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Shuttlecocks, 1994 - 34/365

Shuttlecocks, 1994 – 34/365, Archive 365, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, April 2009, photo © 2009-2013 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


At a writing retreat in 2009, our host took us to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. Like we had done at museums in New Mexico with Natalie Goldberg (see Diebenkorn Leaves Taos – Museum Walking Lives On), we walked around in silence, then gathered in front of the museum to do Writing Practice. I like the practice of taking photographs in the silence; this photo of the sculpture Shuttlecocks was snapped on a slow walk around the museum grounds. Museums are energizing places to find inspiration for writing and art.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is a neoclassic structure designed by Kansas City architects Wight and Wight. Groundbreaking took place on July 16, 1930. The sculpture Shuttlecocks was created by husband and wife team Claes Oldenburg (American, born Sweden 1929) and Coosje van Bruggen (American, born The Netherlands, 1942), the same pair that created the Minneapolis sculpture, Spoonbridge & Cherry at the Walker (see my foggy winter photograph of Spoonbridge & Cherry in the piece White Elephants On Art). It is the scale of these sculptures that draws me in.

According to Nelson-Atkins, when Oldenburg and van Bruggen were commissioned in 1994 to design a sculpture for the space, they responded to the formality of the original neoclassical building and the green expanse of its lawn by imagining the museum as a badminton net and the lawn as a playing field. The pair designed four birdies or shuttlecocks (made out of aluminum, paint, and fiberglass-reinforced plastic) that were placed as though they had just landed on opposite sides of the net. Each shuttlecock weighs 5,500 pounds, stands nearly 18 feet tall, and has a diameter of 16 feet.


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ARCHIVE 365: Archive 365 is a photo collaboration between skywire7 and QuoinMonkey featuring images from our archives. We will alternate posting once a day in our Flickr sets from July 1st 2012 through June 30th 2013. You can view our photographs at skywire7 Archive 365 set on Flickr and QuoinMonkey Archive 365 set on Flickr.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, January 13th, 2013

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2011-07-17 16.28.22 auto

Abe Lincoln’s Hand – 14/365, Archive 365, Fargo, North Dakota, July 2011, photo © 2011-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


On a road trip to North Dakota, we stopped at Scheels, a family owned business that has been operating out of Fargo since 1928. It was a new experience for me, but not for Liz, a native North Dakotan. On the way in the door of the 196,000 square foot building on 45th Street, off of Interstate 94, I was immediately drawn to the bronze sculptures to the north. I had to sit down on the bench next to Abe Lincoln and read the note in his hand. It contained words from the last paragraph of his second inaugural address given on March 4, 1865 (read the whole speech in its entirety here):

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves and all nations.

Lincoln is a life-size bronze sculpted by native Nebraskan Mark Lundeen. He now lives in Colorado.
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ARCHIVE 365 is a photo collaboration between skywire7 and QuoinMonkey featuring images from our archives. We will alternate posting once a day in our Flickr sets from July 1st 2012 through June 30th 2013. You can view our photographs at skywire7 Archive 365 set on Flickr and QuoinMonkey Archive 365 set on Flickr.

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, July 15, 2012. Related to posts: In Search of Letters & Artifacts On Abraham Lincoln

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Graves, Upper Mill Cemetery, Circa 1806 – 10/365, Archive 365, McIntosh County, Darien, Georgia, July 2008, photo © 2008-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It was blistering hot and steamy the afternoon we visited the Upper Mill Cemetery in Darien, Georgia. On a search for ancestral archives, Liz, Mom and I took a road trip from Augusta, Georgia to St. Simons Island where we spent a few days and visited with relatives. We then drove north stopping in Fort Frederica and Upper Mill Cemetery in Darien. Our last stop was Savannah, a city I hope to visit again someday. Looking through these photographs, I realize how important it is to document your travels. It’s been four years since I have returned to the South. Each photo conjures the heat, humidity, live oaks, Gold Coast breezes, white packed sand, and the pilgrimage to Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home.

