Thursday, September 28, 2006


Temperatures are dipping and soon the frost will be on the pumpkin. Summer is over, the last county fair has closed it's gates until next year. The steel grey clouds hang over the landscape promising the snow to come.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I spotted this young man walking along the State Route this morning. The image of him walking begged for answers. This is not roadway that is friendly to pedestrians and it seems, unbeknownst to him he was just about 500 yards from a walking/bike path that stretches for some 30 miles from east to west, built upon an old rail bed.

The sleeping bag suggests one thing, but the tiny backpack certainly couldn't carry much that one would need to survive on the road.

Instantly I thought of Jesse White Crow who is walking across America. I dream at night about writing as good as Jesse. The images he paints linger on long after the words have faded. I wonder about the people he's encountered and those who tuck his walk card into their wallets.

One day when my daughter and I were driving along, I enthusiatically related the story of Jesse's walk and how the prospect of such an adventure was so exciting and daunting at the same time. Her reaction was certainly not what I expected and I was shocked when she said, "You mean he's walking and mooching off people along the way?"

Huh? As I said....shock. I've thought about her statement and perhaps she hasn't been beat down by life yet, and hasn't needed to dream those daydreams borne out of the sheer grind of putting food on the table, changing diapers and paying a mortgage. Several years of that will make a solo walk across America seem like a cruise to Tahiti.

Let's just say I believe that Jesse is seeing what people are made of. Some have open doors, open kitchens and open hearts. Others have locked the door and plastered it over with suspicion, distrust and a good dose of all about me.

I check out his site every day. So should you.

dent corn

Fall is upon us and the corn crop is approaching time for harvest.

It's also corn maze time. All over northern Illinois the agri-tourist industry is growing and family farms are creating a little business on the side by offering pumpkins, hay bales, honey, jams & jellies and a chance to make your way through a corn maze.

Last year some friends from the Chicago Photobloggers group make the trek out from the big city to spend a grey and chilly afternoon in a maze in Elburn. It was disappointing because the drought had severely affected the crop which was so short you could see over it. That didn't make for much of a challenge. When the corn crop is it's normal height a corn maze can be very disorienting. For that reason you're given a flag in case you really get lost and panicked.

I remember the scene in the movie Signs, when Mel Gibson's character and his brother go running willy nilly into the corn field. Everyone in the small town theater had a big laugh at that. It's not something you'd do unless you were prepared to spend a couple hours finding your way back out.

Monday, September 25, 2006

for ava

Ava is one of our Farmers Wife Porch Sitters. That's the affectionate name I give to the community of folks who honor me with their presence almost every day. There are lots of regulars and I appreciate each and every person who takes the time out of their day to view my efforts.

It's always amazing to me the paradigm shift in the world of information that has been brought about by the internet. On the right hand side of this blog you'll see a list of link to others, including some from around the world in Iran. I've been meaning to talk to Bavand and Farouk about updating their sites - get with it guys!

The fact is that with a computer, internet access and a half hour of your time, you too can become a publisher. That's exciting stuff for someone who feels they have something to say, whether it be through words, pictures or music. Just this weekend the Chicago Tribune (otherwise known as one of the "big boys") published a story about a woman sitting out on a farm in rural Illinois producing fresh vegetables for the market. Skads of city dwellers read her diaries of life on the farm and find something of value in escaping for just a few moments to a quieter and simpler life.

My hope is that you can escape through my images. Find a calm and comforting place, although I'm not beyond images of the chaos of encroaching civilization.

But back to the music. Ava is my musical porch sitter par excellence. I thought she might enjoy this photo taken at Garfield Farm's Harvest celebration. These gentlemen were providing some beautiful music, accompanied by some off-key turkeys! I do remember one of their tunes, "Whiskey for Breakfast"....not something I would suggest, unless it was homemade sour mash.

Check the list on the right for Ava's blog, Fun for Me, Music for You.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

goat talk

For those of you within driving distance of northern Illinois, make plans to attend Garfield Farm & Museum's Fall Harvest Days.

Jerry Johnson, his staff and army of dedicated volunteers provide a day of fun and education. Last year there was live music, candle dipping, cooking, corn shelling spinning and more. This year Reid Miller, tall tale storyteller, will be there as well as a sheep dog demonstration and other interesting peeks into the way a farm operated in the past.

The exciting news this year is that it appears an archaeological team has located the location of the original log cabin. Some small artifacts have already been discovered. Somone will be on hand to explain the "dig".

Bring the kids, bring a picnic lunch or try the catered food that is offered for a small charge. Look for me, I'll have at least two cameras around my neck.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


One of the sunflowers has dropped it's head, unable to maintain the weight of the heavy seeds on a dying stalk.

I've lived in a place where beautiful flowers grew year-round. It was boring in it's sameness. I look forward to winter's brings a different magic.

Monday, September 18, 2006


The sunflowers have seen better days. They're looking sad and bare, having lost most of their blooms. Soon the large seed heads will be a wintertime bird feeder.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


The air has cooled in the evening and a quick visit to the garden reveals that the growing season is winding down. Another year completes its cycle.

This beautiful purple cabbage will add color to our dinner salad.

Fall is my favorite time of year. Soon the air will be tinged with woodsmoke and maple sugaring will begin.

Friday, September 15, 2006

moonrise over ouachita

On our recent trip we had a chance to stand on the mountaintop and watch the moon rise over the Ouachita range.

