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Cattail Bog - 2-10-12 - 2

Cattail Bog, Sony NEX Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2012, photo © 2013 by Liz Anne Schultz. All rights reserved.


When you live in a land of lakes, you tend to develop an intimate relationship with wetland geography. Liz passes Theodore Wirth Park on her journey to and from work and sometimes stops to take photographs of one of its hidden gems—the Quaking Bog. The park’s Quaking Bog is a five-acre acid bog where nearly 200 mature tamaracks shade the understory sphagnum moss. Bogs (also known as mires, quagmires, muskegs, and fens) are remnants of the last glacial age. They each develop differently, depending on climate and typography, and often occur when the water at the ground surface is acidic and low in nutrients.

Bogs are often classified based on their location in the landscape and source of water. There are valley bogs, raised bogs, blanket bogs, quaking bogs, and cataract bogs. Quaking bogs develop over a lake or pond, with bog mats (thick layers of vegetation) about three feet thick on top. Quaking bogs bounce when people or animals walk on them, giving them their name. My most vivid memory of walking a bog was a side trip we took on a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters. Here are the impressions of two writers from one of my favorite books on topography, Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape:


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QuoinBog Path, Sony NEX Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2012, photo © 2013 by Liz Anne Schultz. All rights reserved.



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bog

The low-lying area saturated with water creates a hollow of decomposed vegetation in wet, spongy ground. This strange land is called a bog, a word that’s been used since about 1450 to refer to such places. The ground sinks underfoot—-collapses, sucks under. It is a netherworld dimly lit, and a rank smell hangs in the air. Yet a bog is far from dead. It supports plant life; as an ecological system, it can be described as a plant community. Cattails, rushes, sedges, and bulrushes are plants that initially creep into a lake and begin to transition that body of water into a bog. The term most often applies to wetlands that have little inflow of water through streams and are fed, instead, mainly by precipitation. What happens is that the plant material growing in the lake dies off and eventually becomes peat. When the dead and dying vegetation rises to the water level of the lake, this accumulation of peat forms a dome, which prohibits any new plants from growing. Without the inflow and outflow of water, a black skin forms, an oily and idle mire locked in a world of its own contrivance. A foot stepping in goes beneath the surface, fast like a thief. Bogs can be found throughout the United States—Web’s Mill Bog, New Jersey, for instance, and Hanging Bog near Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The term bog is also often used in literature to represent the cessation of growth, or a human’s stuck place. In The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane uses a bog to express the conditions of the Civil War. “He is obliged to walk upon bog tufts and watch his feet to keep from the oily mire….The youth went again into the deep thickets. The brushed branches made a noise that drowned the sounds of the cannon. He walked on, going from obscurity into promises of a greater obscurity.”

Elizabeth Cox from her home ground, Chattanooga, Tennessee



quaking bog

The quaking bog is one of the most novel features of forests of the northern United States, especially those in New England and Wisconsin. It’s an area of sphagnum moss, rushes, sedges, and decaying vegetation, the whole mass of which is floating on a pool of water. The surface appears solid and stable, until trusted with the weight of a step. What seems to be firm ground then shivers, sinks, and rises, like a natural trampoline or waterbed. If the first shimmy of this rich root mass underfoot is not heeded, one might easily break through the entangled mat into water and loose mud below, as if one had stepped into quicksand. The quaking bog suggests in perceptible human time the larger ripple, rise and fall, and shifting of the Earth’s surface in geologic time.

Robert Morgan from his home ground, the Southern Appalachians of western North Carolina, though he has lived in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York for thirty-five years, and in many ways that seems like home also


Quaking Bog Tree - 2-10-12 - 2

Quaking Bog Tree, Sony NEX Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, February 2012, photo © 2013 by Liz Anne Schultz. All rights reserved.




RESOURCES:

National Geographic Education – Encyclopedic Entry – Bog

Video – What Is A Quaking Bog?

Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape


-related to posts:  Standing Your Ground —-Arroyo, Gulch, Gully & Wash, Midwest Poets & Writers — When Can You Call A Place Home?

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, March 6th, 2013


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By Teri Blair


St. Paul's Icelandic Lutheran Church, March 2009, photo © 2009 by Teri Blair, all rights reserved

St. Paul’s Icelandic Lutheran Church, Minneota, Minnesota, where the services for Minnesota writer Bill Holm were held, March 2009, photo © 2009 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.




Early on a Sunday morning in March, I drove three hours to attend the funeral of writer Bill Holm. Since that day, I’ve wanted to write about it. But I keep getting stuck. I pace. I try again. The paper is crumpled and thrown in the trash.

What’s wrong? I’m trying to make my writing as grand as Bill was, or as eloquent as I think he deserves. When I stop writing and try to do the dishes instead, I consider what Natalie Goldberg would tell me to do. She’d say, Just tell the story. The story is enough.




