between house and out-buildings. The tires of my car made a crunching sound on the neatly graveled driveway. Harvey opened the door of the house before I started up the steps. His smile was wide.

“Come on in, little lady, it’s cold out there!” He introduced me to his wife, Louise, and immediately I felt the genuine warmth of their welcome. They already had a box of old papers and photographs for me to look at. Harvey was a slightly built man, about 70 years old. Louise, looking comfortable in sweater and jeans, offered me coffee, as we sat down around the kitchen table.

“We have four children, but they’ve all moved away,” Louise said, filling my cup.

With a sigh, Harvey added, “Not much to keep them in a small town in Iowa, and none of ‘em was interested in farming.” Harvey took photos out of the box, pointing out each individual by name. “Better write down those names on the back,” Louise gently chided. “No one but you can identify them anymore.” I listened carefully, not recognizing any names until he said, “And this is Uncle Felix.”

“Yes,” I said, now excited, as he handed it to me. “Did he have three daughters, who lived in Washington?” He smiled broadly, and replied, giving me their names. We had made a connection, as it turned out that his grandfather was my great-grandfather. We looked at more photographs and he gave me the names and addresses of other cousins that had done more research into the family history.

We were engrossed in each others’ family anecdotes, laughing at the funny little quirks that all families have, and the morning flew quickly by. I turned down an offer of a noon meal, and told them I needed to get back to La Crosse.

“Now, if you can come back, I’ll take you to the cemetery; quite a few Dickens there,” Harvey said.

“You keep in touch,” Louise whispered in my ear, as we exchanged a hug.

“I promise I will, and thank you so much. It was a great pleasure to meet you. I feel like I’ve been with old friends,” I replied.

“Nope, better than friends, we’re family!” Those were Harvey’s last words to me as I got into my car. That brief visit opened up a whole new chapter in my family history, and as I drove across the bridge over the wide Mississippi, I felt truly blessed.




Editor’s Note: In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, professional photographers offered customers the choice of placing photographs on postcards, like the “packages” they sell today. Some were taken in a studio and others at different locations. The photo of Frances was taken in a studio, and the other two at the homes of their clients. Images From The Past was partly inspired by conversation on the postcard piece Joshua Trees & Desert Sands — Jan 25 1947.




_________________________




About Marylin: Marylin (aka oliverowl) is a freelance writer living in Wyoming. She has written essays for a weekly column in the Ventura Star Tribune and collaborated with her grandson on two picture books for children. She currently writes with the Cody Writers. Her previous pieces for red Ravine include the travel essay Rollin’ Easy and a Writing Practice, Kindness.

In 2010, Marylin was published in the book, From the Heart — Writing in the Shadow of the Mountain, a collection of work from members of Write On Wyoming (WOW), a group of authors and aspiring writers living in northeastern Wyoming. Her contributions to From the Heart include two works of fiction, To Love Bertie Lou and The Appointment Book, and a collection of haiku, Seasons in Wyoming.


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Joshua Trees f auto

Joshua Trees & Desert Sands, southeastern California, postcard found in Monticello, Minnesota, March 2011, Colortone © Curt Teich & Co., photo scan © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The “JOSHUAS” or “PRAYING TREES” are found throughout the desert sections of the Southwest. The coarse fibrous limbs growing in unusual grotesque shapes bear branches of dagger-like leaves.


When we visited the Trumpeter Swans in Monticello a few weeks ago, we ended up going for pie and coffee at Cornerstone Cafe. But not before we checked out the local thrift shop and a new antique store that opened just around the corner. Liz and I were drawn to a table of vintage postcards, much like the postcard from Atlanta that my Uncle Jack sent to Mom in 1952.

Vintage linen postcards were printed from 1930 to 1945 by Curt Teich & Co. of Chicago; they closed their doors in 1978. In my research, I found that the company used a color printing technique called C.T. Art-Colortone. The thick paper was embossed to give the card a linen texture, and the inks were printed on a lithography press using color separation. Linen postcards often portrayed landmarks, landscapes, and roadside attractions, but fell out of fashion in the late 1940′s when polychrome printing was invented.

I thought it would be fun to post a few over the course of the year. My favorites in Monticello were a series of postcards that had been hand addressed and mailed from somewhere across the USA, back to the small town of Dover, Minnesota. In January of 1947, Ione made it clear that she sprang from the swampy Land of 10,000 Lakes, and found it hard to love the dry beauty of the California desert:


Joshua Trees b

Joshua Trees & Desert Sands – Jan 25 1947, southeastern California, postcard found in Monticello, Minnesota, March 2011, Colortone © Curt Teich & Co., photo scan © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Fri. night.

We are just a few miles from Riverside. May call Ralph Keyes. Guess we are through the desert at last. Will finish the last 100 miles tomorrow. We went thru Tuscon this A.M. I called Margaret. She was so surprised to hear me. We covered miles and miles of desert and cactus. Margaret says the desert will soon start to bloom then it is beautiful. We went through El Centro where Eva Ferrier and Don used to live. Don’t blame them for leaving here. I haven’t been travel sick yet so guess I’ll be alright.

Ione.


The desert has a beauty all its own. Though I have not spent time in the California desert, I find peace and solace in the high desert country around Taos, New Mexico. I read that Mormon settlers named the Joshua tree when they traveled west toward their promised land. The shape of the tree’s outstretched branches reminded them of the Biblical story in which the prophet Joshua reaches his hands toward the sky. Joshua Tree National Park gives the tree another important place in American history: Franklin Roosevelt dedicated Joshua Tree National Park in 1936 (only 11 years before this postcard was written) to assure that California’s rapid urban sprawl wouldn’t threaten the unique desert ecosystem in which the trees thrive.

During the Ice Age, Joshua trees grew strong across the American Southwest. According to an NPR article, in the 1930s scientists explored Gypsum Cave outside of Las Vegas where they found parts of skeletons, hides, and hair from the giant ground sloth — an animal that had been extinct for 13,000 years. In layers of the sloth’s dung, there was evidence that Joshua trees were a favorite food of the sloth, including leaves, seeds, and fruits. When the desert turns dry as a bone, the only way animals like the antelope ground squirrel, desert wood rat, and blacktail jack rabbit find moisture is by gnawing through the bark of live trees. The Joshua tree is one of the “great canteens of the desert.” What would we do without ancient trees?


