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PRAIRIE COLLAGE (letter below)


Eastern IL

August - family siting!  Brothers Scott (dark shirt) and Jamie (back) stopped by Springfield for tennis reunion

September - class reunion

Church dinners

Taylor trunk

July - Jewelwing damselfly, Portland Arch IN

July - backyard visitor--childhood friend, Imperial moth

 Oregon bliss 
Dear Friends!

   Thanksgiving evening and I'm snuggled in the ever so agreeable new memory foam bed, which won me away from the back porch last summer.  Better to sleep on blissful foam under fan, than on the cooler porch on a uneasy for the back set up?  (Admittedly much milder summer than last--save a couple of stunningly supersaturated, blazing hot weeks.)

    Looking over last year's holiday letter tells me it's my second anniversary at Melrose Ct on the prairie!  (Can no longer track how long I've been back).
   This year, fellow "recidivist" (my term for those of us who moved back after long absence) John's niece and family included me in their turkey gathering.  Like last year, loved seeing neighborhoods packed with cars of large family gatherings.  Had to watch the dog show (as I did one Boise Thanksgiving), while mother and daughter worked in the kitchen.  Hadn't been around a “real” TG in forever—3 generations; granny trying to feed baby playing with food; boy with untouched plate; men watching football.  Afterwards Bonnie and I sat in the kitchen—yeah!  Multi-celebrating as I love to do, stopped by last year's hostess for the last bit of conversation 'round the table.  The family patriarch is gone this year.  (The more folks I know, the more funerals.)

    Time to face the stygian challenge of looking back at the year.  (Some just say "Happy New Year!"  But no, I obsessively sift through the months for meaning (and entertainment)!
    One summary: in these uneven times, feels right to be settling back where I started.  Small town Illinois life is highly non glamorous, right for the final chapter.  While others globe trot, this prodigal reroots after meandering 40 years.

HIGHLIGHTS:  (more or less related to photos)
*  (Last) winter - Tough one.  Months recovering from getting sick over Christmas (Italy with Elderhostel).  Stunning to watch town resurrect from December ice storm; mountains of limbs lined streets for months, reminiscent of forest service slash piles.  Folks worked like beavers piling limbs, a tremendous culling of the town's shade.  The trees that seduced me into buying the house were severely pruned (by ice and professionals) but survive.  The excellent pampered white birch is more assymetrical but goes on, no small thing, as do the roof and "new" gutters (more or less)!
*  Apr -   Visited Hemphills in CT
*  June -  Blissful Oregon retreat and Boise visit.   Notes say tornado sirens become routine back home.
*  July -  Family siting--2 brothers in Springfield!
*  July -  Met college buddies at Starved Rock; retro: Portland Arch, Indiana
*  Aug-Nov - Camping.  Especially near Vermilion River, east of Champaign-Urbana.  Love those cicadas and night sounds.  NW visit - long time friend Carl's goodbye party.
*  Sept -  Dandy Class of ‘63 reunion;  warmed hearts with old camaraderie.
*  Sept -  Taylor "family" trunk (dad's mother's family) and "Aunt Alice Taylor's cookie recipe" get together; another fine Labor Day weekend history Chatauqua
*  Sept&Oct - Meditations retreats. IL & WI.  ahhhh.
*  Oct. -  Haircut by mom's old LPN study mate
*  Nov. -  Visited Layer family stained glass window.  Front yard tree welcomed - native yellowwood
*  All year - Genealogy - digging Illinois family roots - Peoria, Tazewell, Iroquois, Kankakee, Morgan and Cass counties
*  Local theater - Superb productions of Twelve Angry Men; Harvey; Oklahoma.  Plus our own Mark Twain.

SAME:     Mon. nite yoga at Passavant (workshops in ID).  Prairie Home Companion fan.  9:30am Y water class.  Sunshine Singers.  Church visits; church dinners.  Sometime prison volunteer.  TOPS.  Deacon JW's Bible Study.  Buddhist sits in Springfield.  Farmers market regular.  Regular Saturday breakfasts, Sunday  dinners.  Massage with Mary.  Fireflies (fewer this wet year?).  Christmas taize with Springfield Dominicans.
NEW:      Soggy green spring and summer--wet, wet, flood, flood.
ELUDED:  Poison ivy (got ticks instead)
BOOKS:  Agent Zigzag.  Dorothy Stimson Bullitt.  Three Cups of Tea.  Esalen: the religion of no religion.
HOME:     Found: fantastic contractor.  Storm door!  More insulation!!  2 new trees.  Christmas cactus might bloom.  Mildew damage (steamy summer weeks).

    August slid into a welcome early, dry fall.  I was ecstatic.  Perhaps because fall was so agreeable I got in more camping than usual and am left with a good taste for 2008.  Oughta just surrender spring to ticks and poison ivy, wait til fall to get out.  Moments of overwhelming gratefulness for the kindness of men and women in this small town sweep over me not infrequently.  I'm touched to the core by the (mostly) older, "retired" men (mostly) who maintain our homes and more--plumbers, electricians, flat tire fixers, insulators, handymen, upholsters, printers, mowers; sons and daughters of old timers.  A heat-a/c man says he made his first house call with his dad when he was 2.  These seniors, crawl into impossible openings, onto icy roofs, prune damaged trees, fix leaky roofs and basements.  The work ethic of my ancestors and parents may have skipped me but not my appreciation of said ethic; I'm grateful beyond words for these folks as they share their skills and experience, and think of my parents, who many remember better than me.  Their recollections bring mom and dad back to life.
    As it happens, these amazing locals are the same saints who often proudly pilot behemoth high end, gas guzzling luxury cars 'round town and cross country, seemingly without a thought for their childrens' resources.  So safe, so comfortable their owners purr.  Sometimes hard to find my not all that tiny RAV, dwarfed between cruisers and giant SUVs.  Which reminds me to mention - Sept cruise night remains one of the biggest community events of the year.  We got priorities.  Mercifully this year I was away camping cruise night and didn't blunder in like I did last year.  (That might also tell you Obama won the election without this county's support.  A lotta "losers" live here, some are doing ok, others are still sputtering and flailing.  I seem to have known we couldn't vote down hope, try as we might.)  Living the paradox (or something similar) Fr Rohr and others call it.  Folks who love brussels sprouts and beets, liver and onions, gotta be ok, don't they?
    Live and let live-- or else be miserable!  I've met my match on the prairie of strong wills.
    So enjoy digging family roots--libraries, cemeteries, courthouses--learning about ancestors (hoping to find descendants.).  I aspire to great grandmother Geiger's upright posture and itinerant ME pastor g g grandfather Pallett's terse description in Leaton's Journal as "somewhat prone to speculate in theology, but fairly useful."
    Christmas and New Year's greetings to all!  Send stories!  Better yet, y'all come visit (one of these years the guest room will no longer be a futon camping experience.  Spur me on.)!

Love and blessings from the prairie to all,

Mom's German roots.  Window dedicated to the Layers,
Zion Evangelical founders, Gilman, Iroquois County, IL

He who takes upon himself the humiliation of the people is fit to rule them.
He who takes upon himself the country's disasters deserves to be king of the universe.
Tao Te Ching, chapter 78