06 December 2011

Feeling challenged

Lots of things, people, ideas challenge me.  When I'm not cowering in fear, I spend deliberate time trying to understand why I react the way I do.  Sometimes end up feeling grateful for the uncertainty.

After NaNoWriMo ended, one of the staff members wrote a blog about having not made the word count this year.  She described what she had managed to write, describing the difficulties that had come her way during November.

She also included this long quote from another NaNoWriMo writer whose screen name is Saker Pup:
Every time you try something new, you risk failure. That’s why most people who aren’t small children don’t try new things.  They spend their lives creating a routine that will insulate them from doing anything unfamiliar because most people can’t do unfamiliar things perfectly. And if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing all the time, you might accidentally screw something up and fail. I’ll tell you a secret: I fail at most things, at least at first, and it hasn’t killed me yet. Failure isn’t something to be afraid of. Failure means I tried. Failure is the process I must endure before I can achieve success. Failure is beautiful.
To be honest, I wouldn't go so far as to agree with that last line.  Way too challenging.  But, the rest of it?  Do I ever need to take it to heart. 

Messing up.  Looking foolish.  Not being right.  A small price to pay for learning something, for growing up, for becoming.

05 December 2011


What follows is an email sent this morning from Whitby to his groomer, Denise.  She's also the founder and director of All God's Creatures, an animal rescue sanctuary here in Edgefield County.  Whitby and Belle generally board there when Tal and I have to be away.

Hi Miss Denise. This is Whitby.

I look like a "splosion" happened to me.   All I did was go down to the pond after breakfast. Somebody -- like that cat from across the pond or a raccoon or an opossum -- had been down there and I had to get my schnauzer nose close to it.   You understand, don't you? Well, the water's really low and the edge is really soft.   When I got back to the house and that Tal opened the door to let me in I had mud all the way up to all four elbows. My belly was a little messy, too.

Janet gave me a bath.   That's where the "splosion" part comes in.   I just knew it was going to be bad when my bud Tal plugged in Miss Janet's hairdryer.   She said it was because she didn't want me to stay wet and get cold.   I'm thinking punishment.   What about you?   Anyway, when that hair dryer and my ungroomed self got together ...   Well, I guess your imagination is telling you everything you really need to know.

I think I'd like to come and see you.   Could you look at your grooming calendar and let me know when I might be able to get cleaned up?   Janet's going to be gone all this week, but how about the 14th, 15th or 16th of next week?   Do you have time? Oh, and my pesky sister could do with a little work herself.   (Don't know what those two see in her, but anyway ...)

Thank you. Love, Whitby

Whitby has heard back from Denise.  The "beautimization" for both our four-legged family members will take place on the 15th.  Photos to follow.   

04 December 2011

I don't think so

One of the things I get around to doing sometime every Sunday is sifting through the fliers in the newspaper.  Some of them I do want to see, like the "SmartSource magazine" and "redplum" for the coupons and promotion codes they offer.  Others entertain and/or irritate depending almost entirely on my mood. 

I probably need not observe that this time of year the thickness of the pile of inserts towers over what's left after the separating's been done.  The news is overpowered by the stuff people want us to want.  They want us to want it enough to part with our money to get it.  Today the difference between the two piles was truly impressive.  The wanting us to want is reaching desperation stage, I guess. 

More impressive than the pile of inserts, however, was one claim that made me stop my sheep and goats routine.  At the bottom left on the front of the Sears ad these words appeared in a broad red strip:  Real Gifts Real Joy.  Both "reals" were green and the words "gifts" and "joy" were white.  All four words are uppercase and run together.  Definitely eye-catching.  But, oh so not true.  Not at Sears.  Not at any store.

I experienced real gifts and real joy just yesterday in our double destination trip to Columbia.  In the late morning (after successfully extricating ourselves from the Christmas parade traffic) we had a visit with my brother and his daughter at the USC School of Music -- and an undistinguished lunch at Wendy's.  Then, Tal and I attended a funeral for a member of Tal's family in the early afternoon.  Meeting traffic and the lackluster food with good humor, being witness to the beginning of a college career and to the end of a long life, standing with blood and by marriage family, loving and being loved ... those are the real gifts and the real joys. 