There's an old saying, "How you gonna keep them down on the farm, after they've seen Paree?"

This is the way.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


In the middle of rural central Illinois lies the town of Normal. Home to my student daughter, Illinois State University and their team, the Redbirds.

I'm often drawn to images that have a contrast. In this case the clean and graphic billboard opposed to the old gas station and garage that supports it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

William Wren

In remembrance -

William Wren - age 61
Resident Manger - OCS Security
Confirmed Dead - World Trade Center

William Wren, a retired New York City firefighter, worked for OCS Securiy as fire security officers in the World Trade Centers.

Raised in Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn, Wren graduated from James Madison High School, served three years in the U.S. Army and joined the New York City Fire Departmaent. People remember him as a quiet, reserved man who never spoke of his firefighting adventures.

The New York Port Authority contracted with OCS as part of the additional safety precautions that were put into place after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Five employees of OCS died on September 11, including Wren's neighbor of over thirty years, Richard Fitzsimons.

Both men were at work on that morning and Wren called his wife Pat shortly after 9 a.m. to say he was OK. But sirens were wailing in the background. Ten minutes later he called back to say that Richard was also OK and that Pat should call his wife and let her know.

That was a last time either family heard from the men. It is known that the continued to perform their jobs, along with the other OTC employees who were lost - Philip Hayes, Larry Boisseau and Robert Mayo. They evacuated the day care center first, and with their intimate knowledge of the building continued to evacuate and bring others to safety.

These are just the barest facts of his life and his actions on that day. To tell his whole story, the story of his life and his death, would take an entire book. There are those who can look at his photo and remember him as the man who save their lives. How would you ever repay a debt of that magnitude? You could remember.... and vow to live your life with the caliber of character exhibited by this man.

This post is part of the project "2996", and I encourage you to take some time out of your day and read about some of the others who were lost that day.

Just people..... just doing their jobs....thrust into extreme circumstances. Everyday heroes.

I want William Wren's wife Pat and their children to know that they are in my thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

cortez beach

A chill has touched the air and the soybeans are turning from green to gold, signaling the end of summer.

A lovely lazy afternoon on Cortez Beach is just a pleasant memory.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

central avenue

Central Avenue and Bathhouse Row is the place to be in Hot Springs. It's where the locals and tourists mingle in their constant parade up and down both sides of the street. These beautiful women represent two generations, in more ways than one. It's fun to go early in the morning and watch as the place awakes. The sun comes up and illuminates the beautiful dome of the Quapaw bathhouse.

The Ranger arrives for his shift at the Fordyce, the jewel of the National Park. Through the heavily detailed window you can see the spectacular stained glass ceiling on the third floor.

If the north is a lovely watercolor, the south is a wild, colorful tapestry where characters are larger than life.

Friday, September 08, 2006

the artist

While enjoying Garvan Woodland Garden in Hot Springs, we came upon this artist set up along the large pond filled with Koi.

It was a perfect spot to capture the tranquil beauty of the place.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

the garage

City planners, developers and architects are doing something right in Hot Springs. Their work has a definite vitality and just makes sense. It's good to see that development doesn't always get a black eye and that in the hands of talented and visionary people, the community can be a better place, not just a bigger, more congested place.

Parking has long been a problem in the small downtown area. Central Avenue is lined with the Bathhouses, shops, restaurants and galleries. Small parking lots were tucked in between the buildings and some were behind under the rock wall cliffs.

Plans were made to build a public parking garage that would allow a large number of cars to occupy a very small footprint. Not just any parking garage - but a very beautifully designed building. The Hot Springs architectural firm of French Harris was hired to produce the design.

The building has many classical elements, but the most ingenious touch is the stepped fountain which physically and visually connects the garage with Central Avenue, leading people to their destination.

One great example that development that adds to the quality of life in a community. Kudos to Hot Springs and French Harris.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

anthony chapel

I was anxious to return to Garvan Woodland Gardens on this trip to Hot Springs. The last time I was in town they had begun construction of the Anthony Chapel designed by architects Maurice Jennings and David McKee who were associates of the renowned Arkansas architect Fay Jones.

The chapel has just been completed and there's a dedication ceremony scheduled on the day of my birthday!

There is no words to explain the feelings evoked as you approach the chapel on the beautifully crafted stone walkway. It rises out of the forest floor and soars among the treetops. The wooden beams are a nod to the vaulted ceilings of European cathedrals, but the walls and ceiling are all glass. It all looks too impossible.

I've given some thought to the feeling of standing in this structure. We never think about it, but buildings have a mass and feeling of enclosure that is palpable. The thing is you don't realize that this is true until you're standing in a space that seems to have none of those elements.

You're in a building - your mind and eyes tell you so, but it "feels" like you are simply standing in the forest in a grove of beautiful trees that have been planted in a strict geometric pattern.

If you find yourself anywhere in the vicinity of Hot Springs, Arkansas, you simply must check this out. And yes - that's a Steinway grand piano on the altar.

Monday, September 04, 2006

the ozark

We're back from the fishing trip. It was a relaxing and interesting time spent at our secondary stomping grounds - the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. There's a National Park in Hot Springs which protects the row of historic bath houses. Back in the day, people "took the waters" for their health.

The Fordyce is open for tours, the Buckstaff is open for baths and massages, and the others are in varying stages of being restored to their original glory.

The details of these buildings is phenomenal and the Fordyce is home to beautiful examples of the art of stained glass.