-related to posts: lack of oxygen haiku, Georgia Pine Over My Grandmother’s Grave, WRITING TOPIC — TREES, Spirits In The Bosque — Patrick Dougherty Leaves His Mark On Albuquerque, Tales Of A Prodigious Cottonwood, Excavating Memories, virgin cottonwood haiku, Fourteen Dozen Roses: The World As The Jungle It Is, World Labyrinth Day, Trees For The Forest Series, lone pine haiku

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Lunar New Year Postcard 2011 (Side B)

Lunar New Year Postcard 2011 (Side B), 6/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 6, February 7th 2011, photo © 2011 by A~Lotus. All rights reserved. Medium: E-Postcard created using MS Word 2007, Adobe Acrobat, & Adobe Photoshop CS2. Photo taken on Canon PowerShot A550. Digital Collage (Side B): Text by Lotus, clipart of lanterns from MS Word 2007, Lotus icon: from oceancurrents, QuoinMonkey icon: Chartres Cathedral labyrinth from inside the front cover of Alice Walker’s The Same River Twice.


I was delighted to receive this digital postcard collage from Lotus last night. It’s the BlackBerry 52 Jump-Off for Week 6, and the inspiration for whatever response rises to the top by the end of the day on Sunday.


Dear Lotus,

I’d love to know more about your experience of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration. I am a Moonchild, and after receiving your card, I researched a little bit about Tết Nguyên Đán (also known as Tết). I wonder if it ever came up in the comments on ybonesy’s many posts about her journeys to Vietnam.

I read that the Lunar New Year falls on the New Moon, the first day of the first month of the Lunar calendar (around late January or early February), and is the same day as the Chinese New Year. Yet according to the Vietnamese Community of Minnesota site, 2011 is The Year of the Cat; for the Chinese, it is The Year of the Rabbit. It must be a season that has to hold both.

With two cats on the couch and a resident rabbit in the yard, I’d be happy to honor either. I did happen to be in San Francisco one year for the Chinese New Year. We stood on Market Street and watched the parade. It was a wonderful evening full of bright color and light. I wonder what happened to those photographs.


Lunar New Year Postcard 2011 (Side A)

Lunar New Year Postcard 2011 (Side A), 6/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 6, February 7th 2011, photo © 2011 by A~Lotus. All rights reserved. Medium: E-Postcard created using MS Word 2007, Adobe Acrobat, & Adobe Photoshop CS2. Photo taken on Canon PowerShot A550. (Side A): Origami paper, glue, & masking tape. Origami by A~Lotus (Chrysanthemum Kusudama model by Tomoka Fuse).


Your origami is beautiful. How did you come to it as an art form? And the weather. In Texas, an unexpected blizzard on Super Bowl weekend. In Minnesota, -11 last night to be followed by dips into the 40′s next week. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t mention the weather in my journal. Peeling the onion. Do the layers ever stop unwinding? Whatever it is that lies at the core, I have never stopped seeking.


Thank you for your postcard,

QM


_______________


We will continue our call and response by posting a BlackBerry photo for the 52 weeks of 2011. Feel free to join us if you wish (learn about the project’s beginnings at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration). To read more about Lotus, visit her at alotus_poetry on Twitter (where she writes poetry every day in community with other Twitter poets), at Poetry By Lotus, and on her Flickr account.


-related to posts: Best Of BlackBerry 365 — First Quarter SlideShow, BlackBerry 365 Project — White Winter Squirrel, Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Searching For Stillness, icicle tumbleweed (haiga) — 2/52, The Mirado Black Warrior, The Dying Art Of Letterwriting (Postcards From The Edge)

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, February 10th, 2011

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My Refrigerator

My Refrigerator, BlackBerry Shots, Golden Valley, Minnesota, September 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


To some, refrigerators are bare places, slick and spit-polish clean. Enamel, stainless steel, plastic. Avocado greens and lemon yellows in the 1970′s. Black, white, and stainless steel, the current aesthetic. For some, appliances are pieces of art — sleek, retro, places that make a statement through even curves and vintage hardware. In our house, the fridge is a place that collects — grocery lists, receipts, magnets, calendars, bits and pieces of our lives. One day, we realize the clutter for what it is, throw the valuable photos and magnets in a shoebox, and toss the rest. Until the cycle begins again.

The front of my refrigerator reflects a timeline of my life, something I call fridge typography. Magnets from Ocean City, Maryland, an old photo of Liz’s sister when she was a small girl, the Morton Salt Umbrella Girl, the official Geocaching logo, Lily and Hope black bear swag from our trip to the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota last July. There is a school photo of my niece, a postcard of Hershey Kisses I sent to Liz when I was in Pennsylvania in May, another of the World’s Largest Boot (size 638 1/2 D) sent to Liz by Bob (or was it Jude) when we were down near Red Wing, Minnesota for a writing retreat earlier this year.


Fridge Topography - 259/365

Fridge Typography, September 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


What does your fridge look like? Is the outside uncluttered and sparse? If so, open the door. What food do you have inside your refrigerator? Is it all fresh and ready to eat? Or are there a few rotten items to be tossed. What about the freezer? Do you have old-style vintage refrigerator coils (remember what it used to be like to defrost condenser coils)? Or is yours state of the art, energy efficient, humming along quietly in the night.




Fifteen minutes should do it. Or if you’re on a roll, go for 20. Get out your fast writing pens and Writing Practice notebook. Jot down My Refrigerator, and Go!




-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, September 19th, 2010

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By Charles Ederer


Should have been in the letter I don’t remember
Where I wrote in cursive script that I was lost
In the trailing wind
An oblique horizon levitating with the sun
Setting on me

I told you about my life then asking
Whether things lost are never found again in daylight
Only in dream and night
I said this was a French ballad sad and strong
With an audience that sings with me

And now I press my hands to these salted floorboards
Thinking of you my English Channel
My Rome 25 years on
But few things are so close
Not tomorrow if all we have is stuffed into bags
Shut to the rest of us

There is a snowflake in this burned-out house in winter
If there is one in you
Drift with us
Over charred postcards and Polaroids
Under kitchen-sink faces
Through rays of diamond summer dust

Near the well where I watch unicorns play
Is a fallen tree on which to imagine
The ride home or some such scheme of war
In haste as the nights of Oostende
Flee tonight again

But the last you will see of me after tomorrow
Is reaching far into space
Footsteps outside this door
That every mile or so leads to my nobody name carved in ice
An arrow of pine needles crudely angled
Toward anywhere but here




Door, photo © 2010 by Charles Ederer. All rights reserved.





