Archive | August 2019

Circus Trip 2018: Lincoln’s Tomb

Day 21, Sunday, August 5, 2018

On this trip, I was really looking forward to seeing the place where Lincoln is buried.  On my visit to Springfield several years ago, I didn’t have enough time to make it there, so it has been on my list for a while!

Lincoln, as you know, was assassinated in Washington, D.C. in April 1865.  His last wishes, however, were to be buried in Springfield, which had been his home for 17 years, and was the only place where he and Mary ever owned a home.  Lincoln and his son Willie, who had died in the White House, were both carried home from Washington, D.C. by train, and Lincoln’s body laid in state in various locations along the way.

The train carrying Lincoln departed Washington, D.C. on Friday, April 21, 1865 and largely traveled the route that Lincoln had traveled to Washington as President-elect in 1861.  The train never traveled faster than 20 mph on the journey, and hundreds of thousands of people watched the train pass by, and waited in the lines to see him lying in state.  He passed through 444 communities in seven states on his way to Springfield.

When he got back to Springfield, Lincoln, and his two sons Willie and Eddie, who died before him, were interred in the vault.  Mary and his son Tad were buried there later.  Robert, Lincoln’s oldest son, is the only member of the immediate family who is not buried in Springfield; he long outlived the rest of the family and chose to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Lincoln’s monument took several years to build, in the meantime Lincoln’s crypt was an above ground crypt that was not particularly secure; an attempt to steal his body in exchange for the release from prison of a counterfeiter was very nearly successful.  After the body snatching attempt, security at the crypt was beefed up (not for a while though) and Lincoln’s coffin was eventually encased in concrete ten feet under the ground.

Outside the monument is a bronze bust of Lincoln – be sure to rub his nose for good luck.  And please don’t ask why you are supposed to rub Lincoln’s nose for good luck, as he was one of our unluckiest Presidents – maybe we shouldn’t explore that too deeply.

Then step inside the tomb – there is a ranger inside who can answer questions and explain the details of Lincoln’s tomb.  They have a passport stamp too – although it is not officially a National Parks site.

Once inside, you go into a hallway at the base of the monument; it goes around to the back of the monument where Lincoln’s crypt is.  Lincoln has a beautiful marble crypt, but remember that he is not inside.  Rather, he is about ten feet below.  Mary and their sons are in wall niches on the opposite wall.  The vault room is simple and somber, and it was truly a humbling experience to be where this great man is buried.

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Happy Belated National Park Service!

Yesterday was the 103rd birthday of the National Park Service!  However, I’m sick and spent most of the day sleeping, and did not have the energy to post anything commemorating it.

So, National Park Service, I’m sure you won’t mind a little belated birthday montage of some of my favorite photos taken within your boundaries.

I promise I’ll do better next year!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Dana-Thomas House

Day 21, Sunday, August 5, 2018

In addition to being the land of Lincoln, Illinois has another famous man who made a name for himself in these parts 50 years after Lincoln died – Frank Lloyd Wright.  He lived in a suburb of Chicago, but his designs were far reaching, with homes in Pennsylvania, Arizona and probably every state in the nation.  Springfield has a Frank Lloyd Wright home that has been incredibly preserved; the Dana-Thomas House.

Mrs. Susan Lawrence Dana lived in an Italianate mansion that had been her parents’ home; she hired Frank Lloyd Wright to remodel the home between 1902 and 1904.  It is truly stunning, and a home that stays very true to Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style.  Mrs. Dana married, but her husband was a bit of a dud and she ended up divorcing him; she never had children, but she was quite a philanthropist and set up a school of sorts to teach black neighborhood children at a time when education for the poor residents nearby was not a priority.  These children had fond memories of Mrs. Dana and spending time in her home library, where they could read, check out books, or play with toys.

In her later years, Mrs. Dana’s finances suffered, and she became ill with dementia.  As a result, her home and belongings had to be sold to pay for her debts and her care.  At that point, the Mr. and Mrs. Charles Thomas bought the home as a complete lot and lived there until Mrs. Thomas’ death in 1975.  Their estate sold the home to the state of Illinois in 1981 for $1 million, which was considerably less than they could have gotten had they parceled out all the furnishings and sold the home separately.

The state of Illinois offers home tours for a $10 suggested donation for adults, only allowing small groups on the tours to prevent damage to the home and furnishings.  It is incredible.  No detail was missed, and the home has been remarkably preserved over the years.  When Mrs. Dana had the home remodeled, one room was left in the Italianate style as a tribute to her parents; it is a contrast to the prairie style of the rest of the home, and interesting to see this dark, heavily decorated room in the center of the home.

Interestingly, Mrs. Dana was allowed to choose her own knickknacks and artwork to decorate the home; often a requirement of working with Frank Lloyd Wright was that he was in charge of all of your home décor, and you didn’t get much.  That vase on the sideboard had to be selected by him, if you were permitted a vase at all.  It goes without saying that I would have not been allowed to commission his work, being the collector that I am.

I really enjoyed this tour, although the tour guide wasn’t the warmest or friendliest person in the world.  I often wonder why people like that take jobs guiding tourists around, if they are sure to be unhappy in the role.  I snuck in right before the tour started, so I watched the movie about the history of Mrs. Dana and the home afterwards; be sure to check that out.

No photos are permitted inside (this seems to be true for all the Frank Lloyd Wright homes that are open to the public), so I did buy a guidebook that has photographs of the interior.

After my tour, I headed down to try out a Springfield microbrewery, called Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery.  Obed &Isaac’s is located in a historic home that is located on the property of Obed Lewis, a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln – Lewis’ three children played with Lincoln’s children.  Unfortunately, the Lewis home had lost its historic charm over the years with numerous remodels, and the owners made the difficult decision to raze the home.