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ARCHIVE 365 is a photo collaboration between skywire7 and QuoinMonkey featuring images from our archives. We will alternate posting once a day in our Flickr sets from July 1st 2012 through June 30th 2013. You can view our photographs at skywire7 Archive 365 set on Flickr and QuoinMonkey Archive 365 set on Flickr.

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, July 10, 2012

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Elnora’s Cafe – 8/365, Archive 365, 18th & Vine, Kansas City, Missouri, April 2009, photo © 2009-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


When one of my writing groups met in Kansas City, Missouri in April 2009, Bob took us on a tour. This photograph of Elnora’s Cafe was taken from the car when we were moving through the area of 18th & Vine, the place where Kansas City’s jazz legacy was nurtured and sparked. In its heyday, 30 nightclubs filled the district. Celebrities like Duke Ellington and Joe Louis stayed at Street’s Hotel. Everyone ate at Elnora’s Cafe, a popular gathering place with a national reputation for good food and service. Elnora’s, located next to the Subway Club, stayed open into the wee hours of the morning to accommodate the many late night revelers in the district.

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ARCHIVE 365 is a photo collaboration between skywire7 and QuoinMonkey featuring images from our archives. We will alternate posting once a day in our Flickr sets from July 1st 2012 through June 30th 2013. You can view our photographs at skywire7 Archive 365 set on Flickr and QuoinMonkey Archive 365 set on Flickr.

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, July 8, 2012

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Cake For Dylan -6/365, Archive 365, Hibbing, Minnesota, May 2005, photo © 2005-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


In May 2005, Liz and I traveled to the Iron Range to attend Dylan Days in Hibbing, Minnesota. We took a tour of Bob Dylan’s childhood home, stopped by Hibbing High to hear the original band from Blood On The Tracks, visited the ghostly abandoned street corners where they had moved the town a few miles south to expand the biggest operating open pit iron ore mine in the world (more than three miles long, two miles wide, and 535 feet deep). In the evening we celebrated with dancing, poetry, and good food at Zimmy’s where I took this photograph of Dylan’s cake.

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ARCHIVE 365 is a photo collaboration between skywire7 and QuoinMonkey featuring images from our archives. We will alternate posting once a day in our Flickr sets from July 1st 2012 through June 30th 2013. You can view our photographs at skywire7 Archive 365 set on Flickr and QuoinMonkey Archive 365 set on Flickr.

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, July 6th, 2012. Related to post: I’m Not There — The 6 Faces of Dylan

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2011-07-17 18.56.13 yes

World’s Largest Sandhill Crane – 29/52, BlackBerry 52 — Week 29 Jump-Off, Steele, North Dakota, July 17th 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



On a July trip to North Dakota, we exited off I-94 to fill up with gas in Steele, North Dakota. Across the street, next to the Lone Steer Cafe (formerly a bustling Greyhound bus station), a 40-foot sandhill crane stood grazing in the grass. Sandy, the World’s Largest Sandhill Crane, was built in 1999 by Arena, North Dakota resident James Miller. The sculpture weighs 4.5 tons and is constructed of rolled sheet metal welded onto a steel inner frame. It was built in three separate sections — the body in one section, the neck and head in another, and pipes fitted to make the legs.

Residents of Steele, North Dakota erected the giant sandhill to call attention to the fact that Kidder County is one of the best birding destinations in North America. The Coteau Rangeland of North Dakota, commonly known as the Prairie Pothole Region, is an area of glacial potholes located in the direct path of the migration flyway making this area a favorite spot for migratory nesting birds, including the Sandhill Crane. To the west, Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, established as one of the country’s first wildlife refuges in 1908 by executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt, is the largest American White Pelican rookery in North America, where thousands of pelicans nest each spring.

