Sunday, December 21, 2008

coming home

John, his last day of work at the Sioux Power Plant in West Alton, MO
(His hard hat reads "Hitachi - John")

We have been home for about 10 days now and already our adventure to the center of America seems like a dream. We watch the weather for St. Charles, and it’s hard to imagine 6 degrees, or the brown and icy grey colors of winter. Meanwhile in Florida we are trying to heal our house (which became "sick" while we were away) and Jubilee, who has come down with a severe allergic reaction to the mold, pollen and dust of Florida.

I was touched very deeply by the rivers and sky and land and people of Missouri, and hope to carry them in my soul forever. I asked someone who had lived for awhile in Missouri if they ever missed living near the sea, and she answered, "no, because we have this big sky and endless land here." I understand that now.

We are grateful for the strange twist of event that brought this journey into our lives, and hope for more.

Friday, December 5, 2008


I know it's just a little bit, but hey, I've been in Florida for a long time, and it's magic to me.
11 degrees F this morning, the water in the lakes is freezing. Glorious!

MO Girlfriends

Julia and Marcia, my treasured Missouri friends.
(They know how to do scarves!)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Views from our windows this morning

Front view:
Back view:
More snow coming this afternoon and tomorrow ...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

yellow berries

Just when I thought that the leaves had mostly fallen, and the trees had gone dormant, I start noticing all the berries!
Update: John tells me that these aren't berries at all, but crabapples! (Sure are small for the crabapples that I remember). There are lots of red and blue berries around, it seemed unusual to see yellow ones.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Springfield, Illinois

Bookstore acroos from the Old Statehouse, Springfield Illinois

Illinois is a many-hued land, pasture and farmland that you can see far into the distance. The light in the winter sky changes things all the time.

On the way back from Mahomet, we stopped in Springfield – Lincoln’s town. We saw his giant tomb in the city cemetery and his home just a few blocks from the Old State Capitol. The Presidential Library gave us a very comprehensive (and entertaining) understanding of Lincoln’s life and times.

I think that I liked the Old Statehouse the best. “Humble” is the word one of the custodians used. It pleases me that Barack Obama chose this place to begin his run for the presidency, and to announce his running mate. Walking around the places in Springfield, I couldn't help but imagine how these places and this history had influenced President-elect Obama.

Entrance to the Old Statehouse (Isn't this lovely?)

(more photos on Flickr)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving in Mahomet

Thanksgiving Day in Mahomet Illinois with the McMillan Clan!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More SLU photos

This is the view from the Pius Library at St. Louis University, the day before Thanksgiving.

I've been fascinated by a coed sculpture at the entrance to the library for awhile. I think that she reminds me of myself. I finally took a photo of her:

And then there's the life size Jesus holding the child on the bench. "Beggars" (local pan handlers)are usually sitting beside him.

Monday, November 24, 2008


This is Emmy, Jubilee's best friend in Missouri. Also the first photo of my new camera (Canon Powershot G10).

This is Jubilee downtown New Town, another test photo from the new camera.

Weldon Springs - again!

It seems that we are drawn again and again to Weldon Springs. This was my 3rd time there, once in the heat of summer, again in the fall with Eric, and yesterday with John. The 5 mile hike "makes you feel like you've done something" (quoting Eric), and is always enjoyable. The view of the Missouri River is spectacular. Very different in each of the seasons. It seems like the kind of thing you could to do again and again, and it would always be new. We also determined that this must be the place where Meriwether Lewis fell down a cliff and almost died on the 2nd day of the expedition - my gosh, those bluffs just drop off! (You see how John won't go to the edge of the rock he is standing on - I was petrified that Jubilee would run over and that would be the end of her.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Walking the Missouri River

Honest to god, as Jubilee and I were walking the Missouri River today, I thought that walking into heaven itself could not be more glorious than this.

We were the only ones around, and the temperature was below freezing but sunny. With my fleece coat, I didn’t feel cold at all – in fact, it felt wonderful, like swimming in cold water feels in Florida.

We will be going back to Florida on December 8th, and we don't have a clue what comes next. I will miss these cold, solitary walks along the banks of the Missouri River.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Laumeier Sculpture Park

Laumeier Sculpture Park - just a lovely, lovely place. Open areas with huge, bold, magnanimous, sculputes. Paths that go off into the woods with surprises around every corner. We had never before experienced sculpture quite like this. Special. If I lived in St. Louis, I would come here often.
(Again, my cameras are still not working right and don't even come close to doing justice to the site. Check out the website.)

The St. Louis Carousel

There used to be a section of St. Louis called “Dog Town”, which included an amusement park area, Forest Park Highlands. This is where the original St. Louis Carousel was. When the Highlands burned in 1963 the carousel was the only thing left standing. In 1987 it was restored its original beauty and is now housed in a county park just west of St. Louis.

We stumbled upon the Carousel this morning. Just $1 a ride, with a wonderful pipe organ accompaniment, all the kids yelled “giddy up” to get it started. Wish we had had a little kid with us!

The Zoo in Forest Park - St. Louis

On the coldest day so far, we went to the Forest Park Zoo in St. Louis. There was no sun, the little zoo train wasn’t running, and all of the vending sites were closed. The few people walking around were bundled up. But it still was a most unusual and special place, reminding me somewhat of a city park in Prague with old buildings that housed the primates and birds, snakes and insects.