Charles is marketing executive who lives in San Francisco with his son, Alexander. About writing, Charles has this to say: It’s surprising to me how long it’s taken to move my writing to a place where I’m finally satisfied, though perhaps my gestation process has more to do with finding my voice than anything else. Having a reason to write is important, but having something to say with a road-proven voice is altogether more challenging, especially if my themes are to be universal.

About two years ago I completed my first official volume of work, titled A Perfect Vessel. In reading it from time to time, I often wonder where I found the grit to complete it the way I did and have it render the intensity I hoped it would.

Poetry to me is an iterative process, part of which is brutal editing. I’ve gotten to the point where I know (usually by the next morning) whether it’s good or not worth anyone’s time. Everything I need to say is contained inside me and it’s not so much a matter of writing well but finding myself through the journey of selection and placement. I’m seeking to be in love with what I’ve written, and if I’m not there yet I work it until it forms into something that speaks true for me and, hopefully, for the reader. It’s similar to the process of painting on canvas, really.

This piece was inspired by red Ravine’s post WRITING TOPIC — DOOR. The door icon speaks for me in my present state of life.

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Minnesota State Fair Poster Art, detail of art by painter Leo Stans, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

The century-old Grandstand stood quietly in the distance when I rounded the corner by the historic J. V. Bailey House. I was driving to St. Paul for an ice cream social at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. The occasion was the June 11th unveiling of the 2009 State Fair commemorative painting by Belle Plaine artist Leo Stans.

Summer cottonwood flew through the air when I lined up for my root beer float. A few minutes later, I walked into the historic Bailey house and literally bumped into my friend Teri who works at the Fair. She introduced me to her coworkers, we talked a little Minnesota State Fair history, then she led me over to meet the artist.

Like poet Ted Kooser, Minnesota artist Leo Stans started out as an insurance salesman, dabbled in art, and began painting full-time in 1980. He painted wildlife, golf courses (he’s an avid golfer), and eventually transitioned into historical street scenes. In a newspaper quote, he said: “My thinking was that if you wanted to buy something nostalgic or historical, the only thing being offered was small towns and barns. I thought I would create a niche.”

According to an article by John Brewer in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Stans said he had been trying for the last 5 years to get a booth at the Grandstand to sell his work during the Fair. Ironically, that led to his applications making their way to the Fair staff and to his being awarded the 6th commission in the commemorative series last November.

 
 

Artist Leo Stans & MN State Fair 2009 Commemorative Oil Painting, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Minnesota State Fair Commemorative Oil Painting (Detail), St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Artist Leo Stans & Minnesota State Fair 2009 Commemorative Oil Painting, Minnesota State Fair Commemorative Oil Painting (Detail), St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 
 

I shook Leo’s hand and immediately began asking him about the 28″ x 42″ oil painting. He said he did the research for summer’s “Great Minnesota Get-Together” in the dead cold of a Midwest winter. It took him 3 weeks to sketch it out, another 3 weeks to put paint to canvas.

He explained to me that the painting moves back in time as you walk from the Grandstand to the Ferris wheel, blending clothing styles of the past with those of the present. And like Hitchcock who appears in many of his films, Stans paints himself into all of his paintings. (If you stare long enough at the top photograph, you can spot him walking down the Midway.)

For many, the Minnesota State Fair is about making memories, a family tradition going back for generations. By choosing the 100th birthday of the Grandstand as the central theme for 2009, and including other historic icons like the carousel and mascot Fairchild, Stans captures and brings those memories to life through paint.

I’m a history buff and drawn to his dreamlike Twin Cities street scenes. The 2009 Fair painting has much the same feel and has been reproduced on postcards, posters, and buttons with proceeds benefiting the Minnesota State Fair Foundation. (The State Fair has a long history of being independently funded and has not received government appropriations since 1949.)

 
 

  Minnesota State Fair Postcard, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Minnesota State Fair Poster Art (II), St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Minnesota State Fair Postcard, Minnesota State Fair Poster Art (II), St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
 
 

The Minnesota State Fair 2009 begins August 27th and ends September 7th. And if you become one of the Friends of The Minnesota State Fair you will receive exclusive benefits including gate tickets, pre-sale access to Grandstand shows, bricks, benches, and more. Purchasing a $50 Yellow Ribbon package by August 1st, 2009 grants you the following:
 

  • Friends of the Fair card
  • FunFair news
  • Invitation to annual pre-fair event
  • Hospitality invitation to J.V. Bailey House during the State Fair
  • 2 State Fair and/or parking admission tickets
  • 1 State Fair annual pin
  • 1 Blue Ribbon Bargain Book with 100 great State Fair deals

 

There are also Green, Red, Blue, Purple, and Silver packages to choose from. Liz and I are looking forward to this year. Happy Fair going!

 
 

Belle Plaine Artist Leo Stans & MN State Fair Commemorative Oil Painting, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

 

Thanks to Leo Stans for permission to photograph him and his work, to Teri for reminding me about the art event, and to John for providing me with the newspaper clipping from the June 12th St. Paul Pioneer Press article by John Brewer – Painting Celebrates Fond Fair Memories.

 
 

Minnesota State Fair Space Tower, St. Paul, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 

 

Below are links to past red Ravine posts and photographs about the history, foods on-a-stick, and fun available to all at the Minnesota State Fair. And if you check the comments on several of the posts, they are dripping with little-known Fair facts, trivia, and nostalgia from a mutual friend of ybonesy’s and mine, Teri Blair. For more of the Fair experience, you can also view my Minnesota State Fair Series on Flickr.

 
 
 

 

-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

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Postcard From Billy Collins, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



In February, we read the work of Billy Collins in our monthly Poetry & Meditation Group. Though he was the United States Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003, I had not been introduced to his body of work (with the exception of his popular poem about mothers and sons, “The Lanyard“). But after reading “Japan” and “Fishing on the Susquehanna in July” out loud, and listening in silence while others read his poetry, I became a big fan. 

As is our custom, at the end of the night, the founder of our Poetry Group passed around a card for us to sign, a token of our gratitude to the poet. Each month, she addresses, seals and stamps the envelope, then mails our card off to the poet the next day. We don’t have expectations; it’s enough to share their poetry.

But once in a while, the Universe responds in kind. When we arrived at the March Poetry & Meditation Group, here is what we found:


___________________________________________


Liu Yung By Billy Collins, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


To the Teri Blair Meditation & Poetry Group!


