Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Piasa and another river (the Illinois)

[Photo taken going South on the Illinois side of Mississippi River, with Sioux Power plant in view.]
In our wanderings up the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, we kept running into the word "piasa" - the Piasa creek, the Piasa Winery.
On the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, north of Alton, there is a river road with limestone bluffs on one side, and the river on the other. High on the bluffs there is a painting of a strange bird-like monster. This is the Piasa Bird (pronounced Pie – a – saw).

Father Jacques Marquette saw images of this monster on the bluff while exploring the Mississippi River in 1673. The bird is called “The Piasa” by the Illini Indians, meaning, the bird that devours men. For centuries, every Indian who passed in his canoe fired an arrow at the figure of the bird. More about the Legend of the Piasa Bird is here.

Yesterday we hiked around the Pere Marquette Illinois State Park, which is where the Illinois River dumps into the Mississippi River. This is just north of Grafton, Ill. – a very cute little river town which is not too far from us if we take the ferry. We decided to do this some day in autumn.
This Illinois River.
The Illinois River runs through Illinois, almost to Lake Michigan, and was important to Native Americans and early French traders.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Weeds are my thing

Weeds are my thing. I’ll take wild and random weeds, any day, over an organized, cultivated garden.

Weeds are not flashy or showy, but humble, mostly blending into the background and each other. You have to make the effort to look at weeds, but when you do, you are astounded at their simple loveliness. All together, weeds can make amazingly subtle changes of color across a landscape.

And if you cut weeds – say for a bouquet or arrangement – they will only hold their beauty for a very short time, maybe an hour, before they die.

Weeds are ordinary, every where. Some people never notice them other than to try to get rid of them. But if you take the time to look, you’ll see and delight in their beauty.

More weeds on Flickr - all weed photos taken this morning at Dusable Park, St. Charles, Missouri.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Missouri River Walks

It has been cool enough this week for Jubilee and I to take long, lone walks along the Missouri River. This morning we met a man, sitting on a stool, drawing with colored pencils. He showed me the many pages in his notebook of the scenes just around us. A fox scampered by. I could tell that he knew how to sit there quietly, noting the simple beauty around.

The walks clear my head of words, and the need to “do” something. (Since in Missouri, I feel like I’ve lost my identity, and I’m waiting to see what will happen if I can be quiet!) And I like to photograph the weeds. (More weeds and other things on Flickr)

This is the Wabash Bridge, a cast iron railroad bridge that was finished in 1871. It was only the 2nd bridge to span the Missouri River. Before the bridge, a ferry carried trains across the river.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The motorcycle comes to the Center of America

John’s motorcycle arrived tonight on this truck. This is as close as it could get to the apartment where we are staying in Missouri.

Ten days ago, in Florida, it was the first motorcycle loaded onto the truck. The truck then collected some more bikes and went to Sturgis, South Dakota. He dropped off some bikes and then picked up some more. On his way back, he passed by here and delivered John’s bike to him. That’s some business. I have no idea how John found him.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Point Jean Baptiste du Sable Park (weed walk)

After finally conceding that I don’t stand a chance against the IRS, I wrote the check and then took off with Jubilee for a weed walk. It is cool today, not even going to get to 80 degrees.

We went to the nearby Point Dusable Park, where I found out that Jean Baptiste Point du Sable was born in Haiti to a slave woman and French pirate (imagine that!). After being educated in France, he came to the western shores of Lake Michigan in the 1770’s and built the first settlement in what is now Chicago – hence, he is known as the Founder of Chicago. There he married a Potowatomi Indian woman and became a high ranking member of the tribe. Point du Sable came to St. Charles the last few years of his life, where he lived with his granddaughter. He is buried in St. Charles and now has this nice park named after him.

Here are some photos - more on the Flickr site.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Katy Trail

Not much to add here this week. The weather had gotten somewhat hot again, though the nights and mornings are cool, and I’ve been bogged down with re-doing our 2006 Tax Return. Ugh. (The Government says we owe them $8000!) The tires on the Jeep kept going flat so we got new tires today. John’s motorcycle due to arrive early this coming week.