North Dakota artist James Miller, creator of the World’s Largest Sandhill Crane, died October 17, 2002. According to his obituary in the Bismarck Tribune, Jim and his wife farmed north of Arena from 1955 until retiring in 1991. He created metal work sculptures in his shop and invented his own version of “Miller Bilt” hydraulic presses, along with everything from two wheeled trailers and wheelchair ramps to yard ornaments, docks, crystal radios, and even a steam engine. His art live on in 26 states throughout the country.


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Lotus and I will continue to respond to each other’s BlackBerry Jump-Off photos with text, photography, poetry (however we are inspired) for the 52 weeks of 2011. You can read more at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration. If you are inspired to join us, send us a link to your images, poetry, or prose and we’ll add them to our posts.

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC — ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS,   dragonfly revisted — end of summerfirst dragonfly, Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Shadow Of A Dragonfly, Dragonfly Wings — It Is Written In The Wind, Dragon Fight — June Mandalas, sticks for legs and arms

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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.


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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.




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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:


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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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by Teri Blair



Home of Emily Dickinson, Amherst, Massachusetts, October 2010, all photos © 2010-2011 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.



On October 30th, 2010, I stood in a room I had wanted to be in for years. It had a bed, a desk, a dresser, a lantern, a basket, and huge windows. From this second story perch Emily Dickinson composed her wonderful, strange, profound poetry.

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Emily was born in the same house where she died. And with the exception of a few trips and a little schooling, she never ventured from her hometown. Ever. She lived for 55 years, becoming increasingly reclusive the older she got. She published seven poems under pseudonyms while she was alive, poetry that went practically unnoticed. It wasn’t until she died that the big discovery was made. Emily’s sister was cleaning out her bedroom dresser and found nearly 1800 poems in the bottom drawer. They were written in handmade booklets and on scraps of paper.

Four years after her death, Emily’s first volume of poetry came out and she was famous. Now, 124 years later, she is considered one of the most influential American poets; her work has never been out of print.


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I drove to Amherst, Massachusetts with my niece, Anna. We pulled up to Emily’s house on Main Street, an impressive yellow brick surrounded on two sides by massive gardens. The moment we stepped onto this National Historic Site, I was looking for clues of how Emily did it. Was she simply brilliant, or was there some evidence of influence? Our tour guide told us that as soon as Emily’s first book came out, speculation about her largely private life began, speculation that has never stopped.

They honor Emily by sticking with the facts, only the things that are authenticated. I am compelled to do the same, simply observing some habits that made up part of her writing life.





A Period of Woolgathering


When Emily was 10, her family moved temporarily to a different house in Amherst. Her bedroom faced the town graveyard, and during those next impressionable years, she watched hundreds of horse-drawn funeral processions.

When she was 19, her father gave her a puppy she named Carlo. For the sixteen years of her dog’s life, they explored the woods and fields of Amherst together. Emily made extensive collections from what she found outside on these long hikes.

Contemplating death and observations of nature run heavily through Emily’s poetry.


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Writing Practices


Emily was a voracious reader. Her family received daily newspapers and several magazines, all of which Emily read cover-to-cover. She read poets; Keats and Browning were two of her favorites.

She wrote at night by lamplight. Moonlight walkers consistently saw a light burning in Emily’s window. They didn’t know what she was doing. Though there were virtually no external rewards for her work, she kept writing. An internal force propelled her.


Simplicity


Emily’s life was very simple; there were few distractions.

She had only a handful of family and friends, and kept in touch with most of them through letter writing.

She baked. She read. She wandered through her gardens. She lowered baskets of gingerbread to her nephews and niece from her window. And at night…she wrote in her bedroom by lamplight.


♦     ♦     ♦


After the 90-minute tour, we were allowed to wander through the house alone at our own pace. Anna and I both gravitated back to Emily’s room. We sat on the floor, stood by the windows; we looked at each other across the room.

Can you believe we’re standing here, I asked Anna. She smiled and shook her head no. We kept looking at each other, smiling and shaking our heads because we knew. There was nothing more to say; and we could both feel the pulse of what had happened within those four walls.


