Celebrating Independence Day

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Celebrating a recent Fourth of July with my friend Christie.

I have the great fortune to live in a community that celebrates the Fourth of July in true Norman Rockwell form. In this small town on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, families gather along tree-lined streets to watch the parade, with gracious houses draped in bunting serving as backdrop. Picnic blankets dot the lawns where little girls and boys in their patriotic finest play, blowing bubbles, waving flags. Adults mingle and celebrate, sharing their summer plans and catching up with the young men and women home from college. It feels like America should feel, to me at least. Continue reading

Cumberland Island

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I just returned from four amazing days spent with my little sister (affectionately known as Little J) at her Florida beach house. On our last and best day, we took the ferry to a place I’d always longed to see: Cumberland Island, Georgia.

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Cumberland Island is a magical, chill inducing place. No bridge links the island to the mainland. Accessible only by boat, visitors explore on foot or bicycle, wandering ruins of old mansions and cemeteries while observing wildlife without boundaries. Life and death are imminently present on the island. Skeletal fragments seamlessly, exquisitely, meld with the earth while birds fly overhead and wild, feral horses and hogs roam without boundaries.

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We rented island (i.e. rustic) bicycles and pedaled our way to Stafford Beach for a picnic, where we spent most of our time with no one else in sight. A giant steel buoy eroded next to horse shoe crab exoskeletons of the same color, striking an incredible visual chord. Wild horses grazed silently while seabirds circled marine life that had washed ashore. Fishing boats trawled as the men aboard waited to heave their catch on deck. It was impossible not to contemplate the circle of life and one’s place in it.  William Cullen Bryant’s Thanatopsis filled my mind as I saw so much beauty in life and death, and the natural progression of it all.

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Thanatopsis
by William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)
To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;—
Go forth, under the open sky, and list
To Nature’s teachings, while from all around—
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air—
Comes a still voice—
                                       Yet a few days, and thee
The all-beholding sun shall see no more
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
Thine individual being, shalt thou go
To mix for ever with the elements,
To be a brother to the insensible rock
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.
     Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world—with kings,
The powerful of the earth—the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre.   The hills
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun,—the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between;
The venerable woods—rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks
That make the meadows green; and, poured round all,
Old Ocean’s gray and melancholy waste,—
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun,
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom.—Take the wings
Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound,
Save his own dashings—yet the dead are there:
And millions in those solitudes, since first
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep—the dead reign there alone.
So shalt thou rest, and what if thou withdraw
In silence from the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one as before will chase
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glide away, the sons of men,
The youth in life’s green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man—
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side,
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.
     So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

This Weekend: Best of the Fest Children’s Film Series and The Antiques & Garden Fair

 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the first installment of Best of the Fest Children’s Film Series, produced by Chicago’s Facets Multi-Media and presented at Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest.  Milos Stehlik (pictured above), founder of Facets, travels the world to find films for children that engage, entertain, and empower.  Last Sunday’s short films carried themes of persistence, music, love, acceptance, courage, and the environment that were told mainly from children’s perspectives but loved by viewers of all ages.   The familiar sounds of children’s chatter, wiggling seats, and rustling popcorn bags came only in the moments between short films.  During the showings, kids in attendance were completely engrossed in the films, letting out bursts of infectious giggles and sometimes shouting enthusiastic proclamations of plot discovery.   This Sunday, April 13th, Facets returns to Gorton at 4pm to present three book-based short films, including the Oscar winning “The Gruffalo.”  Seating is limited but tickets are still available on Gorton’s website (link here).  Tickets are also available on Gorton’s site for the last installment on April 27th.

Also this weekend is one of my favorite Chicago Botanic Garden events, the Antiques and Garden Fair.  Friday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm each day, gorgeous floral displays surround 120 booths filled with treasures from around the world.  Year after year I walk out with a lighter wallet and a heavier trunk (remember this goody from last year?)!  Tickets available on the Chicago Botanic Garden’s site (here).

Happy Early Weekend! xo