My admonition to myself and to anyone else who cares to listen?  Real gifts and real joy cannot be purchased.  Real gifts and real joy spring out of relationship.  Don't accept any substitute no matter how clever the marketing or bold the promise.

03 December 2011

Small contributions

This Saturday morning Tal and I left home bound for Columbia under bluebird skies.  As the driver, my mind was on the string of turns and towns I needed to negotiate to get us the 30 rural miles from home to the interstate.

Nevertheless, I couldn't miss the fact that it was a gorgeous day.  The deciduous trees are for most part devoid of leaves now, revealing the folding, curving contours of the land.  I love the fact that ponds, normally tucked away and out of sight, glint in the sun, declaring themselves through the winter-thinned woods.

Along that route through the countryside we encountered a sight that sparked a shift in our conversation.  Between Johnston and Ward we passed by what we assumed to be an abandoned car on the side of the road.  That assumption, however, was re-calculated when we began noticing fat orange plastic bags in the grass.  Nearly a mile later we came upon four people wearing orange vests working their way to closer to Ward and filling orange bags .

A very short distance later?  You guessed it, maybe?  Several people on the other side of the road headed in the direction of Johnston leaving a trail of stuffed orange bags.  And, finally, a second "abandoned car," also on the opposite side of the road.  The way we figure it, those eight people had taken on about two miles, perhaps more.  It was clearly a coordinated effort -- each group probably arriving in one car and departing in another.

It's too bad the roadsides need such attention.  I don't want to get caught up in that line of thought.  I'm sufficiently practiced at complaining; no need to invest additional time developing that skill. 

More interesting and important,  not to mention impressive, are those folks we saw on this Saturday morning.  They were making a small, positive contribution to Highway 23 and to the common good.  Yes, the roadside will become littered again.  But, what they were doing, indeed, what they were offering, matters. 

Small, positive contributions.  What's mine going to be?  And, yours ... ?

02 December 2011

Greet one another

Tal and I received our first Christmas card in yesterday's mail.  Since our decorations are still packed away, I don't yet have access to the basket we traditionally deposit the cards in as they arrive.

Our lone Christmas card is, for the moment, standing on my desk.  My eyes have been drawn to it repeatedly over the course of the day.  Featuring on its front an illustration of a donkey and a poem about the donkey's role in the nativity story, it makes me smile.

What doesn't make me smile is the in-full-swing annual greeting war.  And, it's only December 2nd.  We do find the oddest things to fulminate over all the while letting some real monsters slide by.  But, that's another topic for another day.

It seems to me that when we greet one another at this time of year it's generally well-intentioned, no matter what actual words are uttered.  So why are we putting to the test what people say -- or write -- to us?  After all the now-questioned "greetings of the season" was found on pre-1900 Victorian-era cards and "happy holidays" was added to Christmas parlance by none other than Irvin Berlin in 1942 with his song of the same name.

Since then holiday creep has had its way with us.  Christmas, in reality a day and a half event at most and a 12-day season running from Christmas Eve to the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6th) for some few Christian denominations, is now an end of the year celebration stretching from Thanksgiving through New Years.  And, Christians are not the only ones doing the celebrating.

So, say what you feel called to say between now and early January.  But, please go easy on the folks who greet you.  They are trying to be pleasant.  Receive the hope their greetings are intended to convey.  Judging them -- the greeters and the greetings --  sort of means you're missing the point, the point not only of the words offered to you but of the season you might be trying to uphold as well.

01 December 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 and beyond

During the month of November I participated in National Novel Writers Month.  I have to admit to several serious inner conversations during the 30 days which centered on two primary questions:  "What do you think you are doing?" and "Just who to you think you are?" 

First of all, to "win" NaNoWriMo one has to come up with 50,000 words.  Some really famous novels are not much longer than that, "As I Lay Dying" (William Faulkner), for example.  When I passed that word count goal this past Monday night (very nearly Tuesday morning), I'd also produced 200 double spaced pages of text. 