Liu Yung

This poet of the Sung dynasty is so miserable.
The wind sighs around the trees,
a single swan passes overhead,
and he is alone on the water in his skiff.

If only he appreciated life
in eleventh-century China as much as I do —
no loud cartoons on television,
no music from the ice cream truck,

just the calls of elated birds
and the steady flow of the water clock.


Billy Collins


Poem reprinted with permission of the author,
Copyright 2006 Billy Collins.


___________________________________________


Billy Collins describes poetry as “the only surviving history we have of human emotion.” We were thrilled and honored to hear from him. And it seems like a great way to kick off National Poetry Month on red Ravine. I am continually surprised by the generosity of famous writers to give back to those of us who find ourselves at humble beginnings. Maybe it’s a lesson to pay attention to — that no matter our status, we are all at the beginning. Every poem, short story, essay, and blog post takes us back to Beginner’s Mind.


National Poetry Month at The Academy of American Poets

We hope you will join in the celebration during National Poetry Month. It was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets and is a month-long national celebration of poetry.

According to poets.org, the concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media — to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. The hope is to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated.


The goals of National Poetry Month are to:

  • Highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets
  • Introduce more Americans to the pleasures of reading poetry
  • Bring poets and poetry to the public in immediate and innovative ways
  • Make poetry a more important part of the school curriculum
  • Increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media
  • Encourage increased publication, distribution, and sales of poetry books
  • Increase public and private philanthropic support for poets and poetry


On April 16th our Poetry & Meditation Group will be reading the poems of Yusef Komunyakaa. Maybe you’ll want to start your own poetry group. Or purchase “Ballistics,” the latest from Billy Collins. Poem In Your Pocket Day is coming up on April 30th. And here are 30 more ways to honor poets and poems. Whatever you choose to do, celebrate poetry!


To The Teri Blair Meditation & Poetry Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  USA 42 --- ALASKA, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  To The Teri Blair Meditation & Poetry Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

-related posts and links: NPR: Reading List & Interview with Billy Collins, Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day), Billy Collins Reads “The Lanyard” on YouTube , PBS Online NewsHour: Billy Collins Interview, December 10th, 2001 – the week following his inaugural reading at the Library of Congress after becoming U.S. Poet Laureate, Poetry 180 — a poem a day for american high schools

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Carlsbad Caverns (one) — “the postcard experiment,” inside the Caverns on November 29, images and photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.






Dear Mom,

You wouldn’t believe the Caverns. They are so cool. I haven’t been here since a Fifth Grade field trip with Alvarado Elementary. Remember?

Dad dropped me off at the school parking lot at 3:30 in the morning. It was dark. They served us McIlheney Dairy milk (probably unpasturized in those days) and store-bought donuts. Gross. Last thing you’d want in your stomach before a four-hour bus ride.

But the Caverns themselves are everything I remember and more. Wish you were here.

Love from me










Dear Mom,

Carlsbad Caverns is called the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” And it is. We walked all day long, took a guided tour of an area called King’s Palace and then we did two self-guided tours. 

This formation was called something like Walrus Tooth, except that wasn’t it. I should have taken notes. As it was, it was hard to take photos. They fall way short of the real beauty and magic. (Although, I have to say, in the Visitors Center there is a display of Cavern photos by Ansel Adams that are just stunning.)

Hope Sony is being a good girl.

Love you,
moi










Dear Mom,

I just found out that you and Dad have never been to Carlsbad Caverns. I can’t believe it! You’ve got to see it. Dad almost made me cry on the cell phone when he said it’s probably too late for him. Not so, I told him. We can rent a wheelchair. I saw several people in wheelchairs down there.

There’s a 750-foot elevator that takes you down in less than two minutes, or you can walk all the way down via the original entrance. We did both, and I preferred walking (I got a little creeped out by the elevator at first, but by the third ride I was old hat). We’ll definitely take the elevator with Dad.

They say January is the best time to come. We can visit Aunt Erma and Uncle Henry in Lincoln, just like we did this trip. Hopefully there won’t be snow.

All for now. We love you.

Yo









Dear Mom,

Next time we come to Carlsbad Caverns, we’ll stay in Roswell. It’s a lot cuter than the town of Carlsbad. Plus, Carlsbad kind of stinks. All that natural gas and oil. (Not in the Caverns, but above ground. I guess that’s part of the geology that went into forming these caves.)

Did you know that a guy named Jim White “discovered” the Caverns in about 1901? He was 16 or 17 years old, riding the Chihuahuan Desert on his horse, when he noticed a huge black flume coming from a hole in the ground. Turned out to be millions of bats.

He came back, made a ladder out of fencing wire and branches, and went down more than 200 feet to explore on his own. He almost lost his mind, which I can understand. (They did a black-out on the guided tour, and whew, talk about dark.)

It took him over 20 years to get other folks to come take a look. You know what finally did it? He invited a photographer down and, well, the rest is history.

Give Sony a kiss for me.

Me










Dear Mom,

I took lots of pictures of the whole trip, which I’ll show you when I get back. The Caverns were my favorite part, but we also rode an old paddle boat down the Pecos River at night. (I didn’t know it flowed all the way down here.)

People who live on the riverbank set up holiday lights and fancy displays; it’s called “Christmas on the Pecos.” (Although, we went late, the 8:15 tour, and it was so cold on the boat, we couldn’t feel our toes. Jim and I called it “Torture on the Pecos,” but just as an insider joke. We really did love it.)

Thanks for taking care of Sony. I’m sure she’s enjoying it. We’ll be in late to pick her up. More then.

yb






-related to post: The Dying Art Of Letter Writing (Postcards From The Edge)

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Truth & Beauty, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Truth & Beauty, cover of Ann Patchett’s Truth & Beauty, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



It’s been a long couple of weeks. Sometimes it feels like the world’s gone mad. Where do you go to find ground? Go to what soothes you. For me it is my practices. One of those practices is gratitude.

When I was thinking of what I wanted to post at week’s end, I returned to our Poetry & Meditation group of a few weeks ago. After Robert Frost, homemade rhubarb cookies, and chamomile tea, I asked Teri if I could take another look at her postcard from Ann Patchett.



The Box & The Egg, cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ann & Lucy, back cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.[a friendship], cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



See the hardcover of Truth & Beauty, the one with the box and the egg? Well, there’s another cover, a paperback, with an illustration of a grasshopper and an ant. Teri wrote to Ann, thanked her for her work, and asked — why two covers? And what’s the meaning behind the box and the egg?



