Tag Archives: vacation

Taking away the breath

Tunnel Hill, Illinois.

7.25 a.m.  I step off the back porch to give Nelson a moment after his breakfast.  We walk to the fence line.  He is interested in the cows in the distance.  I look up.

And gasp.

The little valley is shrouded in morning fog.  But it’s sun-kissed just enough that I can see the distant tree line, then the hills, and then a receding curtain of translucent white.

There’s a lyric in a song I teach: “This is the closest I’ve been to being part of a painting.”  And I sing that truth aloud.

Had the Impressionists ventured to this little vale in southern Illinois, they would painted this.

Sadly, the fleeting moment disappeared as I stood transfixed, giving way to the inexorable sunrise.  Such visions are gone too soon, never to be captured again except in memory.

But another day will dawn, equally as vivid and alive.  Oh that I could be here to see it too.

This is the vista.  Imagine this as a lake of thin morning fog.  I don’t recall the last time I was so effected by a landscape.

Looking west.

Farm life, part 2

Looking south, from the bedroom.

Tuesday dawned wet with rain, and the rains fell off and on all morning.

By noon, the sky was clear, and my meetings were finished, so Nelson and I took a ramble.

The cows were up by the fence today, just a few yards from my back porch:

Nelson thinks cows are something at which to bark.


I didn’t try the swing, but I can imagine how fun it is for a kid, or an overgrown kid.

After lunch (ham salad sandwich, pineapple, grapes), I went the front porch to read.  Here’s the report:

I was sitting on his leash and reading a book.  And he jerked so hard that the leash went flying, he went flying to chase cattle, and I went flying to chase him, and we ended up panting (both of us) and sweating (me) only after a kind driver stopped a full 1/4 mile away, stepped on his leash, and he (the dog, not the driver) walked with me in shame back to the homestead.  He’s an adventurous and brave little shit, and also supremely unaware of danger.

And Tuesday’s dinner:

Reynoldsburg Cemetery

People who regularly read my blog know that I enjoy a good tromp around an old rural cemetery, or an old urban one for that matter.

I call this necro-tourism.

I’m fascinated by the short poetic inscriptions on tombstones.  And I enjoy trying to put together the who-relates-to-whom in old church graveyards where generations of intermarried families are all buried in a jumble.

Reynoldsburg is a tiny hamlet off of US Highway 45 in southern Illinois.  The one church, simply called Reynoldsburg Church, was founded as part of the Methodist Episcopal denomination, according to its cornerstonre.

In these rolling hills near the Ohio River, more than two centuries of pioneers, farmers, teachers, soldiers, homemakers — all are buried on a wide, well-kept patch of land hemmed in on three sides by forest.  On a July day, the scene is peaceful, and sun-parched.

Plenty of Reynolds are buried in this sacred ground.

The oldest couple I found, born in the late 1700s. Think about it — George Washington was still president when Mr. Harper was born, and John Adams when his wife was born.

Notice the spelling of Mrs. Harper’s given name: Phebe.  The Lawrence tombstone, elsewhere in this posting, has the same spelling of the wife’s name.  A daughter? Grand-daughter is more likely given the birth years are 1799 and 1838.

This man died in WWI. The top of his stone has the Masonic symbol at left, and crossed rifles at right. He was artillery, and died two weeks before the end of the war.
And this man in WWII.

Elisha and Nancy Reynolds were in their 80s when they died.  Their photos are symbols of a time and place — severe clothing and severe hair parting.  They likely lived a hard life too.

“In labor and love allied. They here sleep side by side.” The inscription indicates he fought in the Civil War as a 2nd Lieutenant, a commissioned officer.
“In that bright, immortal shore we shall meet to part no more.” And “Gone to a bright home where grief can not come.”

First read

First read of the holiday is racing planes by Webster University rising junior Joseph Oliveri.

I devoured the collection of thoughts and poetry in 45 minutes.  While lying in a hammock.  Under a maple tree.  Nelson by my side.

Oh . . . and the cover art is by my wonderful Webster student Josh Lee.

The poems are an honest and generous look into the heart and soul and experience of a young man who is quite special.  His journey is worth the read.

On the farm

Monday morning on the farm.  The air is thick, but a breeze blows, and the temperature is not yet disgusting.  If all I had to do is sit a spell and drink coffee, I wouldn’t sweat too much.