Second, until a friend in late September invited me to explore the possibility of participating this year, I had never, ever considered writing a novel.  For the entire month of October I wondered if I had a story in me and if, through 50,000 words and 200+ pages I could possibly keep my story straight.  The answer to that last question is a very clearly articulated "absolutely not."
So, here I am the day after the deadline.  With the imminent addition of maybe a half dozen chapters the story will be pretty much told.  Then, I will have to decide what to do next.  Even a pretty good first draft is just that and, believe me, I'm not claiming "pretty good" by any means.  What I have in 200 pages is full of inconsistencies, forgotten details, missing characters, lost opportunities.  The rewrite, I suspect -- should I persevere, will be harder than November's "thirty days and nights of literary abandon" (a quote from the NaNoWriMo website).  But, I'm thinking I have to press on.

There's a reason for that hunch.  I am 58 years old.  Through the arc of the past month I have been as focused as I think I've ever been.  One of the longings I have had during my life has been to find myself truly involved in something.  I'm not looking for the same sort of pressure as one might see in a movie where the main characters have 24 hours to save the world or anything.  Too intense.  I'm more interested in being deeply involved, engrossed, wholly caught up in a project that has captured me. 

During my working career, yes, I was involved, but most of what I was doing was what others wanted me to do.  I was conscientious and dedicated and thorough.  Sadly, for most part, I was running scared, ever fearful of not getting it all done and of being judged negatively.  But for the past 30 days I've thought about my characters, deliberated over making up a location for the action or setting the story in a known place, wondered what could happen next and how the main character might react, worried about characters that hadn't been heard from in dozens of pages, been honestly surprised at what appeared on the screen in front of me. 

I have been with the story and those characters for 30 days and I've loved every minute of it -- even when I was too tired to type another word, when the story was going nowhere, when my inner editor was telling me terrible things, not only about the story, but about me, when it felt as though the 50,000 total was eluding me rather than moving closer. 

Here's the thing: I was loving it even when I was hating it.  That's what I'm talking about ...  

18 July 2011

Monday morning

So far it's been an easy day.  We were up right on time and Tal left for the golf course at 8:30 for a 9:00 tee time.  After the morning routine of writing, making the bed and vacuuming the bedroom I went for a three mile walk with the camera.  If all went well, I should have a Flickr image to post in a bit.

I have just finished doing something amazingly fun.  Last week I had an email from Shutterfly, a photo service I use from time to time when I want a larger photograph than my printer can produce.  They were offering 12 free correspondence cards.  My first thought was something along the lines of "yeah, sure" and I skipped over the email.  But, while in the process of cleaning out my inbox this morning (it does get cluttered so fast), I decided to look into the offer.

Very cool.  I played with card designs, fonts and print colors for half an hour and my 12 cards should be on their way in a day or two.  Yes, I had to pay shipping ...  Here's a Shutterfly link if you'd like to check it out for yourself.

Now I need to get on with a household chore or two (I have been very conscientious of late).  Tal's due home about 1:00.  After a little lunch grass duty is on the agenda.

12 June 2011

How could I ever choose?

With the camera in hand late today I went for a long -- and sweaty -- walk.  The dogs, who smartly declined the invitation to go with me, became my subjects while I cooled down back home in the air-conditioning.  They are my favorite subjects.

It had crossed my mind to use one of those photographs as my image of the day.  But, I couldn't choose.  Both dogs possess charming characteristics.  I couldn't bear to play favorites.

So, the image of the day on Flickr is a grainy shot of a sunset which I had viewed from the 13th green at our local golf course during the walk.  It'll just have to do.

Here -- getting equal time -- are Whitby and Belle!

Whenever she gets the chance, Belle "takes" my end of the
sofa.  Then, she watches to see if I've noticed.  This image was
taken from the chair to which I'd been relegated.

Whitby and I had been playing with Foxy,
partially visible in the left portion of this image.
Whitby would toss Foxy on the floor, I'd put
Foxy back on the pillow and then we'd do it
again.  Whitby tired of the game, but kept his
eyes firmly fixed on me.

02 June 2011

O'Hare redeemed

It had to happen one day ...