Ann wrote back.



Sunset Produce, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Nashville, TN, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Here’s what she said:




Dear Teri,

Sorry to be so slow in answering your question about the cover of Truth & Beauty. I had nothing to do with it but I like it a lot. I think you’re right — fragile egg, protective box = Lucy + me, but I like the fact that it’s open to interpretation. It’s a cover that makes you think instead of being an illustration. Also, I love the paperback cover of the grasshopper and ant.


Thanks For Reading!, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Thanks for reading!

Yours,
Ann Patchett





 
I read the postcard again, turned the handwriting over in my hands, and felt immense gratitude at Patchett’s willingness to give back to a fellow writer. Perhaps it’s a small thing. But I don’t think so. She probably gets hundreds of postcards. A writer’s time is valuable. She didn’t have to write back.

And so, it is with gratitude I end the week. On one of those Fridays when I’m sure the world has gone insane, I’m happy to express my appreciation for one of the writers who came before us. And raise a glass to a few moments of peace.



Jumbo, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



We are big fans of Ann Patchett on red Ravine. To read more about this accomplished author, check out these posts:




Post Script: Is there anything you’re grateful for this week? It helps me to make a list (the little things count the most). Gratitude to Teri for sharing her postcard with us. And for taking the risk of writing it. It was almost exactly a year ago (October 16th, 2007) when we sat in the Fitzgerald Theater together to hear Ann speak.

It’s been my experience that many famous writers are generous with their time and energy, and encouraging to fledgling, up-and-coming writers. If you have a favorite writer or poet, maybe you’ll want to take a chance — write to them. You might one day open your mailbox to a pleasant surprise.



Truth & Beauty II, cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Handwriting, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Truth & Beauty II, cover of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Handwriting, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Truth & Beauty II, Handwriting, cover of Truth & Beauty, postcard from Ann Patchett, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Friday, October 3rd, 2008

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I have a photo of me in Ray Bans and a bright green bikini top, climbing sandstone rocks on a beach in Costa Rica. I’m smiling, teeth white against my dark skin. On the back of the photo, these words in my handwriting: March 1996, for Dee, so you’ll know what your mama was up to six months after you were born.

Rosa from work snapped the shot. She and Kevin and I were on a two-week trip to Central America. Guatemala and El Salvador the first week, weekend at Manuel Antonio, and the second week in San José. Rosa and Kevin went on to Honduras and Panamá, while I flew back home to be with my baby.

It’s a long story, how I ended up in Central America when Dee was only six months old. Suffice to say that it had to do with a grant proposal I submitted on behalf of the university I worked for when I was pregnant. The proposal was funded, and I had to follow through with the trip or risk losing the money.

As with most international travel, it was Hell getting mentally prepared. A jet plane crashed in the region weeks before I left, killing everyone on board. All I could think was, I’m going to die and never see my baby grow up. Of course, once I got there I was pulled into the color and smells and sounds. I loved it.

Between appointments, I had to run to my hotel room and power on my little battery-operated breast pump. Waoo-waoo-waoo-waoo, it went, like a sick cow, for twenty minutes. I sat on the bed with my blouse unbuttoned and tried not to worry about whether I’d dry up by the time I got home.

Later, walking past indigenous women sitting on the sidewalk, infants in bundles on their backs or in their arms, I pictured my watery milk running down the sink and wished I could pick up a baby and feed it.

“Ew, that’s disgusting!” Rosa said when I told her what I wanted to do.

That trip, Dee refused to take the bottle. Typical conversation those first days I called home:

     Has she taken it yet?
     Nope, just spits it out.
     My God, what are you gonna do?
     Everyone says she’ll take it when she gets hungry enough.
     Have you tried other nipples?
     Yeah, went through four new ones today.
     I’m sorry.
     It’s alright. She’ll be fine. Don’t worry.
Click.

Everyone was wrong. Dee never took the bottle. No other options left, Jim finally introduced rice cereal.






I was thinking about that trip yesterday. The postcards I’d sent from Vietnam had just arrived, and I remembered how before I left for Central America I prepared a postcard a day for Jim to read to Dee. I didn’t actually send them; I left them for him to show her, a new one each day.

I went on a lot of trips while both my babies were young. I left the university when Dee was about a year old; new job yet one thing remained the same—still plenty of travel.

I remember sending baggies of frozen breast milk over dry ice for Em when I took a week-long training course in Eugene, Oregon. I became expert at pumping in mothers’ rooms at work and in airports. Life revolved around finding the best place and time to run my little machine.


I pumped milk in the Portland airport. I used the private kiddy bathroom, which had a plug so I could use electric. After 15 minutes, someone jiggled the door and it turned out to be a cleaning woman. At first she scolded me for using the kiddy bathroom; apparently a woman had complained about not having access to the changing table. But when I explained that I was pumping and that I appreciated the privacy, she seemed to understand.

I’m coming home with something for everyone: Em’s milk, a watch with a floating dinosaur for Dee, a Nike fleece sweatshirt for Jim.


Before we had kids, Jim and I made the decision that one of us would stay home full-time to take care of them. We both came from families where a parent stayed home, and we wanted to do the same thing for our kids if we could afford it. Which we could, barely at first. Jim got the role of stay-at-home Dad, and I got to pursue my dream of working in a job where I could travel.

But it wasn’t easy being away from my children. All the time I was on the road, I wondered if they would grow up and resent my being gone. Yet when I was home I was a present parent, more so, I imagined, than dads in my same situation. Bone tired, I took over the moment I got home. Evenings and weekends were always mine.

My girls are both old enough now that I can see they’ve not been damaged. On the contrary, they are bold and adventurous from spending formative years with a parent who let them walk on roofs versus one with a fear of heights. They love being outdoors, think nothing of catching snakes and frogs, and are up for long hikes.

They also want to get to know this world. “Take me to Vietnam,” they tell me. I promise them that I will. Hopefully next summer.

They’re in for a wild experience.




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Viet Nam 9000 -- Stamp Of Approval, postcard from ybonesy, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Viet Nam 9000 — Stamp Of Approval, postcard from ybonesy, Saigon to Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






After a long day at work, I opened the mouth of the black mailbox this afternoon to find ybonesy’s beautiful postcard. It is dated 2 Sept 08 and postmarked 05-09-2008. I guess that means it took 16 days and nights to float from ybonesy’s hand in Saigon to a little white cottage just outside Minneapolis.

Thanks, ybonesy. You made my day. I’m bananas for you, friend!