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The First Settlement, sign outside the St. Paul’s
Icelandic Lutheran Church, March 2009, photo
© 2009 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.





Bill was born on a Minnesota prairie farm, educated at the local public school, and grew to be six-and-a-half feet tall. He had a huge shock of red hair that turned white with age, ruddy cheeks, and a beautiful, booming voice. He left Minnesota after college to live around the world, but by the time he was 40 he had returned to his hometown, to his roots. He taught English and poetry for 27 years at Southwest State, and proceeded to publish 16 books. He bought a house in Iceland, and split his time between Minneota, Minnesota and a cottage near the Arctic Circle. He was bold and certain and convicted. He was funny and irreverent and warm.

I heard Bill speak a year before he died. He was reading from The Window of Brimnes at the Minneapolis Public Library. He was three weeks shy of retirement, and could barely contain his excitement for the next phase of life. No one in the audience could have guessed his new life would only last a year. When Minnesota Public Radio announced he had died after collapsing at the airport, I was crushed. Bill couldn’t be dead. I had just seen him. And he was just starting his new life, remember?

I knew I would go to his funeral. It was obvious. I now consider that I may have ignored that quiet voice telling me to go. I’ve done that before, argued myself out of following my instincts. But this time I didn’t.


Minnesota River, March 2009, photo © 2009 by Teri Blair, all rights reservedI packed a lunch the night before, and got on the road the next morning before daylight. The funeral was at St. Paul’s Icelandic Lutheran Church, built in 1895 by immigrants. Because I knew there wouldn’t be much room in the small church, I got there two hours early. After securing a space in the back pew with my coat and bag, I went to the front to look at the floral arrangements. The flowers had come from around the globe, from everyone. An open copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was in the bouquet from his wife. When I returned to my seat, another early-arriver walked in. Poet Laureate & Pulitzer Prize winner Ted Kooser. When I saw him, I knew what the day was going to be like.

One by one they began to arrive, the gray-haired authors. Many of them I knew, and some I only recognized from book jackets but couldn’t place their names. Ten of them were pallbearers. I was awed. Humbled. I’d watch them approach each other, hug, and weep together over losing their friend. Not competitive. Tender. Attached to each other. I was in the company of greatness, and I knew it. They were steady. Present. The media wasn’t allowed into the church, and there was a hush of holiness. We gathered, and honored, and were still.

The funeral service was a full two hours long. In addition to writing, Bill was an accomplished pianist. There were Bach piano solos and Joplin’s ragtime. An octet from the college sang Precious Lord Take My Hand. Bill’s poetry and essays were read. The preacher made us all laugh when he told how Bill sat in the choir loft during sermons and read the newspaper. Though he didn’t agree with all the theology of Lutherans, he valued his roots in that little church.

When the service was over, Bill’s wife was led out first. A tall woman who looked sad and grounded and strong and peaceful. The author-pallbearers followed her out. Some of them held hands, and they stood very close to each other. I wanted time to move slower, to be with them longer in that small place.




Minneota's library, the librarians would call Bill Holm, and he'd walk there to sign books for the tourists, March 2009, photo © 2009 by Teri Blair, all rights reserved

Minneota’s Library, the librarians would call Bill Holm,
and he’d walk there to sign books for the tourists, March
2009, photo © 2009 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.

 

 

After ham sandwiches at the American Legion, I found the farm where Bill had been raised. On a deeply secluded road, the old farmstead sat on top of a hill. I got out of my car and looked at the beautiful rolling hills that Bill grew up on. I imagined the hundreds of times he walked down the same long driveway where I stood to wait for the school bus. I drove to the Icelandic cemetery and looked at the graves of his parents, imagining some of his ashes would soon be inurned there, too. I drove home slowly, filled with all I had seen.

Bill would appreciate me going to his funeral, but he wouldn’t want me to stay sentimental too long. He’d expect me to get on with it. Get on with it, now, he’d say. Be alive.




Westerheim Icelandic Cemetery, March 2009, photo © 2009 by Teri Blair, all rights reserved

Westerheim Icelandic Cemetery, March 2009,
photo © 2009 by Teri Blair. All rights reserved.





 
___________________________________________

 

Letting Go of What Cannot Be Held Back

by Bill Holm


Let go of the dead now.
The rope in the water,
The cleat on the cliff,
Do them no good anymore.
Let them fall, sink, go away,
Become invisible as they tried
So hard to do in their own dying.
We needed to bother them
With what we called help.
We were the needy ones.
The dying do their own work with
Tidiness, just the right speed,
Sometimes even a little
Satisfaction. So quiet down.
Let them go. Practice
Your own song. Now.

 

___________________________________________

Poem copyright (c)2004 by Bill Holm, from his most recent book of poems “Playing the Black Piano,” Milkweed Editions, 2004.