Tal and I will have been married 21 years just past midway through next month.  And, in at least half a dozen attempts over the years we have never had a good experience flying into, out of or through Chicago's O'Hare Airport.  Any number of things has kept us aloft, grounded, delayed.  Thunderstorms nearing the southern end of Lake Michigan.  Ground delay in Atlanta.  Overweight aircraft (requiring removal of passengers and finding their luggage in the hold).

Today our frustrating and humorous track record changed. 

After another early morning (to which Tal awoke without yesterday's fever) and fabulous Embassy Suites breakfast we were aboard our coach at the main entrance to the hotel at 8:30.  O'Hare was first on the schedule, followed by Midway. 

But, wait.  The luggage which had been picked up from our rooms at 6:30 hadn't been brought downstairs yet.  I had a bad feeling ...  Did part of me want the day to be a snarl-filled trial?  Is the O'Hara "badge" we've worn for all these years something I didn't actually want to give up?  I wonder.

Anyway, despite the initial delay, we ended up at the US Airways counter ahead of schedule, obtained boarding passes and handed over our suitcases, breezed -- unshod -- through security and were seated at our gate for the 12:10 flight before 10:00.  Then, wonder of wonders, the flight boarded on time and, since all passengers were accounted for, we were airborne early.  Once in Charlotte the shuttle to remote parking was where and when we were told to expect it.  We found the car -- covered with 17 days of grit -- and were home before 7:00.

In short, the we could not have asked for a smoother day of travel.  Tomorrow we'll fetch Whitby and Belle from All God's Creatures, start the washer to churning, tackle the grass and plow through the mail.  For the moment, however, I'm going to be content with the end of our long-antagonistic relationship with O'Hare.

01 June 2011

River and lake

At the end of our full day in Chicago I scarcely know where to start.  I am tired enough simply to fall into bed, but that won't do much to organize my thoughts.  First on my mind is Tal whose flirtation with a cough and cold morphed into a near collapse at mid-day.  Helping him hold it together and getting him home is my priority now.

The day started normally enough.  We were in the lobby at 6:30 for breakfast, greeted by a beaming Shirley (originally from Mississippi) who introduced us to the marvels of what the Embassy Suites offers for the day's first meal.  My made-to-order bacon/cheese omelet was prepared along with three others, all with different combinations of ingredients, by a cheerful and unflustered chef.  She was going to carry on like that until 10:00.  I was awed at the time and I am enormously impressed after the fact.

The day's schedule included an architectural boat tour, followed by lunch and a presentation at the Art Institute of Chicago, an afternoon to roam and a farewell dinner aboard the Spirit of Chicago.  When first thing Tal agreed to a walk across Columbus Drive to a pharmacy for a cold remedy before we boarded the coach for the drive to the Navy Pier, I was pleased and relieved.  He'd resisted taking anything for days.

The boat tour was great.  Our guide reminded me slightly of Reverend Jim, the character on the 1970s television show, Taxi.  Full of information, funny, a little spaced out.  From our position in a small flat boat on the Chicago River (and its South Branch) the buildings all around and above us -- old and new -- were overwhelming.  The situation gave the term "craning one's neck" a more literal meaning than I'd experienced before.  My photographs don't do justice to the city's architectural wonders.  Chicago is yet another city I would like to visit again.

Trump International Hotel and Tower (center), Wrigley Building (light facade right of center) with North Shore Drive bridge (foreground)
Tribune Tower, completed in 1925
A view of buildings on the Chicago River's South Branch.  The Sears/Willis Tower is in the center with the Civic Opera House directly in front of it.

From the Navy Pier at the end of the architectural tour we went immediately to the Art Institute where, after a snafu with my backpack (long and strange story), we had a delightful and delicious lunch in the Garden Cafe, an establishment featuring sustainable, local and seasonable ingredients. It was as we were walking to the rendez-vous point to meet our Art Institute guide for the presentation that Tal told me how really terrible he felt. We parted from the group for a very slow stroll with several breather stops -- about a mile -- back to the hotel. No, he didn't need a taxi. Once there, Tal fell into a deep sleep with me sitting by the bed. No, he didn't need a doctor.