         Postcard From Vietnam. Woman Rides A Cycle In Ho Chi Minh City, original photographer Radhika Chalasani, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Postcard From Vietnam. Woman Rides A Cycle In Ho Chi Minh City, original photographer Radhika Chalasani, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

        Postcard From Vietnam, Woman Rides A Cycle In Ho Chi Minh City,
        original photographer © Radhika Chalasani, photo of postcard 
        © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


        Soon The Sun Will Be Up, postcard from ybonesy, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Soon The Sun Will Be Up, postcard from ybonesy, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Soon The Sun Will Be Up, postcard from ybonesy, Minneapolis, Minnesota, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, September 18th, 2008

-related to posts: The Dying Art Of Letter Writing (Postcards From The Edge), Thank You For Keeping An Eye On Me, Mary

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Atlanta Airport - 1952, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

Atlanta Airport – 1952, family postcard, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



I’ve been thinking about the lost art of writing postcards and letters. A few weeks ago, while staying at my uncle’s place in Georgia, I began the long process of scanning old photographs and historical documents for the family archives. I asked my uncle if he would pull out his collection of memorabilia. He showed up the next day with stacks of old black and white photographs. And a wide, faded brown shoebox containing bundles of newspaper clippings, letters, and postcards.

Most of the postcards were to or from my Great, Great Aunt Cassie. My Great, Great Uncle Claude had worked for the Georgia Railroad and they traveled a lot on their vacations. But there was one in particular that caught my eye – a postcard that Mom’s older brother, Jack, had sent her in high school. The postmark was July 24th, 1952. A postcard stamp was only 1 cent back then. One cent.

My Uncle Jack would have been 16 at the time. He must have been on vacation with relatives. On the front of the postcard, where we might now see a digital photograph, was a 4-color illustration of the Atlanta Municipal Airport, the same airport Liz flew out of on her way back to Minnesota from Georgia in July.

In scratchy, adolescent handwriting, he wrote:



Dear Amelia,

I am having a good time here. I have met a lot of girls here and I have
had 6 dates since I got here. I’ve got another one tomorrow night and
Saturday. We are coming home Sunday. We have an air conditioner
here and it is cool.

Love,

Jack



I called Mom after I got back to Minnesota and asked her if she minded if I posted Jack’s card. She lost her brother in 1954, two years after he sent the postcard, only days before I was born. It was the year he graduated from high school. He had been ill with mono but wanted to go and celebrate with his friends anyway. They went swimming at Clarks Hill. He drowned on what is reported to have been a second swim across the lake. His body, still recovering and weak from the mono, must have given out mid-swim.

Mom said she didn’t have any qualms about me sharing the postcard. “No, I don’t mind if you post it,” she said. “We’re open about things like that.” Then, in one last thought, she sounded a little sad. “What did it say?” she asked.

I told her he wrote about what any teenage boy would write about: girls. But what struck me the most was seeing his handwriting; it was over 50 years old. And that he took the time to write, to send Mom a few lines letting her know he was thinking of her.



Dear Amelia, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.       Dear Amelia, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



When we were on St. Simons Island, I looked high and low for postcards to send to friends. I finally found a rack in the corner of a novelty store along the main drag near the lighthouse. It was the same place Liz and I got our soft cotton Georgia T-shirts. But then, there were no stamp machines that sold postcard stamps. And we never made it to the spot on the island where the  post office was located. So I waited until I was back in Augusta to mail them.

Postcards are becoming a thing of the past. But I have one writing friend who sent postcards every week as part of her practice last year. And another who sends herself postcards when she goes out on the road to write. She says she has many insights while traveling, jots them down on a postcard, and mails them to herself. After returning home, it centers her to read them – a gift to her creative self.



I am running into handwritten letters at every turn. Boxes turned up in storage with letters from my mother and grandmother. And I’m midway through the letters of Flannery O’Connor; you wouldn’t believe how much I am learning about this great Southern writer (and the South) from reading her letters. Should I begin writing letters again?

I am getting closer. Last Saturday, Liz went to three garage sales; at one she bought me an antique Royal portable typewriter. I started using it that day. At the same sale (it was run by an artist/photographer; she took me back with her later), we bought some vintage vinyl for a quarter a piece, and three great literature books for 50 cents each. One of them was Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera. It is full of her letters.

Later that day at the studio, I started thumbing through Frida’s biography; sticking out of the middle section, was a faded postcard sent from Colombia. The front of the postcard has a photograph of a Cuna woman in traditional garb. A small 2 was circled at the top; it was the second of a series of three. The title, URABA (ANTIOQUIA) COLOMBIA — India Cuna, was in block print. The handwriting was loopy cursive, written in Spanish. A studio mate read it to me. She recognized the sancocho, a traditional Colombian soup.



I think the postcard is like a letter haiku. Think of everything you’ve learned in brief intervals of 17-syllable haiku from our regulars on haiku (one-a-day). The postcard from my uncle spoke to me; half a century later I gained a glimpse of who he was. I got a postcard from ybonesy that arrived right after I came home from Georgia. Maybe she’ll send me one from Vietnam (smile).

I’m considering a postcard/letter writing practice in the coming months. I want to use the vintage Royal. When is the last time you received a handwritten letter or postcard? If you have insights into the art or practice of postcard and letter writing, please share them with us. All is never as it seems. And life letters only add to the mystery.



Postcard From Uncle Jack, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Postcard From Uncle Jack, Augusta, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Monday, August 25th, 2008

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My Whites, laundry on the line on my rooftop terraces, downtown Granada, Spain, photo © 1987-2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



The first time I got on a plane I was 17. Mom said to dress up for the occasion; she normally wore a skirt and heels for plane rides, and she sometimes took a Valium right before the flight. I wore jeans and clogs and acted like I’d been flying all my life.

The travel bug bit me on that trip. I was like the kid whose parents never let her eat candy. Awake for the first time to its pleasures, I couldn’t get my fill. I vowed I would become a world traveler.


At 26 I moved to Granada with $6,000 cash and two suitcases. I trusted everyone and made friends easily. Within weeks I was heading out with Teresa and Alicia to see the country. I became fond of saying, “I’m taking a vacation from my vacation.”

Within a year I’d been all over Spain and Portugal, plus France, Germany, and Denmark. And nary a picture to show for it. I had Dad’s old Kodak yet I brought home exactly seven photos—all grainy and dark. I do, however, have four filled notebooks. And a handful of postcards I never sent.