Above photo is John and Jubilee on the Katy Trail, which is a 225 mile bike path that runs almost all the way across Missouri. Much of it follows Lewis and Clark’s Trail up the Missouri River. We pick it up just down the road.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Friends, St. Louis, and beer

Remember that guy who was behind me in the Mississippi River a couple of weeks ago, and I said that he wasn’t going to make it? Well, the water level has fallen, and I now find out that it is Lewis and Clark and their dog, Seaman, on returning to St. Louis from their westward adventure!

That’s what 2 weeks without rain will do around here!

We were graced with our first visit from friends last week. Jane and Ron came! Jane is our friend from Florida, and Ron is Jane’s friend from Wisconsin.

We had a wonderful time, and I got to explore some more the museum under the St. Louis Arch. I feel like I am learning the history of my country for the first time, and considering it all as I muse over the land. (I'll have more to say about this as I go along ...)

Ron took the tram to the top of the Arch while Jane and I browsed around the museum. I’m saving my trip to the top of the arch for autumn, when Eric comes to visit. (We're both claustrophobic, once leaving a climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty in a panic.)

The museum is very well done, in concentric circles, the outer one a complete recounting of Lewis and Clark’s Journey to the Pacific Ocean. As you walk through the more central circles, you see memorabilia and artifacts from the different phases and aspects of the westward expansion of the United States.

I had been wondering what kinds of “gifts” were sent to appease the Indians. There was a whole wall of the different “peace medals”, engraved with the head of the President (or “Great Father”), that were given to the Indian chiefs. They were fairly large and hollow inside. Essentially, trinkets. Gee.

[This is a photo of a wall in the museum, an artist's conception of what the crowd looked like that greeted Lewis and Clark as they returned to St. Louis in 1806.]

There is an old Cathedral near the Arch. It reminds me of the old Churches of my childhood, with candles, communion rails, and confessionals. [Aside: my letter to the St. Louis newspaper about Archbishop Burke was published today. Can be seen online here.]

Last but not least, John wants me to post this beer list for Eric to see. There was a beer tasting festival at our neighborhood bar last weekend. You got to taste 20 beers for 10 dollars.

This blog is becoming a real scrapbook!

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Faye, seems to have spared our friends and home in Florida from damage or harm! We are forever grateful for the friends and neighbors who look after and take care of us.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Missouri (and Illinois) stuff

We’re still wandering around, looking at the different things in this part of Missouri. Here are some sites and comments, though I still feel too “green” to be making comments.

The corn is getting high, they should be harvesting soon. Mostly the fields around us are planted in corn or soybeans, and they are all marked with signs, noting the type and number of seed (I think).

There is a little ferry boat – the Grafton Ferry – that goes across the Mississippi. This seems kind of strange, since there is a big bridge not too far away. But last Sunday there was long line of cars and motorcycles waiting for the ferry. $4 one way for a motorcycle, we figure maybe people take the ferry just for fun. On the other side, in Illinois, there are bluffs and a road that runs right along the Mississippi River.

John and Jubilee at the Lady of the Rivers statue. The Sioux Power plant where John works is in the background.

Bridge going across Mississippi River to Allton, Illinois.

I really liked the feel of this city (Allton, IL). It feels old, but not tourist-y. Almost industrial, but with a long and living history right on the river. Lots of secret, interesting little places to look. And yet with a realness that is still alive.

There’s a big, glitzy casino on the river now in Allton.

As usual, more photos on Flickr.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Portage des Sioux

As the Missouri River approaches the Mississippi (that's the Missouri River on the bottom), there is a place where the distance between the rivers is just 2 miles wide. This place is known as “Portage des Sioux”, because the Indians would take their canoes out of the river and carry them across this narrow neck of land to the other river rather than paddle down to the “confluence” – where the Missouri dumps into the Mississippi. This saved them 25 miles of paddling.

Human history has been known here since as far back as the Mississippian culture – a mound building Native American culture that flourished in the Midwest and Southeastern United States from 800-1500 A.D. Cahokia-type mounds have been found in the area.

