Welcome to a blend of book reviews, dreams, photography, poems, reflections, and stories. Scroll, explore, ponder, and share if you like.
According to the plans for the new presidential library, Perennial Garden in Jackson Park (Hyde Park, Chicago) would be demolished to make way for a reflecting pool. I’m sad about this because Perennial Garden is home to butterflies, hawk moths, and even a hummingbird or two, which is what parks should be. Photos from a quick stop yesterday — click the photo for a few more on Flickr.
I was staying at a brick mansion in the country, where there was a living room with several televisions. When I returned I found some young women disconnecting mine, including the cables. By yelling and flailing, I tried to stop them because I didn’t know how to arrange the setup again.
After they disappeared (rather than leaving), I realized my equipment was in a cellar on the second floor, and water on the floor was seeping toward the television. As I considered my next step, I heard someone mention a thunderstorm—no, hurricane—no, tornado—approaching rapidly. We debated its direction and whether it would veer toward us. Then we lay on our stomachs in the cellar that wasn’t a cellar.
The tornado struck. As I lay there, I thought it sounded and felt like a freight train passing over me. I expected it would last only minutes, but it seemed to go on a long, long time. Suddenly it was calm, as though nothing had happened. Everything around me seemed intact.
I pulled aside a heavy curtain and saw the sun, but random clouds formed a new, vaguely human-shaped tornado, which seemed to be considering the direction it should take. Suddenly it veered toward us. We dove to the floor, and repeated the experience.
Afterward I heard the hostess say that there was structural damage to a supporting wall, but she’d called someone, who was on the way to fix it. I mulled the unlikelihood of so little damage and the availability of someone in the storm area to come out so quickly. I looked out again. The tornado funnel was breaking up into tiny clouds, but reforming into a shape like a human figure from southwestern Native American art. It was going to strike again—intentionally.
I tried to go out, but as I was about to walk down the steps I noticed there weren’t any and would have fallen a couple of stories if I hadn’t stopped myself quickly. The outer wall for a hallway was half gone, but guests were picking up the torn-up timber and trying to build some kind of makeshift steps to the broken wall. No one seemed bothered that so much of the house was exposed to the weather.
Below, snow covered the ground, and above the sky was making the transition from sunny brightness to tornado cloud darkness.
Now that I know what they are, I’m finding sycamore leaves everywhere in parks and forest preserves. These beauties are from Sand Ridge Nature Center in South Holland, Illinois. Although they’re turning brittle, they look like shiny leather.
Autumn color lingers through early November, even at Wolf Lake in northwest Indiana.
A few years ago I did a search on my dad’s name and found this: An old auction for V-Mail (“Greetings from Britain”) from Private Ralph Schirf. I hadn’t known about the auction, long since over, in time to bid. Here are the clues that it’s from my dad:
- Ralph Schirf is a unique name. Schirf is rare, and we’re all related. Ralph Schirf is one of a kind.
- He was from the Altoona, Pennsylvania, area.
- He served as a private in the Army Air Forces during WWII in England (artillery, I believe, although he didn’t talk about it). He was honorably discharged as a corporal.
- That’s his block printing.
- His beloved sister Marjorie married a Way (Ellis G. in the obituary of one of their children).
- He once signed a birthday card to me “Father Ralph.” It’s not a stretch to imagine him signing “Brother Ralph” to his sister.
I would love if the buyer found this post and offered to sell me Dad’s V-Mail, but in lieu of the physical pieces I’ll have to be content with small digital photos.
Here’s more from the Postal Museum about V-Mail.
USPS PDF about the history and process of sending V-Mail.
And his grave in Bellwood, Pennsylvania, outside Altoona:
A Sunday morning promenade around Promontory Point.
The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston. New York: Random House. 2007. 320 pages. In The Wild Trees, Richard Preston delves into the lives of giant trees, primarily coast redwoods, and some of the people … Continue reading →
Enjoy it while you can. It’s about to get bare and gloomy out there.