We saw Asian Elephants and Siberian tiger cubs, a sad polar bear, a leopard that paced nervously, mountain lions and cheetahs. The animal pens blended will with the park environs. Though I am intrigued with the striking beauty of these animals and like looking at them, I am bothered by their confinement.

Both of my cameras are malfunctioning now – one gives me a lens cover error, while the other renders unreadable files – and I was only able to salvage photos of the Asian elephant.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Winter is coming

John and I often muse over the how our eyes find the colors – browns and tans and oranges – so delightful. Perhaps being in Florida for so many years we got used to seeing the world in mostly dense greens and blues. Here the colors can be more pale and subtle. The most intense color now is the deep brown ground. I literally walk around flabberghasted. My eyes can't get enough.

Look at how different my walk along the Missouri River is now compared to last August:

They're calling for snow flurries tomorrow!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Forest Park and the Art Museum

There are many St. Louis museums that we want to explore, but we had been putting it off until the weather got colder. Today definitely qualified, so we went to the lovely Forest Park of St. Louis and started with the Art Museum.

Art has always been a mystery to me. I am a left-brainer. Math and science make sense to me; art doesn’t make sense to me, but somehow still seduces me. I am amazed with what I see, and absolutely awed with the genius and creativity of human beings who are able to produce such things.

There was a painting of men playing cards on a river barge. It was a simple painting, but the way the river disappeared behind, the way the lighting gave magic to the scene, it became complex with every detail (the grass in one man’s mouth) fraught with some unfathomable meaning. I felt forced to “look”. And wonder.

There were portrait paintings from the 1500s, living faces of people long dead. They looked like we do now. There was a jade knife from China that was more than 5000 years old. There was a modern abstract painting by a German artist that felt like the way the earth would be after a nuclear charring. There was medieval armor and fussy furniture that made me anxious. There was a huge, beautiful tapestry made from parts of liquor bottles. And on and on.

Saint Louis

Saturday, November 8, 2008

winter, birds and gas

It’s winter here – or it sure feels like winter to us. The temperature hovers in the 30s and 40s, but there is this wind … and we bundle up in hats, scarves and gloves every time we go out. Maybe we’re over-doing it. One of the neighbors was making fun of us the other day.

We keep going back to the North side of the Confluence - the Migratory Bird Sanctuary - where the Missouri River meets the Mississippi River. John says that we must be the only people who keep coming back. There are never very many people there. But there is a road there that goes right to the Confluence. It has been gated 4 and a half miles back, since we have been here. The sign says that it is closed due to flooding. It hasn’t really rained here in a while and I wanted to check one more time to see if it was open, but it wasn’t. We hiked around the marshy wetlands. There were a lot of geese and ducks.

Bird's nest
Meanwhile John's job, building a SO2 (sulphur dioxide) scrubber at the Sioux coal power plant, is ending due to a lack of funds. Something about bonds, and the environmental standard that made it a financially wise thing to do was lifted (by Bush?). We don’t know exactly when the job will end, but we have given our notice to the landlord. The rent is paid through November; we could be heading back to Florida any day.

Gas at our critter gas station was $1.95 a gallon today.
Update: The sign closer so that you can see the price!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The last warm day

I think that this may be the last warm day. It is quite windy today, and it is supposed to rain tomorrow followed by a cold weekend.

Jubilee and I needed to get away from the television and computer, and so much election talk, so we headed over to our favorite walk along the Missouri River. Our days here in Missouri are numbered, and I realize how grateful I am for the opportunity to live and know this place.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Be the change you wish the world to be ...

Election day, 2008 - a glorious day for America. John and I both voted for Barack Obama with Florida absentee ballots a couple of weeks ago, but we are still excited by this day, which feels electrified with a quiet charge. What a beautiful, sunny day, filled with hope for our country and our world.

This is the neighborhood Obama headquarters:

Meanwhile, though the little trees on our streets look to have moved to the "falling" stage, there is still much vibrant color around...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pickle Springs and Ste. Genevieve

On a tip from the St. Louis newspaper, we headed down to a place called Pickle Springs Natural Area – about 50 miles the other side of St. Louis – for a 2 mile autumn hike. This is supposedly the “peak” weekend for fall foliage.

The drive through Southeastern Missouri was glorious. The trees are all in various shades of yellow, orange and red. It is neat to see this change in nature and know that we are all a part of it as well.
There were lots of “Pro-life” signs around this area of the state, and a lot of political signs (mostly Obama, I think.)
[Like Bill Clinton, I am opposed to abortion but I think that it should be safe, legal and extremely rare. Teaching sacredness of life and sexuality goes a lot further to reduce abortions than sending women to back alleys or jails.]

The hike was just as the paper described it: “a gem”, “like a Japanese garden”. Rocks, giant ferns, moss (John has an obsession with moss), and gorgeous fall colors. Even though the hike was “easy”, there was enough up and down to make it feel more than just a walk through a park.

The Whispering Pine Trail is named for the shortleaf pines;
Pickle Springs flows into Pickle Creek, where Jubilee enjoyed a number of swims.
Afterwards we went into Ste. Genevieve, a charming and historic little town on the Mississippi River. Ste. Genevieve was originally a French settlement for fur traders. We didn’t get to the museum, so I’m a little lame on the history. A large Catholic Church dominated the area we saw, with “Vote Pro-Life” signs all around it. (I hope that they know that Pro-life means opposing to the Death Penalty as well as abortion.) Again, the Obama signs predominated.

There is a ferry just outside of Ste. Genevieve that takes you over the Mississippi River to Illinois – 4 minutes to cross the river.

More photos on Flickr.