Yesterday we walked to El Torcal, an eerie rock mountain, and we got a ride down with a busload of little boys. They were singing songs and clapping.



           



When it comes to traveling abroad, I have a mental block about cameras. For as long as I can remember, I believed that a photograph could never do justice to reality. Cameras proved a poor attempt to capture something that defied ownership—the experience itself.

I also saw cameras, like maps, as the domain of tourists. (I have spent hours wandering lost in foreign cities, unable to ask for directions and too proud to consult a map.) In Spain I was ashamed of the loud, nasally, jogging-suit-wearing Americans who stood in front of cathedrals, snapping shot after shot, and then bothering passersby to take that final picture that contained the entire family.

I was a traveler. A world citizen, not a visitor.

And so my arrogance accompanied me to every place I visited (and every experience had) since. Standing amidst throngs of Vietnamese peering up at a Virgin Mary as tall as a building to see if we could tell whether it was rain or tears running down her cheeks. At the train station in Delhi, searching my purse to find change for an old woman with an open trachea cavity. Walking at dawn through an entryway that opened onto gardens and pools, the white marble of the Taj Mahal shimmering like an oasis.

I’ve been to Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua. Costa Rica, Mexico, and China several times each. Singapore, Ireland, Israel, South Africa. Most of the photos I have from those trips (if I have any) were taken by friends or co-workers. There I am, the only white person in a pub in Soweto. (I even took my camera to South Africa, pulled it out during a safari then put it away whenever people were around.)

I missed my opportunity to capture the phenomenon of “the Jeepni”—those long, open-air Jeep-buses—that dominate the streets of Manila, even though they captured me.



Only 7am yet it seems as though the city has been alive for hours. Everything is coated with a gray dust that goes from black at street level up to the color of light gray in the sky. Signs: U Want 2 B Rich? and Fish-Head Pet Store & Tire Repair. A man is cooking roadside and another bathing himself. People adorn their Jeepni’s: Gemini, Godspeed, Lady Rowena, The Born Winner, Something Special, Jesus the Provider, Jesus the Savior, Jesus Love, Holy Jesus. Jesus has a corner on Jeepni names.

Poverty looks the same in all the places I go. Too narrow roads lined with shacks selling snacks, fruits, peanuts, corn. Children and animals too close to the cars and buses and motorbikes that go careening through the streets. All things for sale, recycled, old mufflers, tires, plants. The Jeepnis choke out black smoke as they wind their way through the streets. Cheaper than buses, but to ride them you have to hold a handkerchief over your nose.


It’s been more than two years since I’ve traveled abroad. I’ve enjoyed the time off. I went to too many places. I hardly remember most of what I saw. It’s been good to stay home as my girls have gotten older.

But finally, it’s time to start up again. In less than two weeks, I’ll take a trip to Vietnam. It’s part of an assignment that will probably take me there at least one more time, maybe more, in the coming six months. I have zero photos from my prior two visits. This time I intend to whip out my camera, whether people notice or not.

I know what’s changed. It’s this blog and the opportunity to publish my photos and write about my trips. (I fear I’ve exchanged one form of arrogance for another.) But no matter the motivation, I aim to make up for lost time.

How about you? Do you do photos or do you just do?

 

 
 

 



(The top six photos were all taken by me in 1987-88 while living in Spain. I scanned them for use in this post. The four images at the bottom of the post are postcards I purchased that same period in Spain.)

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Postcard From The Edge, note from Gary Soto, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Postcard From The Edge, note from Gary Soto, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Our poetry and meditation group meets again tonight. I’m looking forward to the poetry of local writer, Louise Erdrich. Though I have read many of her books, I am unfamiliar with her poetry.

A few months ago, we read the poetry of Gary Soto. It’s our practice of gratitude to sign a card at the end of the evening and send it off to the poet, a way to give a little something back for their great body of work.


Once in a while, the poet writes back:



Dear Teri & Friends:

I thought my ears were burning a week ago! What wonder news for a poet – - fans! I have a new book under contract & will have to wait a little more than a year before it arrives. I sigh with patience. And I sigh even deeper because we may never meet. ¡Qué Lastima!

Blessings,

Gary Soto



      \'57 Ford, postcard image by Robert Bechtle, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.\'57 Ford, postcard image by Robert Bechtle, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.\'57 Ford, postcard image by Robert Bechtle, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



We are so grateful for the kindness. We stand on the backs of the writers and artists who came before us. They inspire us to believe in ourselves, to better craft our work, to keep going when we want to give up, and to reach high and hard to fulfill our own creative dreams. It is hard to write in isolation. We need community.

If you’d like to start your own poetry group, the details are laid out in the Guest post by Teri Blair, Desire And A Library Card — The Only Tools Necessary To Start A Poetry Group. Or maybe you were inspired by her piece, and your poetry group has already begun to meet. We’d love to hear how it’s going.

The books we devour are mentors. The images, photographs, and words connect us to something much larger. To all the poets, writers, and artists who came before us — Deep Bow.



        The Poet Writes Back, note from Gary Soto, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    The Poet Writes Back, note from Gary Soto, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

           The Poet Writes Back, June 2008, all photos © 2008 by
           QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, July 10th, 2008

-related to post, Got Poetry? (National Poem In Your Pocket Day)

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By Teri Blair


Five months ago I started a poetry and meditation group in my home. And I’ll tell you straight up: if I can start a poetry group, anyone can start a poetry group.

I am not well read when it comes to poets. Before doing this, if called upon to name poets I would have only been able to tick off the most obvious choices: Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson. For most of my life I’ve felt intimidated by poetry. When I’d hear a poem read, I’d usually feel like I didn’t get it. I considered the door to poetry locked and bolted, entered by only a heady few.

But at the beginning of 2008, I began to get an itch to do something to make the world a better place. I know, I know, such a cliché. But I was tired of feeling depressed by the sort of people and events that grab headlines. I was frustrated, feeling like my country was being taken over by things I didn’t like or believe in. I was worried that people weren’t reading like they used to. I wanted to do something to steer the world in the direction I wanted it to go.

The idea for the group dawned on me one day, and I recognized it immediately as something I could pull off. I could invite people over to my house; we’d sit together for an hour, hear good poetry, and be still. And that’s pretty much what we do. It’s not a complicated event.

Each month I pick out a poet. To do this, I browse in a bookstore or library, or go to an online poetry site. I like choosing poets from around the country and from varied backgrounds, but for the first meeting of the group, I picked a Nebraskan poet, just so we could get used to hearing poetry from a Midwestern voice. Since then, we’ve been to Massachusetts, North Carolina, California, and Virginia.