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View of Emily’s From The Garden, Amherst, Massachusetts, October 2010, all photos © 2010-2011 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.


When Emily died, the funeral was held in the library of her house. At her request, six Irish immigrants carried her casket from the house to her grave. She asked her sister to burn the thousands of letters she had amassed.

But she didn’t say a word about the poems in the bottom drawer.

Emily’s brother and his family lived in the house on the far edge of her garden. One time Emily’s niece, Martha, came into her room with her, and Emily pretended to lock the door so no one could get in.  She looked around the room—at the writing desk, lamp, and paper. “Martha,” she said, “this is freedom.”



“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of Me.


-Emily Dickinson c. 1861 from The Pocket Emily Dickinson,
Edited by Brenda Hillman, Shambhala Publications, 2009.



IMG_0670 in memoriam



About Teri: Teri Blair is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis and founder of the Poetry & Meditation Group of which QuoinMonkey has fondly and frequently written. (See Letter From Poet Elizabeth Alexander for the last post on the group and Teri’s piece titled Desire And A Library Card — The Only Tools Necessary To Start A Poetry Group for a step-by-step on how to start your own.)

 

Teri’s first red Ravine guest post, Continue Under All Circumstances, was written on the road during a 2007 trip to Holcomb, Kansas. She journeyed back to Holcomb in 2010 and wrote a sequel, Back To Holcomb, One Last Time. Her last piece for red Ravine, Discovering The Big Read, is about the largest reading program in American history. Its mission is simple: to restore reading to the center of American culture.

Teri will be spending the month of February at the Vermont Studio Center, writing, walking, and finding inspiration by the Gihon River in the heart of the Green Mountains.

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Early Take-Off

Slice Of The Mississippi

Rivers & Wings


Opposing Forces


Mighty Susquehanna

Slice Of The Susquehanna

Shadow Shifting


It’s almost time to fly home. I don’t travel far enough get jet lag like ybonesy. But I do suffer from bothersome motion sickness. I’ve had it since I was a little girl, and found out about it when we would do winding family trips from the Pine Barrens of Georgia to the Great Smokies of Tennessee. I learned to keep my eyes on the horizon, and never to read or look at maps while in motion. Fresh air helps, too, along with sitting in the front of the vehicle or resting your head against a seat back.

These days I’m more likely to be in the driver’s seat (even though I have a terrible sense of direction) and most times I am flying cross country to visit family or friends. This morning I drove the 212 miles round trip to Philadelphia with my brother for his transplant check-in. (Frankenbelly 3 has zipped his recovery into the fast lane! November 18th marks 1 month.) Saturday we shared family stories and celebrated early Thanksgiving with relatives who have driven the 10 hours from South Carolina to Pennsylvania more than six times this year to be closer to family.

Travel is a gift. Travel can wear you out. And make you a little dizzy. When I arrived in Pennsylvania last week, the day before my mother’s birthday, she handed me a book on home remedies and pointed to the section on motion sickness. “See if this helps,” she said. The ingredients are pure and simple: pack the ginger, chew on some cloves.

According to Readers Digest Kitchen Cabinet Cures — 1,001 Homemade Remedies For Your Health, the same chemical compounds that give ginger its zing—gingerol and shogaol—reduce intestinal contractions, neutralize digestive acids, and quell activity in the brain’s “vomiting center.” If you eat 1/2 teaspoon of chopped, fresh ginger every 15 minutes for one hour before traveling, mix a pinch of powdered ginger in water, drink ginger tea, or nibble pieces of candied ginger, you should be good to go.

