Sunday, August 27, 2006

In My Little Town...

Here's a photo showing my hometown of Trempealeau, Wisconsin, from the mid 1960's, when I was a wee young girl. Not much has changed since then. Ok, a few things have - later this week I'll get a photo from the same spot for comparison. But one of the reasons I've stayed here all my life is that although there are better places, this one is pretty darned good. So when you start out someplace good to begin with, maybe the urge to roam isn't so strong. My Mom moved here from the bustling city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1952 when she married my Dad. I often asked her if she regretted leaving city life for "the sticks", and she never did. Sure there were some surprises and some disappointments, but she enjoyed the small town life, and raised me to have the same appreciation.

Why is this blogworthy? Today I took a walk around town, something I used to do almost daily, and need to get back to doing. I walked from my house at one end of town, to my brother's house at the other end. A half mile, through the "heart" of the village. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, a tranquil summer day.

On my return trip, I saw a family playing volleyball in their backyard. Further along, I walked through Central Park, and another family was there, having a picnic. There was laundry out on someone's clothesline; dozens of baby rompers. In another yard, a woman was picking flowers from her garden. Climbing the steps up the church hill, I wondered if the town could be any more Norman Rockwell than that. So like Lake Wobegon. I think this especially hit home because I realized at that moment that in a few days we would observe the 5th anniversary of 9-11. It shook us all, but five years later, at least in this little village, the appearance of life as usual was ever present.

That's something very precious to me. I know our town has changed in some ways. It will continue to grow, as the whole region is growing. But it's a comfort to know that on a warm summer afternoon, a walk through town is pretty much the same as it was 40-some years ago.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

On the Road Again....

I can't believe August is more than half over, and I haven't updated the blog. I should've known it would be a busy month! And here's how it started - with another road trip. This time the destination was Savanna, Illinois, for a work meeting. I took my own car, and was able to stop at a few roadside attractions, including "The Dickeyville Grotto" in Dickeyville, Wisconsin. This is my second grotto of the year, and it is quite expansive, with separate small grottos covering all of the churchyard, cemetery, and schoolyard. It was built in the 1920's by a Catholic priest, Father Wernerus, who died in 1931. Again, the themes are religion and patriotism, but this grotto also has much more of a park-like or garden atmosphere. Here is a detail of the top railing of the shrine "Patriotism in Stone." This series of anchors went completely around a large semi-circular area. This grotto also had more unusual fossils than in others I've seen, including sea urchins, eels, and other creatures. Where does one find sea urchins in Southwestern Wisconsin?

Places like this continue to amaze me. That they were built by people with little or no engineering skills is one thing. That they are still standing after more than 80 years is another. In our harsh Wisconsin winters, the freeze/thaw action wreaks havoc on even the most common concrete surfaces. Why these structures have not crumbled to pieces is truly a marvel. They inspire my creative spirit to no end. They give me this...