Portage des Sioux is also the place where the Native Americans lost much of their land. A peace treaty between the Native Americans and the United States was signed here in 1815. Tens of thousands of Native Americans from many different tribes arrived in canoes. The tribes were given $20,000 worth of presents to facilitate negotiations, in which the United States secured vast territories in the Midwest.

The treaty signings at Portage des Sioux occurred between July 18 and September 16, 1815.
The most notable chief to refuse the invitation was Black Hawk who was compelled to come and was the last sign the treaty. He was to resist its terms in the Black Hawk War.

Situated on the north side (the Mississippi River side) is the small town of Portage des Sioux, population 316. There is a trading post, a couple of interesting looking restaurants, St. Francis Church, and on the river there is a large statue of the Blessed Mother.

Flooding has always been a problem here. In 1951, when rising waters threatened the small community of Portage des Sioux, the local people prayed to the Blessed Mother, calling her “Our Lady of the Rivers”. The river crested and the town stayed dry.

In gratitude, the parish of St. Francis decided to erect a statue on the river. The 25 foot statue of Mary sits at the edge of the water of the Mississippi River, looking across to Alton, Illinois. Every year hundreds of boats gather here for a blessing that will protect them.
My sense is that she is there, holding a lot of things in her heart.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

August A. Busch Conservation Area

We went to the August A. Busch Conservation Area today. Yes, as in Anheuser-Busch - Mrs. Busch made a big contribution in memory of her husband to help the State of Missouri buy the land.

Several thousand acres of pure Missouri land. Fields filled with all kinds of weeds - and, being a weed-lover, I say that with the utmost of appreciation and awe. Most people were fishing the many lakes in the area.

We went for a hike and didn’t see a soul.

We did see several bunker-like buildings built into the land. I have no idea what they were for, but they were everywhere throughout the conservation area. Kind of creepy.

John was very interested in all the fishing lakes, so we'll probably be going back early some morning with fishing poles.
Post note: I just found out that before Mrs. Busch and Missouri bought the land it belonged to the federal government. In the early 1940's the Army used the land as a TNT munitions plant. So all of those bunkers were used to store TNT. 100 bunkers still exist on the property.

Sunrise, 8-09-08

It was so cold this morning, I almost put on a sweater!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Storm

Last night when we took Jubilee out for a walk it was 93 degrees (with a "feels like" of 105). This is what it looked like. Fifteen minutes and some wind squalls later, it was a good 10 degrees cooler. But no real storm came, and not much rain. However there was lots of rain and some thunder through the night. Feels very much cooler and fresher today.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Thunderstorm coming!

Looking forward to a "strong" storm coming this afternoon!

(In another life I must've been a "storm-chaser" :-)

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Heat

(I drink at least one of these jugs of tea every day.)

It is 97 degrees now, with a "feels like" index of 110 degrees.

All I can say is that the heat in Missouri is different from the heat in Florida.

Yeah, it’s hot, and I can’t see anything more than little wisps of clouds in the sky today. The heat is more intense than in Florida – more like a sauna. When we walk Jubilee later in the day, we come home drenched in sweat. Nightly walks in South Florida are balmy, delightfully breezy – tropical. Here, it’s just hot.

At midday, with no cloud cover, it’s bright here -but more clear than the "glare" of summer middays in Florida. It must have something to do with the water in the air.

Florida is definitely more humid, all the way around. The air is thick in Florida, and I’ve never so much as noticed humidity here, though everyone else complains of it. In fact, it feels "dry" to me.

But the heat is not constant here, like in Florida. After a couple of hot days, a thunderstorm will come through and cool everything down so that you might get a day where it never goes above 75, and the nights are in the 60’s.

One thing that has me baffled is the thermostat. In Florida, we keep our air-conditioning set at 80 degrees, and except for some nightly hot flashes that cause me to turn it down to 78, we are comfortable. 78 is downright cold. Here we keep the thermostat at 75, turn it to 72 or 73 and night, and it’s still hot for sleeping. I don’t get it.

Needless to say, I am anxiously awaiting the day when I can turn the air-conditioner off for good and open the windows!