Grinding cloves between the teeth also helps. But if you’re looking for non-food related remedies, try Sea-Bands, knitted elastic wrist bands which operate by applying pressure on the Nei Kuan (P6) acupressure point on each wrist by means of a plastic stud. Liz introduced me to them a few years ago and I swear by them for both car and planes. Here’s a wrap up of other practical suggestions for motion sickness in the Readers Digest book:


On Planes:

  • Eat low-cal snacks & light meals 24 hours before departure
  • Choose a seat in the front of the plane or by the wing
  • Direct the air vent above the seat toward your face

In Cars:

  • Sit in the front seat
  • Keep your eyes on the horizon
  • Don’t read or look at maps
  • Keep your head still by resting it against the seat back
  • Turn air vents toward your face

On Boats:

  • Ask for cabin on the upper deck or near front of the ship
  • When on deck, keep eyes firmly fixed on horizon or land

If the cloves and ginger don’t work, one last home remedy listed for motion sickness is warm lemon-aid. Squeeze one whole lemon into a cup sweetened with a teaspoon of honey. Keep the drink in a warm thermos while traveling. And I’d add the Sea-Bands to every category. The acupressure works!


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 — all photos © 2010 by QuoinMonkey — with thanks to my family who have made this week in motion a joy and a pleasure

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HaNoi ceramic wall (one)HaNoi ceramic wall (two)
HaNoi ceramic wall (three)HaNoi ceramic wall (five a)
HaNoi ceramic wall (six)HaNoi ceramic wall (seven)
HaNoi ceramic wall (eight)HaNoi ceramic wall (nine)
In a flash, HaNoi’s Ceramic Mosaic Mural as seen from the taxi, October 2010, iPhone photos © 2010 by ybonesy, all rights reserved.




Entering the city of Hanoi last week, I immediately notice that the ceramic wall is done. This four-kilometer-long work of art, which has been in progress for the three years since I started visiting here, runs along the city’s Red River dyke system. Earlier this month, just in time for last week’s celebration of Hanoi’s 1000th birthday, the completed wall officially became the world’s largest ceramic mosaic, as recognized by Guinness World Records.

The idea for a ceramic wall along Hanoi’s Red River came from young journalist and painter Nguyen Thu Thuy. About the world record, she said:

We are very proud to have successfully gained a Guinness World Record achievement. This project reflects the vibrancy and complexity of Vietnam’s capital city, and is the ideal way to commemorate Hanoi’s 1,000 year anniversary. The integration of international artists and children’s art depict many different moods, cultures, eras of history and styles, and they have all been created with the greatest craftsmanship. We hope that this achievement brings pride to Hanoi and that the people of the city enjoy the mural’s beauty for many years to come.


The collective public work of art—Vietnam’s first—began in 2007. The mural is organized in 21 sections and was designed by 35 professional artists from ten countries and supported by hundreds of artisans from traditional ceramic villages in Vietnam, Vietnamese and other children, and students from fine arts colleges throughout the country. The murals depicts Vietnam’s landscape and peoples, and is said to be a visual narration of the country’s history.

The mural embodies the country’s rich tradition in ceramics, of which I barely scratched the surface during a day of sightseeing to the town of Bat Trang. The entire village, it seemed, was dedicated to the making and selling of gorgeous plates, cups, vases, sculptures—you name it, they made it.

More than anything, Hanoi’s Ceramic Mosaic wall reminded me of the color and buzz and energy of Hanoi and all of Vietnam.

You can read and see more about the wall, including video clips showing artists working on the mural, in the official Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural website. The Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural blog includes many interesting photos, such as the original Photoshop artist renderings of the mural back when it was only a concept. That site also talks about the artist and staff of the project. Finally, this Travel Blog entry includes close-up photos of the wall in progress.

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purple eggplantIt’s that time again. The harvest is winding down. Jim bought a small basket of red and green chile so we can roast, peel, and freeze a few baggies to pull out in the middle of winter, when our bodies crave the chemical capsaicin (which produces the heat in chile). The air conditioner is closed up, and the heater turned on.