On our walk back to the hotel we crossed
Columbus Drive on the BP Pedestrian
Bridge, a girder footbridge with stainless
steel parapets.
Looking up at Aqua, a building whose balconies call to mind the limestone outcroppings along Lake Michigan.

Late in the afternoon at Tal's insistence I went with the group for the farewell dinner on Lake Michigan.  It wasn't the same without him, but my table companions were wonderful, the food was good, the wait staff provided energetic song and dance routines.   All that and watching night fall and the fireworks which followed made for a memorable experience.
POSTSCRIPT:  Over the past new days I have more than hinted at missing the Grande Mariner.  Every hour of every day!  Well, from my point of view tonight truly brought our overland adventure to a fitting conclusion.  Who, pray tell, built the Spirit of ChicagoBlount Boats of Warren RI.  The task masters of the sea.  The Grande Mariner it wasn't, but how fitting and what a satisfaction.

31 May 2011

Curves and angles

This has been our longest travel day of the trip both in time and in distance.  Dearborn -- Hyatt Regency just off Michigan Avenue -- to Chicago -- Embassy Suites Downtown, mostly on I-94, almost 300 miles and nearly seven hours, including a one hour time change.  I did some writing aboard the coach in my last row nest, along with some pretty serious napping. 

Looking across the
Hyatt's atrium at the
open corridors
I am surprised by the fatigue I am experiencing.  One would think that not having to drive or to plot the route would leave me rested.  But, that is not the case.  At the moment, however, despite the length of the day, it seems as though I walked out of a curvy hotel one minute and into an angular one the next.
Detail (in black and white) of the circular six-story light fixture
in atrium of the Hyatt Regency, Dearborn MI

The Embassy Suite's open --
and straight-sided -- atrium
See what I mean?  Spacious, more airy and open than Dearborn.  Not as soft or as enveloping. I find it intriguing that, when I walk into either one (or a charming B&B or a nice Hampton Inn for that matter), I respond very positively.  Which do I like better?  I would be hard-pressed to say.  For tonight, squared-off is good.

The ceiling/roof of the Embassy Suites Downtown, looking up and toward the elevator lobbies.  The pattern is distinct, making locating the building with Google Earth a snap.

Our in transit hours, though, were not without highlights -- beyond the napping and writing. 
  • Our lunch was at an Olive Garden in the vicinity of Kalamazoo.  Our experience, Tal's and mine, with that chain is that service is slow.  But, not today.  A staff of five was standing by when the coach pulled into the parking lot.  We were seated in a reserved dining room, ate sumptuously (salad and their signature bread sticks for me) and were back on the interstate in slightly over an hour.
  • Despite still sitting on the left side of the bus, I spied two intriguing signs -- also while we were near Kalamazoo.  The town of Portage MI declares itself "a place for opportunities to grow."  I'd like to know more about that.  And, I also spotted a sign for the Air Zoo.  That I have since looked up -- an aviation museum and amusement park (located where? why Portage, of course).  It boasts an impressive array of aircraft, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.  I could be convinced to go exploring ...
  • Since we were, on the original itinerary (on Plans A and B, in fact, the bus adventure being Plan C) supposed to spend a day at Mackinac Island, near the intersection of Lakes Michigan and Huron, we watched an hour+ long DVD, "Ice Bridge," about the three-mile span of ice that some winters allows islanders to pass to the mainland.  This link will take you to a minute and a half preview of the DVD if you'd like to take a look.  We didn't get to spend the day and the DVD didn't really help with the attendant loss, but the show was truly lovely. 
  • I wrote in my journal "3:35 ...  Lake Michigan."  I don't know what our precise location was for that first view and I don't know what time zone it was.  From that sight, however, its vastness was evident.

As I watched from the corridor outside our room, a couple
of teenagers coming from the pool stopped by the table
where an adult they knew was sitting, leaving their wet foot-
prints on the stone/tile/slate floor. 
 So, we're in Chicago.  I'll sign off with two final images, other views that captured my attention after our arrival.

The view from our room is north.  Through a canyon of tall buildings and over several parking garages one can see the tower (with flags flying) of the Montgomery Ward Memorial Building at Northwestern University.