Oh wait . . . this is holiday time!  All I have to do is sit a spell and drink coffee!

The bed is comfy, and the blinds block out the light.  But that urge to rise at 6 a.m. is a powerful one after decades of conditioning.

So Nelson and I took a (leashed) walk at sunrise.

I’ve read Morning Prayer for the Feast of William Reed Huntington.  And looked in on email.  I may just avoid the news today.

On the docket for today: explore an old cemetery down the road.  Nap.  Do homework for the class tonight on functional voice training.  Nap.  Enjoy the view of the pond and the sound of silence.

Holiday 2020

My summer holiday has commenced.

I am staying in a four-room farm house (an old house, full of character and bringing me much joy), in southern Illinois.  The plan is to read, write, relax, sleep, chill.

The telegram would read like this:



Last two weeks

I am missing three shows, but this is the loot from the last two weeks.

Missing: Lightning Thief, Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and Big Apple Circus.

What a two weeks! Two operas at the Met. Circa from Australia as part of the White Light Festival at Lincoln Center. John Williams with the SLSO. My own voice student heading Brighton Beach Memoirs. And all these musicals, both in NYC and in STL . . . .

Tangier round two: no luggage

Gloom despair and agony…..

Or silver lining: NEW MOROCCAN WARDROBE!

I have my pills, a change of undergarments for Tuesday, and all the stuff I need to write.  But no extra clothing.

And Royal Air Maroc says they have no idea where the suitcase is.

I wish American Airlines had done what they told us Monday morning they would do: leave our luggage for us to collect and check with our new outbound carrier.  Instead, they transferred it, didn’t give us new claim checks, and now my luggage is lost with no record in the system.

We shall see…..

Meanwhile, HELLO TANGIER!!!

Euro18: and home

I woke on Friday morning to the iPad NOAA warning about extreme temperatures at Rienosslsgasse 3 in Vienna.

Fortunately, I was home in Saint Louis with moderate weather, but more humidity.

At some point my iPad will figure out that I’m in the USA. I certainly know that I am! Witness:

  • Iced tea!! I went for three weeks without it.
  • Taco Bell. I went for 3.5 weeks without it.
  • Airport staffs who are not multilingual (except in Spanish). Such a change from Europe.
  • Air-conditioning everywhere.
  • Cellular service everywhere without having to think of turning the phone on and off.
  • A fridge and a freezer. (Small fridge only, with no freezer, in Vienna.)
  • Loudness. Americans just talk so damn loudly.
  • Diet Pepsi! I went for 3.5 weeks without it.

But as my friend Alice said on Facebook last evening, she has little compassion for the slight frustrations, given what I was able to see and do. And I expect no boo-hoos for the cultural differences and the weariness because of the seeing and doing.

And DO I did.

The research grant proposed outcomes are essentially complete. The draft report is 75% there, with some details and nuance to ponder and finesse. In other words, I accomplished the stated goals. The grant outcome was successful. Now we move to implementation.

Along the way, I was a tourist nearly every day — in fact, save for last Sunday, every single day of the sojourn in Europe.

What did I not do? Well, I skipped the Salzburg and Venice/Dolomites excursions because I just was not feeling well. Summer allergies are, I’m told, quite severe in Vienna this year. I did not make it to all the art museums I would have wished, and since concert season was over, I attended only two musical performances.

What DID I do?

Enough art to keep me happy for months. Less-frequented locales such as the Snow Globe Museum, the Freud Museum, the Schnapps Museum, the Imperial Crypt, and the old Jewish cemetery at Zentral Friedhof. Anglican Church services in Florence and Vienna. Florence. Choral concert by a British choir at the British Embassy Church. A cruise on the Danube. Cooking class. Visited Mahler’s grave. Walked in the steps of Mozart and Beethoven and Schubert and Haydn and so many others. Melk Abbey. Heurigerabend. Organ recital at the Jesuit Church. Churches and parks and the Naschmarkt and gelato and beer and bubbly and schnitzel and . . . well, the whole five-senses experience indeed.

And I kept up with the daily office work. My email inbox is only marginally more crowded now than it was when I left, and no decisions have been punted to next week.

Now home for a few days, and with days off this weekend with few obligations, I can rest and recharge before the onslaught of the run-up to August 20 when contracts begin.

And I can love on Auggie, who apparently did indeed miss me.

Of all the pleasures of travel, returning home is the greatest joy.