 

Poet Bill Holm, 1943-2009, from the program for his Memorial Service in Minneota, Minnesota, original photograph by Brian Peterson, April 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Poet Bill Holm, 1943-2009, Memorial program photograph by QuoinMonkey, original photograph of Bill Holm © 2009 by Brian Peterson.

About Teri Blair:  Teri Blair is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis and founder of the Poetry & Meditation Group of which QuoinMonkey fondly and frequently writes. (See Postcard From Billy Collins — Kicking Off National Poetry Month for the latest post on that 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 is an active and valued member of the red Ravine community. Her other posts include A 40-Year Love Affair, about Bill Irvine’s passion for the Parkway, a landmark theater in Minneapolis that closed in 2008; and 40 Days, 8 Flags, And 1 Mennonite Choir and Thornton Wilder & Bridges, both prompted by the August 2007 collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis. Teri was also one of our first guest writers, with the piece Continue Under All Circumstances.

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The Great Pumpkin Catapult, Grantsburg, Wisconsin, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Great Pumpkin Catapult, The Lee Roberts Farm, Grantsburg, Wisconsin, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Yesterday Liz and I traveled out to Siren, Wisconsin with friends to check out Verne Peterson’s lifelong rock and mineral collection. It was a beautiful Fall day and the almost two hour drive flew by like a breeze. Founded in 1895, Siren used to be Syren, the Swedish word for lilac. But the Postal Department later changed it to Siren.

It took us several hours of talking rocks with Verne and perusing his vast collection before the four of us decided on the day’s catch. I ended up with a Zen piece of black and white Calcite from Busse, Iowa and a piece of Kona Dolomite so heavy I can’t lift it with one hand. When we left, the trunk was two boxes deep in rocks and minerals.

Great Pumpkin Counterweight, Grantsburg, Wisconsin, October 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. On the way home, Liz spotted The Great Pumpkin Catapult along Highway 70 near Grantsburg and the four of us stopped to check it out. For $5 you could take your shot at hitting the barrel castle in the distance with a medieval sling designed by farmer, Lee Roberts.

Lee hopped on to his rusty tractor while his son, Duane, and middle school grandson hooked up a chain to hoist the pumpkin counterweight, an old backhoe bucket full of rocks.


When the catapult was set, I braced to pull the string while my friends chanted and cheered:  P-U-MP-K-I-N, P-U-MP-K-I-N, complete with hand gestures and acrobatic bends. All at once, I yanked the white string, everyone held their breath, and the great pumpkin went flying out of the cloth sling and landed about 19 feet away from the castle, a solid miss!

8 Bundles Make A Shock, Grantsburg, Wisconsin,photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  It was great fun. And as we were carefully choosing and buying our Halloween pumpkins at the end, Liz kept saying how Letterman should cover Lee’s Great Pumpkin Catapult on Halloween.

I can see it now, live remote from Grantsburg, Wisconsin. With the P-U-MP-K-I-N cheerleaders dancing in the wings.


Note:  the battery died on my camera about this time (after taking over 100 photos at Verne’s), so I took these 3 photographs with Liz’s Canon. Liz took more photos and detail shots of The Great Pumpkin Catapult, along with a few of Lee and Duane. If she ends up posting them on her Flickr account, I’ll add the link.

Have a great Halloween!


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 14th, 2007

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Time at St James, June 6th, 2007, Augusta, Georgia, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 -Time at St. James, by the Madison Clock Company, 1847, on the wall at St. James United Methodist Church, Augusta, Georgia, June 6th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Home Haiku

the thing about home
home hangs its weathered straw hat
on what used to be you


After we circled twice, the landing gear whirred and dropped with a thunk. I saw the top of Minneapolis clearly from the air. Hot, humid haze. I could not feel it. Liz said it rained and rained while I was gone. And then summer came.

I slept most of the flight, Northwest 150 from Baltimore. There was an empty seat between me and the 82-year-old man from a place 47 miles west of the Black Hills of South Dakota.

He asked me where I was going. I pointed down and said, “Here.” He asked what I did. I said, “I’m a writer.”

“What?” he said, cupping his right ear. “I’m a writer,” I repeated, a little more loudly.

He said, “I’ve written two books. I started a boarding school in South Dakota many years ago. The first book’s about that. The second is about, uhh, my family and my kids. My wife and I have held each other together for 56 years.”

“That’s a long time,” I said.

The man had cauliflower ears, a wide-brimmed straw hat, round Buddha belly that rolled over his belt, faded jeans with one of those western buckles, big-framed glasses, navy T-shirt, and a large, beige hearing aid. I smiled at him when I could muster it. But mostly I stared at the diminishing feet between me and the ground.