30 May 2011

A day at the Henry Ford

Sunrise over the Maumee River

A distinct advantage to being in a hotel -- on the 8th floor with an easterly view -- and to being up early for the re-packing, check-out routine is the opportunity to see a sunrise.  We were rewarded brilliantly this morning with this glowing scene of the sun through low clouds and the cable array of the Veterans' Glass City Skyway. 

After breakfast I had a few minutes to explore the Promenade Park which runs along the Maumee River and all but surrounds the hotel.  It seemed a shame to miss it, just out the door of the hotel as it was, no matter how short our stay.

Our hotel reflected in the side of the Fifth Third Center at One SeaGate

Propylaea by Dimitri Hadzi
This granite sculpture/fountain stands in Maritime Plaza's reflecting pool between our hotel the Fifth Third Center.  Its name, Prophylea, is the Greek word for "gateway."  In its position it marks the entrance to SeaGate and Toledo, the city having been the gateway to exploration, invention, transportation and industry which helped forge the nation.  It was good to recapture a hint of our trip's theme just under our window! 

View downstream from the hotel with the Promenade Park waterfront and
the Anthony Wayne Bridge (aka the "High-Level Bridge") in the background

View upstream from the hotel
The bridges in order are:
Cherry Street Bridge, Craig Memorial Bridge (both Bascule deck drawbridges),
the new cable-stayed Veterans' Glass City Skyway.

It was a short ride from Toledo to The Henry Ford Museum (referred to as The Henry Ford these days) and Greenfield Village -- about 50 miles.  We arrived very early and were free to explore for the day.  Here again, I was transported back to childhood and wonderful family activities, having visited this Dearborn attraction with my immediate family and with aunts, uncles and cousins in the 1960s.

Even though we would have enjoyed wandering the village, it turned out to be the warmest day of our trip -- very hot even to us southerners.  That coupled with the fact that it was Memorial Day and the place was over run, the Civil War was being reenacted, complete with scruffy, wool-clad soldiers -- Rebel and Union -- in the mix between battles.  And, believe it or not, campfires burned cheerfully at every encampment.  It looked hot in addition to being hot.  We made for the shade of the museum -- spacious, cool, interesting and not nearly as popular as the village.

Tail light detail of Regan's
1982 Lincoln
Transportation, of course, is pretty much the name of the game at The Henry Ford.  The exhibit of presidential limousines was front and center.  The 1982 Lincoln is the last of the national cars that will be preserved.  Later cars have been and will be destroyed at the end of their service to keep their construction and component information secure.  The line of cars was a great spot for photographing specific characteristics of each vehicle.

Hood ornament , 1950 Lincoln, the Eisenhower "Bubbletop"

Door handle detail, "Bubbletop"
Looks like an intense pair of eyes to me ...

Having been introduced to DeWitt Clinton's strategy for getting the Erie Canal built, it was fun to see the reproduction of the 1831 train bearing his name.  Essentially, it's a stagecoach on rails.

The 1939 Douglas DC-3 

Our accommodation for the night is at the Hyatt Regency Dearborn, a huge hotel overlooking Ford's world headquarters, the distant Detroit skyline visible from our room.  Dinner at the hotel, with no food service except in the bar, was a long and tedious affair.  Seems the manager had closed all the restaurants for Memorial Day even though there was a fair number of guests and our group had been issued dinner vouchers.

The situation reminded me of a sign someone put up on the Grande Mariner's bulletin board after the announcement was made that we'd not finish the waterways excursion on the ship.   It's true, I know, but I do sigh anyway.

29 May 2011

Along Erie's edge

We departed Cleveland after breakfast this morning, glimpsing again the wide streets, generous green space with its public sculpture, multitudes of bridges before finding the interstate and continuing our westerly travel.  Cleveland was attractive to me.  I say that realizing we saw it over a weekend (with none of the daily traffic and attendant busyness) and in the early summer (as opposed to dead of winter), both factors making getting around and experiencing the spaciousness of the downtown relatively easy.