But it’s also time for one of my frequent journeys to Vietnam. I’ve stopped counting how many this makes — surely I’ve used up the fingers on both hands and am now onto my toes. I can tell you that each time I prepare for another trip, I go through the same bizarre process of mental gyrations.



green (and purple striped) beans Wagner's chile




Roma’s Five Stages of Travel Preparation


Stage One: Avoidance. As soon as I know I have to go on a long trip abroad, I put it out of my mind. After all, the trip is weeks, maybe months away. I sometimes neglect to tell even my family; I don’t want them to fret any earlier than necessary. Although I’ve gotten better about this, it would not have been unusual a few years back to hear the following conversation in my household:

ME: Hey, Jim, I did tell you that I’m leaving on Monday to (fill-in-the-blank-country)?

JIM: What?? No, I had no idea.

ME: Oh, I’m sorry. It was spur-of-the-moment.

JIM: You mean, they only gave you four days’ notice?




Stage Two: Nostalgia.
I walk around my house, the patio, my yard, the girls’ rooms with a sweeping sense of loss and dread. How can I leave all this? I don’t want to go. Don’t make me go!!



jelly
Corrales Growers Market with the iPhone, all photos © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




Stage Three: Guilt.
Surely my children will be damaged by all my globe-trotting. Don’t people ask me every time I tell them I’m off again, “What about the girls?” I rush around like a crazy woman, trying to make my absence more bearable. I take Em’s Halloween outfit to the seamstress so it will be ready by the time I return. I hang up Dee’s clothes in her closet so she could find them easily while getting ready for school. Jim gets a homemade apple pie–his favorite. So this is what inspired Superwoman, I think.



Stage Four: Panic.
This is the frenzied state I find myself in the day before I leave, my suitcase still not packed. I am relieved to find that my multientry visa is still valid. Whew! It would have been disastrous had it expired. (Been there, done that.) At 8 pm, the hour I should be hitting the sack given that I have to wake up at 3:45 am, I start flinging clothes into my suitcase. It’s cool in Hanoi, hot in the south. Whatever I forget to pack, I’ll just have to buy there. Hmmm, was that a goosebump I just felt?



yellow peppersred potatoes (big ones)
Roma tomatoes




Stage Five: Calm.
Bags are checked, boarding passes in hand. I got an upgrade on the leg from ABQ to SFO. Wandering through airport stores, it dawns on me that I forgot to pack my neck pillow. Pick up a super soft one to add to our collection back home. Also picked up two books I’ve been wanting to read: lit by Mary Karr and Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves. Between the books, my writing and doodle journals, plus a presentation and a bit of writing for work, I will make good use of my alone time. I’m ready for this. Let the fun begin!









A Sampling of (Recent) Vietnam Posts


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Sunrise On Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County

Sunrise On Lake Michigan, Bob walking 10,000 steps on the beach, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Sitting, walking, writing with the Midwest Writing Group on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. This is the 7th time we’ve met. The first was October 2007 at McCreedy’s in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. Somewhere in the middle, there was Kansas City, Missouri. The last retreat was on Lake Pepin in Lake City, Minnesota.


We arrived on Thursday; the Moon was new. The mornings and afternoons are silent. Here’s our daily schedule:

  • Wake up in Silence.
  • 9am to Noon — Sit, walk, write.
  • Noon to 1pm — Lunch in Silence.
  • 1pm to 4pm — Free Time. Read, write, walk, sleep, stare out the window.
  • 4pm to 6pm — Sit, walk, write.
  • 6pm — Dinner. Free to talk and break bread.


 

Writing Home, Lake Michigan

Writing Home, Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 


If you’d like to join us, here are the first 14 Writing Topics. During Day 1 of Sit, Walk, Write (Natalie Goldberg style) we wrote 14 practices at 10 minutes each:

  • Reading under a blanket
  • Fortunate life
  • Friend of the family
  • Piano lessons
  • I’m waiting for
  • Bits of garbage
  • Should I stay or should I go
  • I guess I’m doing alright
  • Walls
  • A path through the weeds
  • Cries for help
  • Don’t tell me it will be alright
  • Distractions
  • Luckiest person in the world


 

Sit, Walk, Write

Sit, Walk, Write, Lake Michigan, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, October 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 


Observations:

  • Took all of Day 1 to debrief & unwind from busyness
  • Travel days take a lot out of you
  • Resistance high on Day 2
  • Breathing deeper on Day 3
  • Staring at the lake calms me, blood pressure drops
  • Walking the beach spurs fresh creative ideas. I’m part of something bigger than me.
  • After 3 years, I feel comfortable & safe with these writers. We’ve worked out the logistics of living, eating, sleeping in close quarters.
  • Everyone holds the space
  • Grateful to the timekeeper who holds the structure
  • Writing about family, place, home, writing projects
  • Free time is essential. Sleep & rest without guilt is essential. Silence is essential.


Back next week. Get out your fast writing pens and spiral notebooks. We follow the Writing Practice rules. And try to Make Positive Effort For The Good. Sit, walk, write.


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 10th, 2010

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Exactly three weeks have passed since the girls (my daughters and my nieces) and I made the journey back from Vietnam. It feels like a dream, those days walking through Saigon and feeling the energy of the city. The beach city of Nha Trang is my new favorite spot, and I’ve been to many wonderful places in the country.

One of the things I noticed about the trip was that I didn’t have much time alone, and yet I was not torn between solitude or not solitude. I relished the hours spent with my family. We traveled together well. We shared a similar sense of adventure.

I would love to share in this blog post a story or two about our trip, but I’m in the middle of writing a print publication essay about exactly that. So I’m at a loss of what to say. Unfortunately, I need to save all my best words for the essay.
 
I can share this screen shot below from the last essay of mine that was published, this in SAGE, a monthly magazine for women that appears as part of the Albuquerque Journal. It came out while we were in Vietnam, which was fun timing since the writing happened to be about one of my previous trips to the country. You might recognize the photo from one of my previous blog posts. It was especially cool that three of my photos got published along with my writing.

The country has become as much a muse for my writing as my art. That’s a recent shift. I wonder, when I sit down and think about it, how many essays about my travels there I have in me. Maybe quite a few.



Let there be Pampering (from SAGE)
Let there be Pampering, by Roma Arellano, screen shot from SAGE, The Albuquerque Journal, July 2010, © 2010 by The Albuquerque Journal.

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Pigeon Coops at Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, NM
Homing In, Pigeon Coops at Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, NM, June 28, 2008, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
 


When Jim and I started dating he wanted to take me to two places. One was the cabin his grandparents built in the 1940s, in the Pecos Mountains. The other place was the Rio Grande Pyramid in Southwestern Colorado — at 13,821 feet above sea level, source waters of the Rio Grande.

Within our first two months together, we went to both. They gave me a sense of who Jim is in his core — wilderness, mountains and valleys, creeks and rivers, building things by hand.



      Little homes  Little homes  Little homes  Little homes  Little homes



This past weekend in Taos, then, it is no surprise that I find myself walking with my daughters one morning up the long lane to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House.

“Where are we going, Mom?” they ask.

“You’ll see.”

We reach the uneven flagstone patio in front of the house. Dee says she loves the roughness of the stones. She spies a big rock wheel laid on its side into the walkway and stands in its center, surveying all around her.

“Papa Leo helped lay these stones,” I tell her.

“He did?!” Her eyes are wide. 

My father worked one summer at this place. Mabel herself was gone, but an English author hired Dad to help put in the flagstone. Dad was 16 or 17 years old, scrawny and not a good laborer. He’s told me the author, whose name he thought to be Henry James or James Henry, was not pleased with his work. (I need to do more research on who this writer might have been. Author Henry James died just about the time Mabel Dodge arrived in Taos, so it couldn’t have been him.)

The next morning I return to Mabel Dodge Luhan House with the girls and Jim in tow. I lead them into the front door, show them the living room and dining room, point out the magical door leading to the library. It’s shaped liked a canoe that’s been sawed in half, the tip at the top. Jim and I each stoop to go through the doorway. Dee and Em stand beneath it, looking up at the strange arch. The door is made just for them.



