Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Spring Wanderings while Sheltering in Place

White Trout Lily
We haven’t even made it to the halfway point of 2020, and it’s already been an interesting year!  We’ve all adjusted our lifestyles, whether it’s our family lives, social lives, work schedules, home schooling, shopping habits, and just about everything else in our daily lives. In addition to major events being postponed or even cancelled, businesses have struggled, jobs lost or intensified, going without our favorite products, and a host of other changes. Many people are having a tough time dealing with all these issues.
My family is lucky to continue to work, even if our work environment may be our dining room table a day or two a week, and when at the office, we must practice social distancing with the other skeleton crew members. As I write this, the Sheltering in Place is in effect until the end of May, most likely with social distancing practices to be practiced, even after some restrictions are lifted. I don’t wish to make light of what anyone is going through, but in my family’s case, we are trying to make the most of the situation.

One positive outcome from all this, is that more people, my daughters included, are exercising outdoors. We live in an older residential neighborhood not far from a city park, so we see a lot of foot and bike traffic. While walking the dogs in nearby neighborhoods, I also notice more people hanging out on their porches and patios or just puttering around their yards. It’s great to see everyone out and about.
One thing I’ve had more time to do is one of my favorite springtime activities—walking in the woods. I’m fortunate to live a few miles away from a public, but usually pretty private, natural area. Once or twice a week, we load up the dogs and my camera to take a short hike in the woods. Even though I already have hundreds of wildflower photos, I can never resist adding more to my collection. This year I even photographed a new type of trillium, Snow Trillium, I’ve never seen before, and also snapped dozens of photos of some of my standard favorites like Hepatica, White Trout Lily, Dutchman’s Breeches, Purple Trillium, Marsh Marigold, Blood Root, Bluebells, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and many more. I hope to sneak another trip to the woods into this weekend’s plans.
Experiencing this pandemic has taught us many things, but one of the most important is to make the most out of this simpler time by taking more time to smell and enjoy the flowers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Civil War Reflections - By Brenna Powelson

 Through Lincoln’s Eyes 
 America’s Bloodiest War - By Brenna Powelson

America will not be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. – Abraham Lincoln

March 1. 1865 - This ruinous bloody war has already been going on for four years, and my greatest fear is that politically I will be the last president of the United States of America, and the Confederate states would win their war for secession and that the Republic would collapse into a collection of micro-states. I feel as if I am leading the citizens of America astray and failing my country. The people don't deserve this, and our country doesn't deserve this, but the union must be preserved, the slaves must be freed, and this  pestilential war must end; however, that is more easily said than done.

March 21,1865 - I knew when this war started that lives would be lost, but what I didn't know was that many lives would be lost so quickly. The Battle of Bentonville lasted three long days. The Union army lost many: 194 killed, 1,112 wounded, and 221 missing, for a total of 1,527 casualties. I am excited about the Union's victory; however, I don’t see the point when so many lives have been lost, and how much families have been separated. What hurts the most is the thought that wives might wake up tomorrow morning without a husband, and kids waking up without a father, who was alive just one the day before. My own boy, Robert begged me to allow him join the Union army and told me would never forgive himself if he let another man die while he did nothing. I was not over all thrilled with the idea, but if I said no, he would not forgive me, nor himself, so I agreed. However, his mother, on the other hand, was not so understanding. 

April 11. 1865 - What is wrong with me?  The war is won, my son is alive and well, families are reunited, the American people have regained their faith in me, and I have a speech scheduled today.  However, there is a hole in my heart that empties inside of me. I feel the pain that I have been feeling since I was nine years old. I FEEL THE SAME PAIN I DID WHEN MY MOTHER AND SISTER DIED. I  FEEL THE SAME PAIN WHEN WE HAD TO PACK UP AND MOVE TO INDIANA. And I suppose there’s no reason why I feel this way; it may be because all the lives that have been lost, or maybe because half the country is angry at me. Maybe I’ll try to feel better and celebrate with the Union, and Mary is talking about going to a play in a couple days. 

April 15, 1865,  7:21 a.m.  
Pain, I feel pain. I can’t open my eyes at all, and all I feel is pain and the doctor touching my head. 7:22 a.m.- I have a quick burst of strength. I look at my loving wife, and I mumble my last words, ``We will visit the Holy Land, and see those places hallowed by the footsteps of the Savior,'' and then everything goes dark.