I felt at a low ebb today.  Packing, unpacking, repacking and off and on the coach is having an effect.  Rather than read or write during our initial 75-mile drive I indulged in a time of contented dozing in my cocoon of a back seat.  It's pretty cool actually.  Two seats to myself (Tal is one seat forward), a place to nestle my Chewonki coffee mug securely between sips, nice legroom, an unobstructed line-of-sight to the nearest video monitor, a good view of the landscape off the left side of the coach.

The real upside to the day was our list of destinations, specifically the Marblehead Peninsula, which, like Niagara Falls, provided me another sweet connection with the past.  Thanks to my dad and his brother, Bob, I have photographs of their family during the 1930s enjoying outings along Lake Erie's edge at that locale.  I was looking forward as we rode along to spending at least a few minutes savoring the experience of walking where they walked and seeing what they saw some 70+ years ago.  Sentimental sap, I know, but true.

The Keeper's House

Window detail
Our first stop was the Keeper's House, the private residence of the first keeper of the Marblehead Lighthouse, Benajah Wolcott and his wife, Rachel Miller. Located a surprising distance along the lake shore from lighthouse (nearly three miles), it was built in 1822 of native limestone, its design known as "hall and parlor."  Owned now by the Ottawa County Historical Society, it is run by volunteers.

Front step detail with flowers

The original name for the lighthouse was
the Sandusky Bay Light.
The lighthouse itself was a very popular destination on a Sunday morning.  It was becoming a a warm day, threatening to become overcast.  A steady breeze from the water made our visit a comfortable one, a visit which was, of course, much too short.  I walked the rocks at the edge of the lake, though, recalling several people from my past who would have taken the next step -- literally -- and have gotten their feet wet!

The Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest continuing lighthouse in operation on the United States side of the Great Lakes, still a valuable aid to navigation.

I am not certain how I managed it with a seminary education, which included a course in church history on this side of the Atlantic, but I -- until today -- missed the Chautauqua Movement entirely.  Our mid-day stop was at Lakeside: The Chautauqua on Lake Erie, also on the Marblehead Peninsula, a couple of miles west of the lighthouse.  There we were treated to lunch in the airy dining room of the inn overlooking the shoreline, followed by an informative lecture about Lakeside and the American Chautauqua Movement from Kevin Sibbring, president of Lakeside.  Rather than attempt a several sentence explanation about the place and the movement, I am including a link to the Lakeside website here

Suffice it to say, however, that Lakeside is a lively, vital place.  In fact, I found the feel and atmosphere very familiar.  Lakeside exudes the same kind of settled, contented, smug ambiance that permeates most religious retreat centers I've visited.  That's not a negative by any means.  Rather, the folks who love the place and make their way there every year, or more often, do so to enjoy a place of safety, a place where day-to-day challenges can be set aside for a time and where other pastimes and interests can be explored.  In addition to the descriptors "lively" and "vital," perhaps I should add "restorative."

A view of the Pavilion (left of center) and the Hotel Lakeside (dome visible to right of center) as seen from the end of the dock.

It was less than 50 miles from Lakeside to the Crowne Plaza (overlooking the Maumee River) in Toledo.  We were fortunate that we arrived, were unloaded and to our room before the first of three waves of storm passed through.  From our 8th floor window we watched a wedding in the park between the hotel and the office building next door end in the nick of time. 

Given the wild weather not all of us decided to try to make the Mud Hens baseball game.  Rather than walking to Fifth Third Field as planned, the intrepid among us were dropped off at the field -- and into a clearing evening, I might add -- by the bus.  Our All-American supper (potato chips, potato salad, slaw, baked beans, corn on the cob, hot dogs, hamburgers, lemonade, soft drinks chocolate chip cookies, watermelon) was served in a banquet room next to our seats in The Roost overlooking first base.  Restraint was so hard. 

The field from our seats

By game time it was a golden evening.  Nestled as we were in among the tall buildings of Toledo's downtown, we could see threatening clouds still off to the north while a gentle sunset behind the home team dugout side of the stadium lit up the sky.  Turns out the game we watched (which the Mud Hens lost to the Durham Bulls) was to have been the afternoon game of a doubleheader (the Saturday afternoon game having been rained out), but it rained this afternoon, too, remember?.  When we left to stroll back to the hotel after 9:00, the second game was getting under way and I don't know if the Mud Hens redeemd themselves or not.  I do know that the second game ended at 11:50, the fireworks audible and long.  I was glad to be curled up and abed by then.

