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Dear Friends,
    Thanksgiving was first anniversary of the new home on the prairie.  Last year was the world's longest move; this year's the world's longest settling in.  I may be home, but not entirely.  Can still hardly stand to look at a packing box.  The low point of the year, yeah my life, could have been the spring remodel which dragged on and on, unfinished.  (Musta been what the I Ching meant by disaster if I moved--wait, wait, maybe it's this December's ice storm!)  Still no front screen door.  However-- love the new pale yellow "winter" master bedroom.  Slept all summer on the back porch (which got screened.. wait, wait, new hole-- ice storm).  Love those night sounds.  Next year: hopefully that whole house fan!
    The Christmas cactus (acquired last year from the senior ctr where we sing) has nary a bloom.  Maybe it knows I'm not settled?  The cactus I left in Boise bloomed well before Thanksgiving.  Miss that unexpected burst of color.
    Thanksgiving week I feasted early with the Methodist regional overseer's family.  Thursday I joined above & beyond realtor Dianne's sister's family; both look after newcomers with incomparable gracious spirit.  As I drove down Mound, packed drives identified host homes.  Tasty as dinner was, for me the star was a classmate of the Scott sisters' fragile parents, Marg, a former phone operator, telling of coming onto a murder and "the law" trying to frame her as killer.  Right here in Bad Crik city!  That woman, if I ever met one, has a book in her entitled: 'Cuse the Ring...
    This retrograde back to the Midwest, my Lake Wobegan, is quite the contrast to the former life out West.  I.e.: Wanted to mail congratulatory note to classmate (who just moved).  Went down to their church, note all stamped, prepared to have sec'y address and mail.  Out West I learned to not even ask "friends" for address and phone, let alone institutions.  Privacy, privacy, blah, blah.  Having grown up in a small town, never got used to that.
    But here where everyone knows everything within hours, I'd no sooner explained my mission when the secretary reeled off the address without looking down.  My jaw dropped--I'm not even a "member"!  "We'll even give you our home phone numbers," another woman chimed.  Not in my former life.  Once tried to get a another church member's phone (attended 7 years).  No way.  On the other hand, haven't found a church like the old one where I gardened and sang out, and where a former legislator once played the roll of an energy efficient refrigerator in a skit.  (Nearly beside myself with delight and laughter.)  Ah, the yin and yang of change.
     In waves I settle in and fall in love with my crazy neighbors.  Now that the state hospital closed and released everyone, Jacksonville's just one big state hospital at large, the full spectrum of personalities jumbled together, heavy on eccentric and missing cylinders.  Nice change, being just one of many peculiar critters in the sea.  Something of a miracle that the town functions at all.  Few say well, but streets are plowed-- eventually; faucets run water from the Illinois river; sirens whine, crime rates soar; yet life goes on into the 21st.  Love the 75 years ago and further back column in the local newspaper ("State's oldest continuously published").  (And I love meeting people who knew my brothers, mom, dad, and his parents.  Not to mention finding classmates everywhere, who have a common memory and vocabulary.)  All the "extras" here--art, music, library--are supported by benefactors and fund raising.  No tax base to speak of.  Dunno how things happen except for extraordinary generosity of folks who care.  I'm still an outsider, may always be, but an inside outsider, more comfortable than not.  Luckily I don't care about closed clubs.  Not much.  Being a native, I hold a few cards too.
    Hard to miss the West too often, because life's so different, so busy!  In exchange for rampant development, road rage and outdoor pursuits, I gained tradition, history, decay and small town busyness.  Crazy, huh?  Now that I've been let in on the cafeteria in (nearby) Springfield, feel slightly less despondent about reasonable food once farmers markets finish.  Of course I miss hills, ponderosas, hot springs and sagebrush.  (Enjoyed June road trip west to camp, visit, study qigong and yoga.)  But love being back around woods and fields.  As artist Carole puts it--the sky's the show here.  It is.  The other night the west had a line of clouds like ocean waves that stopped me in my tracks.
    If it hadn't been too hot to go outside last August and September, I'da car camped by the "new" lake, but who wants to be one's own inland clam bake by a stagnant lake?  Next year I'll see if popcorn pops on the dash.  Maybe next year I'll have the energy to head straight north to Wisc or Mich 'til I find a cold lake to sit in for a week.  These Illini are traveling folks--N, S, E, W, all over the world.  It's also prime Harley (Davidson) country (with related obits)!

GONE.  Personal Chinese cook, Zen Bento.  Jaunts to mountain meadows, aspen and pine, clear streams.  Ongoing yoga classes.  Beloved church and garden.  Public Radio "Echoes" evenings; teevee reception (if one's interested).

SIMILAR.  Occasional yoga.  Local prison volunteer (new focus).  Occasional Buddhist meditation (Springfield, an hour away).  Churches.  Book club (occasional).  Fine myotherapist Mary (versus chiropractor Dr A).  Singing (senior singers and shape note v. gospel).  Silent sit/meditation (my home, un-denominational v. Benedictine).  Thrift shops.  Crazed writer.  Regional travel (v. out of state).  Funky weather (Idaho prepped me, but IL wins for extremes).   Devout Prairie Home Companion listener.  Ferries (rivers v salt water).

NEW.  (A lot.)  Superbowl meteor over St Louis!  Cicadas.  Churches--central to community.  (Attending) regular Bible Studies.  Christmas Taize with Springfield Dominicans.  Y(MCA) water classes w grade school gym teacher Connie!  Familiar names and faces everywhere.  Ambush by poison ivy (June).  Regular Sat. breakfast, Sun. dinner, yummy church lunches--food, food, food.  Terrifying potlucks; new member, fat group/TOPS.  Strong regional interest in The Past/history/re-enactments!  Abundance of plays/fine concerts (see lyric soprano Diane Dietz web site for one).  Three college town.  Home, strong sense of neighborhood and community; genealogy, inc. mom's German Layer roots.  Intense seasons.  Going to state & county fairs.

BOOKS: Keen to read regional reporter Taylor Pensoneau's Brothers Notorious: The Sheltons: Southern Illinois' Legendary Gangsters; Pensoneau spoke last month at Trinity (episcopal church).  Last winter enjoyed The Devil in the City, murder at the 1893 World's fair in Chicago.  Murderer's family name eerily familiar.  Haunting book of year: Nature Noir: a park ranger's patrol in the sierra.  (Thanks, Ben.)

Christmas and New Year's greetings to all!  Send stories!  Better yet, y'all come visit!  Brenda, Paul and Christine stopped by guest room last summer!!  Another weekend met brother Stu and girls college shopping in Galesburg!

Blessings,and Ciao!!!


July -- far more than knee high


Spring remodel

Old & New; decommissioning service, April

Layer's German Lutheran church, Gilman IL.  Lorraine remembers great uncle Frank!

Mom's Mann and Bloom roots, Bourbonnais, IL

Sunday evening at Liz's, May

Classmate pre reunion mtg (my home), August

Annual Prairie Heritage Show, September

Y class w Marjorie et al from growing up years

Taylorville Shape Note potluck, Sept.

Friends and neighbors

Porch bedroom - May-October

new winter home 

Dec. Ice Storm

More than anyone needs to know: HOLIDAY LETTER ARCHIVES - photos added! - click on year

     2006   |  2005  |   2004   |  2003  | 2002  |  2001  | 2000  |  1999  | 1998  | 1997  |  1996  | 1995  | 1994  |  1993  | 1992

?*+. email:  retro_illini (at sign) ?.*

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