Jumping Jack Wagon
Jumping Jack Wagon, Jumping Jack pansies at Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, NM, June 28, 2008, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



Homing in. We hold our homes in our hearts. I live in the Rio Grande Valley, next to the cottonwoods and the muddy river. This will always be more than just a place to live.

Parts of Northern New Mexico — Taos, Morada Lane and Mabel’s house, Costilla, Cimarron, maybe even the dying and not very attractive town of Raton — these are homes I will always hold inside me.

What places do you call home?



-related to posts Sitting In Solidarity, Mabel’s Dining Room, and WRITING TOPIC – A PLACE TO STAND.

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Our guide was named Anh. Like Anne, but a long a. Ah. Ah-n. She had the look of a backpacker. At first. When I took in the rucksack and light jacket, I thought maybe she was a trekker who’d landed her dream job. Tour guide on a medium-sized wooden boat, fits about 20 passengers, floating up and down the Mekong Delta.

But first impressions are deceiving. Anh was from Hanoi originally, now living in Can Tho. She wore thick flesh-colored socks with sandals. A face mask and a traditional Vietnamese hat to keep the sun off her skin. In Vietnam, the women want to remain as fair-skinned as possible. Stark contrast to the Norwegians who shared the boat with us. The two women in that group tied silk scarves over their bathing suits and sat in the hot sun until the silk turned dark with sweat and their skin a sort of freckled orange-brown.

My friend Marcia says that eventually, given enough time, we will all evolve to look like one another. Vietnamese women will get lighter; fair-skinned Norwegians will turn a crispy brown. We’ll all go after the universal beauty ideal. Add a KFC on every corner of every city in the world and Wham-o!, we’re all the same.

Until then, I will enjoy our differences. And prawns with attached heads, which we had for lunch. And cuttle fish, passion fruit, rice. Meals on the Bassac II are gourmet. How it turned out to be just me and the girls plus a Norwegian family of four—I don’t understand. This is the best boat ever, the best crew. The captain is the same one who steered the boat the last time I was on it, and both times he masterfully navigated our vessel through narrow passages where barges carrying silt dredged from the bottom of the river came within a foot of boats that are floating fish farms. And us.

As we gawked at other people’s lives, all while eating steak and fish for lunch or sipping Tiger beer, I imagined we were a nuisance on this commercial waterway. The Vietnamese float by with all their worldly possessions contained in boats only slightly larger than canoes. And yet, they are so tolerant, even nice to us as we float by in all our laid-back luxury.

The crew of Bassac II recognized me when I boarded, and I reminded them that I said I’d return and bring my girls next time. Dee was enamored by the boat immediately, the cool of the cabin and its smell of hibiscus and lemongrass. She wandered around the boat as if under a spell, that slow walk from this end of the deck to that one, all the while tracing her hand along the deep brown wooden railings. The place suited her internal clock, slow and content to not do much.

Em explored every corner of the boat she had access to, bouncing a few minutes around the upper deck, then a few more on the deck below. “Mom, I’m going to check out the front of the boat,” she informed before shooting off again. She waited impatiently for hours, unable to just rest, before we finally boarded the canoe and made our way to a village along one of the canals.

Not being from Can Tho, Anh didn’t know the off-the-beaten-path spots where you could find a temple that wasn’t officially on the tour. Nor did she have the same sense of adventure that prompted our last tour guide to stop in at a Cao Dai temple while making our way back to the boat from the village.

But that was fine. Anh was calm and friendly, and she loved the girls. She spent a generous amount of time in the floating market, took us to a cottage factory that produced soy sauce and salt, and let us sit for almost an hour eating exotic fruits while she showed the girls how to make jewelry and animals out of palm leaves.

When I asked her if she liked her job, she smiled, shrugged her shoulders, and then looked out in the distance. “I miss my children,” she said, “when I come overnight for the tours.” Believe me, I wanted to say, I can relate. Instead I looked over at my own girls and said, “Bring them with you one day, Anh—they’ll never forget it.”

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