My mind rambled over the last few weeks. Then we landed.

Liz threw me the biggest kiss when she scooped me up at baggage. She’s glad I’m home. I’m glad to be home. And there is a sadness about it, too. All the connections I made, the bridges I walked.

Doors have opened to me, people from the past who remember who I was. Now I find myself missing them.

Twenty, thirty, forty years. There are not many people left who knew the girl I used to be.

Which home is home?

The answer to the riddle: every home is home.

For the time that it is home.


Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

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For 8 years I lived in a sleepy little western town called Missoula. I was 22 when I arrived, 30 when I left. In between, I was a dental tool sharpener at American Dental on Reserve Street (now defunct), a clerk at a Husky gas station behind Ruby’s Cafe (on the strip near Malfunction Junction), and a student at the University of Montana where I took one of my first black and white photography classes, soon to be followed by my first Women’s Studies class.

Near the end of my time in Missoula, I suddenly found myself unemployed when I got so sick and tired of all the crap on the job (I was the only woman) that I quit on the spot, walked out of the dental tool sharpening profession forever. I got in a lot of trouble for that. We were trying to save money to move away. But I was just plain done spending 8 hours a day grinding blunt-tipped metal into precision instruments of pain.

Montana license plate from Montana Official State Travel Information Site, credit to Montana Historical Society

When I lived in Montana, I identified with Montana. This was Big Sky Country. I wore flannel shirts and Levi’s and hiking boots (like most all the women there did at that time). I hiked the steep winding curves of the Bitterroots and camped with friends near remote, one-room fire towers made of glass. Jobs were scarce and many of my friends worked summers on fire crews with the U.S. Forest Service. In the winters, I ironed, corked, and waxed my cross country skies (the color of the wax depended on how wet the snow was) and once took a hot air balloon ride at 5am over mile-high mountains.

I was happy in Missoula. The minute I stepped off the plane (on to what was then Johnson-Bell Field) I knew I loved it there. It was laid back and liberal. (Does anyone use those words anymore?) With the exception of the winter inversions, it was a pretty happy place to be.

I’d spend hours writing in journals, taking wildflower walks up the Rattlesnake Canyon, scraping bark off of giant Ponderosa pines for my friends who were hand building log cabins in the Bitterroots and up the Blackfoot. I felt like I belonged, like I was a part of something that felt like home. It was home for the longest time.

Eventually, I found a girlfriend and settled down. We stayed together a long, long time. And when the town became too small, and the time came to move on, we packed up everything we owned, rented a 50 foot U-Haul, and pulled our 22 boxes of vintage albums, 7 boxes of rocks and minerals, 2 cats, and 1 red Subaru wagon across the Rockies and the Dakotas and into Minnesota.

For the first five years I lived in the Minnesota, my number one goal was to move back to Montana. I missed the tall, grounded mountains. I missed my friends. I missed the slow pace and the way everyone knew everyone else. I missed tumbling down the Blackfoot River in yellow rubber rafts and hanging with men and women who seemed to really know what it meant to live off the land.

But then something happened. I started to mold to the sturdy independence and protective Midwestern resolve. I began to value the way the arts were supported, and the lakes and rivers were the cleanest in the country, and the neat rows of houses and gridded streets formed nice straight patterns I could follow on a map.

I learned to love stoicism, The Loft, the Walker, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (but never quite took a liking to hotdish or Rice Krispie treats). I traded the vastness of Lake Superior for the rounded glacial peeks surrounding the five valley area of Missoula.

This place changed me. And I let it. It’s been 23 years. I finally stopped telling everyone I was going to move back out West. And settled in – to me. But I still miss Montana. And once in a while, I break out in that Willis Alan Ramsey song, Goodbye Old Missoula. If you know the one I mean, maybe Missoula is one of your secret places, too.




Goodbye Old Missoula
by Willis Alan Ramsey



Searchin’ for the sunlight
On this winter’s day
But here in ol’ Missoula

They’ve thrown the sun away
Come tomorrow morning
I’m headed for the Bozeman Round

And it’s goodbye to ol’ Missoula
sleepy town

I met a girl named Rosie
Sweet as she could be
But I guess that Rosie
She didn’t have eyes for me

Time waits for no one
Lord, why did I hesitate
And it’s goodbye to ol’ Missoula
a day too late

Clouds that hang on the mountain
They make me lonesome inside
And these four walls surround me
Leaving no place to hide

Goodbye Rosie you’ll never know
Time tells, my love will pass
But if I just remember your smilin’ face
That’s all of time that I ask

Show in this town is over
Maybe just never began
And it’s goodbye to ol’ Missoula
done all that I can

And it’s goodbye to ol’ Missoula
goodbye to ol’ Missoula
goodbye to ol’ Missoula
Sleepy town



Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC – A PLACE TO STAND

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