I select poets whose words and voices are accessible. I live in a city with a sensational library system, so I get all the poet’s books with my public library card. I sit on my living room floor with books scattered around me, and slowly page through them. Certain poems jump out at me, and these are the ones I put a bookmark next to.

The people in my poetry group have the option of helping me read, so I email them poems I’ve selected. This gives them the chance to practice reading the poems out loud before we meet. I do a little research on the poets so I can share a bit about their lives and what brought them to writing. I keep this short. I don’t think anyone wants an endless historic lecture.

When we gather, I have candles lit. We get quiet, and I tell everyone what I’ve learned about the poet whose work we’ll hear. I don’t memorize this; I have it written on a piece of paper. I play a song to begin to slow us down, and then we listen to poetry. About one poem every five minutes with silence in-between. Sometimes I can find sound recordings at the library of the authors reading their own works. So at the end, we’ll listen to the writer reading a few of his or her own poems.

So far, our poets have all been living. So we sign a card thanking them and telling them the titles of the poems we heard. I find mailing addresses online and mail the card the next day. Then we drink tea, eat snacks (I ask for a volunteer to bring treats), and hang around. That’s it.



This is what I know so far:

  1. I feel a lot better adding something of decency and substance to the world.
  2. I am getting to know poets, and I am thrilled. If you say the name Maya Angelou to me, I’m tracking with you. If Rita Dove comes to town to read, I’ll be all over her work.
  3. Everyone who comes knows that for at least one hour every month they will get to be still in a busy world.
  4. After the Mary Oliver night, a 26-year-old from our group went and bought all her books. Three people purchased tickets to hear her speak when she came to Minneapolis last March. I’m pretty sure these things wouldn’t have happened if not for the exposure to her work.
  5. We got to participate in National Poem in Your Pocket Day in April. We wouldn’t have known about it had I not been searching poetry websites.
  6. Ted Kooser wrote to our group. I’m here to say I have a postcard from a two-time Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner hanging on my bulletin board. Not bad.
  7. The people who come range in age from 26-55. It feels healthy to be in a cross-age group.
  8. Hosting these evenings is part of my writing practice. It is a tangible way to move my life in the direction I want it to go.
  9. The people who come seem genuinely happy to participate. Someone told me this morning that it feeds her soul.
  10. On Gary Soto night, a young group member (a Spanish major) read her poem twice, first in Spanish and then in English. It was deeply touching to hear another language spoken; it brought tears to our eyes. I don’t know why it did, but it was good. Gary sent us a postcard, too. Part of it is written in Spanish. That Gary.
  11. After deciding that July would feature the poetry of Louise Erdrich, my friend and I saw her a few rows back on the same airplane when we were returning from a writing retreat. It was almost too much synchronicity to grasp. The sort of serendipity that makes your head feel dizzy and your stomach full of butterflies.
  12. When Robert Bly was named Minnesota’s first Poet Laureate, we swelled with pride. Poetry mattered to us.

 

All that. And all I had was desire and a library card.




All The Best From Nebraska, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

All The Best From Nebraska, postcard (back), March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




 Golden Rule, postcard of a painting by Ted Kooser, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 24  Golden Rule, postcard of a painting by Ted Kooser, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 24  Golden Rule, postcard of a painting by Ted Kooser, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 24  Golden Rule, postcard of a painting by Ted Kooser, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 24

Golden Rule, postcard (front), painting by Ted Kooser, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 24″, March 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Teri Blair is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis. She is currently writing a profile series on teachers who taught in one-room rural schools before, during, and after WW II. They appear monthly in Senior Perspective.



 

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By Gail Wallinga


Gossamer, 36″x 24″, acrylic, oil, tissue paper, & bristles on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.

Gossamer, 36″x 24″, acrylic, oil, tissue paper, & bristles on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.



Breathless, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.

Breathless, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.



Second Skin, 36″x 24″, acrylic, oil, & tissue paper on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.

Second Skin, 36″x 24″, acrylic, oil, & tissue paper on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.



I paint to bring visual form to emotions, interactions, and psychological states that I experience in life. For the past 3 years, I’ve been working on a series that is loosely about the theme of connection. How do we connect or not connect with ourselves or others? What is going on at the point of intersection. Or in the space behind the connection.


Here & There, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.
Here & There, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.



Where We Meet, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.

Where We Meet, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.



Sometimes I have a specific feeling or situation in mind when I start a painting. Other times, I start by spontaneously reacting to the materials that I’m exploring. But either way, the finished painting tells a story or represents a voice in the bigger picture of my theme.

My training as a graphic designer has taught me about color, composition and trusting my decisions. When I paint, I bring all of those skills to the table. I plug into the creative stream where the designer meets the artist to create something that pleases me visually and contextually.


Gypsy, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.

Gypsy, 36″x 24″, acrylic & oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.



Approach, 36″x 24″, oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.

Approach, 36″x 24″, oil on stretched canvas, painting © 2007 by Gail Wallinga. All rights reserved.



I paint once a week for at least 4 hours. Sometimes I’m able to paint twice a week. But I’m often thinking about and working on my paintings while I’m not in the studio. The creative process is fed by my experience as a designer, and is constantly going on in the background of my consciousness.


About Gail:  Gail has been a graphic designer for almost 20 years, and principle of her own business, Wallinga Design, for 14 years. She designed the logotype for red Ravine and is the graphic designer of choice for our various mastheads. Besides her painting and design, Gail has passion for contemporary furniture design, photography, acoustic folk/pop music, and Godiva chocolate.

If you’d like to view Gail’s work in person, she will be participating in the Annual Autumn Show of The Rain Collective, a Minneapolis based confluence of artists. The show is taking place this Saturday, November 3rd, 2007, from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm in the Casket Arts Building, 681 17th Avenue NE, located in the infamous Nordeast Minneapolis.

For contact information, Artist Statement, and to view more of Gail’s work, see her Rain Collective profile.

              Postcard for The Rain Collective, Annual Autumn Show, 8.5″x 5.25″, designed by Gail Wallinga, photographs Ryc Casati, postcard © 2007 by Wallinga Design. All rights reserved.

Postcard for The Rain Collective, Annual Autumn Show, 8.5″x 5.25″, designed by Gail Wallinga, photographs Ryc Casati, postcard © 2007 by Wallinga Design. All rights reserved.


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