According to a Soldier
America’s Bloodiest War  - Brenna Powelson

Freedom is the last best hope of earth - Abraham Lincoln 

March 31 1865- As I look out onto the empty battlefield, all I can think about is the wail of pain from soldiers and the sound of gunshots. I look at the empty battlefield that used to be a patch of grass but is now a resting place for those who gave their lives. As we were walking back to camp, the other soldiers started singing, and the rest joined.  

“Yes we’ll rally round the flag, boy’s, we’ll rally once again 
Shouting the battle cry of freedom,
We will rally from the hillside, we gather from the plaine 
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

The union forever! Hurrah boys Hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star; 
While we rally round flag, boys, rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom”

Once we got back to camp, men settled into their tents, trying to comprehend what had happened today. The battle only lasted one day; however, we lost 1,870 men who risked their lives for their beliefs. We all knew when this war started that many would perish. This war was brother against brother, states against other states, one nation divided, and Washington vs. Richmond. President Lincoln said that all men are created equal, but the South refuses to agree with their president, so now, here we are stuck in the fourth year of this bloody war. 

April 9, 1865 -  The Confederacy has surrendered. The Union has won. The fighting is done, and we all try to celebrate. I can’t help but think about all the lives lost, for people they didn’t know, so those people could be free.

April 15, 1865,  7:38 a.m. - I just heard the news about Mr. Lincoln, and I can’t help but feel empty inside. He was our leader from the start to the finish of the war. Shot in the head while trying to enjoy a play with his wife to celebrate the end of the war, he was the one who should have been celebrating the most. Though Mr. Lincoln may have died, his legacy will never die.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Clearly Focused

After struggling with increasingly dry eyes and eye allergies that made wearing the gas permeable contact lenses I've worn for over thirty years become extremely uncomfortable and difficult to see clearly, I recently switched to wearing soft lenses. Even though I knew they were usually more comfortable for people who fought the same issues I did, I fought making the switch. My hard lenses helped to keep my vision stabilized for years, and they were easy to care for and pop in and out of my eyes. Watching friends and family take care of soft lenses, not to mention taking them out, I wanted no part of them. It looked like they were putting tiny pieces of Saran Wrap into their eyes, and I couldn't fathom how they took them out of their eyes. It appeared they pinched them right off their eyeballs! 

I've now had soft lenses for a month and still have issues some days putting them in and taking them out, but I have improved to the point, that if I am lucky, I can put them in on the first or second try. They still feel a bit cumbersome, ready to slide off my finger and into the sink if I don't balance them on my finger just right. But what a feeling it is to hold down my lower eye with one finger, center the lens in my eye with another, (without blinking is key!) then listen to the lens crinkle into place. When I hear that noise, I know vision in that eye will soon become sharply focused. 

Not only are things becoming increasingly sharply focused as I get used to caring for and wearing my new lenses, (after a couple of switches to my prescription, I can see great, and they are very comfortable) but my work in progress, Leaf Peepers, the sixth book in the Nature Station Mystery Series, is becoming more focused as well. I have chosen a well focused front cover image of maple leaves exhibiting bright fall color for the front cover and narrowing down images of a Lake Michigan sand dune for the back cover. The book takes place in the late summer, while my main characters are planning an ecotour for so-called leaf peepers to view lovely fall foliage along the south to southeastern shoreline of Lake Michigan. 

The story still has a long way to go, (over 50,000 words to write!) but I am now at the point that not only do I know who dies, but also who killed him, and how and why it was done. It may seem silly not to have that all figured out before I start writing, but this is my process, and once I get to this point in the story, things click into place, allowing the rest of the story to come along quickly and more sharply focused.

Since the main characters travel out of town, several new characters must be introduced and fleshed out to help Kristen Matthews and her amateur detective friends solve the mystery. After not being able to work on Leaf Peepers much for the past few months, I'm getting back to work and hope to have everything ready for an early fall release, since the story takes place over Labor Day weekend. This positive feeling is almost identical to the feeling I have when my lenses are in place and helping my peepers see clearly.