28 May 2011

How did we end up here?

Just pinch me.  A Holiday Inn Express this isn't.  Not even a Hampton.

This is the front entrance to the Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade from across Superior Avenue.  One of the earliest indoor shopping malls in the country, it opened in May 1890, Victorian through and through.  Our room overlooks the entrance on the top floor in this photograph.

The door to our room on the 4th floor

From the windows looking in

The view from the position of our room's door, but two floors down
(so as not to have the Hyatt sign/banner competition), featuring 300' of skylight and four wrap-around balconies. 

Skylight detail

Stairwell detail

We look out our windows at the Cleveland Public Library -- the original 1925-building and the new 1997-wing.  They are connected underground and by the Eastman Reading Garden, which has a beguiling set of gates.

Gates into Eastman Reading Garden at the Cleveland Public Library

Gate detail

All in all, I'm thinking the Road Scholar, Blount, Coastal Discoveries people are feeling really bad about our having been put off the boat ...

And, now for Cleveland

What a night.  The Hyatt is a beautiful hotel, but it's a holiday weekend and there was a fraternity convention in house.  The noise level was mind-boggling, from screaming to door-slamming.  It was relentless and went on all night.  The only upside -- yes, there was at least one -- was this:  it was raining and the view from our window onto the wet street with the street lights glowing in the mist and cars moving along was extremely pretty.  I don't need to say that I started out the day tired.  (Do I need to add that I miss the boat?  Didn't think so.)

Our group broke up this morning, some people having chosen to go home early rather than travel by coach.  The continuing group fits easily on one bus and we were in Cleveland by lunch.  That lunch was served in Bytes, a second floor meeting room at the Great Lakes Science Center, a glass-sided room overlooking the lobby and the North Coast Harbor.  I could hardly wait to get started.  The 618-foot William G Mather was floating right outside and we all had tour tickets. 

From the wheelhouse looking aft
The Mather is a 1925 Great Lakes straight deck bulk carrier and was for a time the flagship of the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Mining Company.  It was retired in 1980, having been updated significantly at least three times, serving for 65 years. 

We were guided by a retired Navy man who, first, loves that boat and, second, was mindful of people touring and the perilous nature of the stairs.  That is, he was understanding as people chose to cut short their visit, but kept moving.  Eventually, there were only four of us left and each time he asked if we'd like to see something -- the engine room or the galley, for example, we said yes.  Tal and I went from the bow to the stern, from the depths of the hold to the wheel on the upper aft deck, from the Victorian staterooms to the four-story engine room.

We spent the rest of our time in and around the science center, a fabulous place, boasting 400 interactive exhibits and both a solar array (disguised as an entrance portico) and a wind turbine in the middle of the front lawn.  It shares real estate with the Cleveland Browns Stadium and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I thought the name of the downstairs eating establishment pretty clever.

At 4:00 on the dot we were picked up by "Lolly the Trolley" (yes, the tour company also has "Gus the Bus") for an hour-long tour of downtown Cleveland.  Frankly, it was pretty much a blur.  It was also impossible to photograph anything from that cute but jouncing conveyance.  Tal and I walked back later to Public Square and Cleveland Mall to get these three photographs (not surprisingly, all verticals).

Old Stone Church
This is the second building completed in 1855,
which replaced the original 1834 structure.

Marshall Fredericks' "Fountain of Eternal Life"
on Cleveland Mall in from of Key Tower,
the tallest building in Ohio, completed in 1991.

Terminal Tower
It was the second tallest building in the world
when it was completed in 1928.

While touring we even crossed the Cuyahoga River into Ohio City and saw (from the trolley) the Westside Market; St John's Episcopal Church, one of the stops on the Underground Railroad; and where the Grande Mariner would have docked (I couldn't look ...) had we come that far by water. 

It had been a super long day by the time "Lolly" dropped us at our hotel -- the Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade -- a splendid location which deserves a post all its own.