They then purchased the Isaac Lindsey home, another Lincoln era home in Springfield, and moved it to the site.  While they were drawing up plans, they realized that it was too small, so the Isaac Lindsey home was converted to a coffee house, and the Booth-Grunendike home was finally the one that was converted into the Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery.  They really, really wanted to save a historic home!

At Obed & Isaac’s, I had the Strawberry Blonde seasonal ale, and their chicken and waffles.  They were excellent and it gave me the energy for more touristing!

Clarity

This photograph popped up on my Facebook memories the other day.  It was taken at the St. Elmo Ghost Town in Colorado, in August 2015.  It was one of the last trips my ex-husband and I took before we separated about 6 months later.

That was not a good trip.  I mean, the trip itself was good, as I love traveling and seeing new places, and that vacation had a lot of new places to see!  But that trip was the end of my marriage.  I suppose anyone whose marriage has ended can probably point to the month, the day, or even the moment when they were done.  It might not mean that they marched down to the courthouse that afternoon, or even a month later, but in looking back, they knew.

My moment happened on the first day of that trip – at lunch at a Boulder brewery shortly after we flew into Denver that morning.  It was a big thing, one that I could never let go of, even after the initial incident settled down.  I told myself that I would see how things went for a little while, and see if I was satisfied with the response.  See if he followed through on the promises he made.  I’m sure you can guess that the response wasn’t good enough.  The trust was gone and with that, the marriage.

I don’t think I’m different than anyone else.  I never thought I was someone who would get divorced.  I probably stayed too long.  I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt; wanted to believe that things would change.  I weighed the pros and cons of upsetting the balance of my life.  I went through the self-doubt and the wondering if I would ever find anyone who loved me or even cared.  Maybe my marriage was enough.  Maybe you never got the fairy tale, and something less was enough.

I am no different than anybody else in that I sometimes don’t feel confident about who I am, what I have achieved, and where I’m going.  I know in reality that it is nonsense, but it’s tough not to compare yourself to others, to not assume that everybody else somehow has it all together so much more than you do, and to not be your own worst critic.  I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve to be happy, I don’t deserve the good fortune I have had. I ruminate more when I’m tired and stressed, and I’m trying to break myself of this insidious habit.

I had a beloved boss and mentor who used to say, “you work someplace as long as it works for you.”  I have always remembered that, and I use it myself now too.  It applies to work and career, but it also applies to our personal lives.  Dr. Phil is known for asking guests, “how’s that working for you?”  It is kind of the same question.  If you are still doing the same thing, and it isn’t making you happy, don’t you owe it to yourself to try something different?

They say that sometimes you have to lose what you thought you wanted in order to make room for something better.  That one door has to close before another will open.  And that you have to sit with yourself, and learn that you are enough, before you can see that someone else is not.  I see a lot of people get stuck in life, and we all do, but you have a choice of how you will deal with it.  Will you maintain the status quo, and keep making the same choices that aren’t serving you, or will you make a change?

I have never been someone who just goes rushing into things.  It isn’t my nature.  I’m not particularly adventurous, even though some people might think otherwise.  After all, I did decide to pack up my car and head off on a several month road trip, with no real plan and only a very loose itinerary.  But I don’t see myself that way.  The irony of this is that my cautious nature used to annoy my ex-husband to no end.  But he would circle round a topic in an endless loop, unhappy with the status quo, complaining, and yet unwilling to ever do anything to change it.  I’m sure he’s still circling round his endless loop.  It might take me a while to make up my mind, evaluating all my choices and the consequences, but once I do, I set the plan in motion and go for it.

I have known that I am happier without him, but it is hard to define why.  Our marriage wasn’t awful on a day to day basis.  It was just… Stagnant.  Lifeless.  Unfulfilling.  I see this picture now and I can see exactly why, in a way that I didn’t understand then.  The body language of the man in that photo says it all.  He didn’t love me.  He didn’t want to be with me.  Posing for that photo with me was a chore.  I get that some people just don’t like being in photos, but the body language in that photo was the way it had become for him with me.  He looked this way with me, whether it was recorded or not.  He was already done, before I ever got to that point.

I have had a lot of ups and downs since this photo was taken.  My divorce was ugly and messy.  My former job was ugly and messy.  Closing those doors meant that I could let those things go and allow the light to come back in through another door.  I didn’t want to be a victim, but sometimes I have felt like one.  However, there is no future in that – being the victim.  All that holds is blame and more stagnation.  I was able to learn to shine again, and find that inner strength – the strength that had been there all along, but is sometimes hard to see when you are weighed down by other people’s shit.

Is my new life perfect?  Nope – not on your life.  But it is a lot more even-keeled.  I’m content.  Comfortable in my own skin.  And happy.

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” ― Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein

 

Circus Trip 2018: Lincoln’s New Salem

Day 20, Saturday, August 4, 2018

As I drove toward Springfield, Illinois I was lured away by the sign announcing Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site.  My eyes lit up…  New Salem!  (Note: Does this not happen to everyone?!!?)

New Salem was the town where Abraham Lincoln lived as a young adult, between 1831 and 1837, while he was in his twenties.  During that time he worked as a boatman, a soldier in the Black Hawk War, a general store owner, postmaster, surveyor, and of course, what he is most known for in his young life – a rail-splitter.  It was here that he was first elected to the Illinois General Assembly.  New Salem is also where he met and fell in love with Ann Rutledge, the young woman who many believe was the true love of his life.

New Salem as an actual town no longer exists.  It had a very short life; it was founded in 1829 and it was abandoned by 1840, in part because the nearby Sangamon River was not well suited for steamboat travel, and after the county seat was located in Petersburg people just naturally drifted away.  During its existence though, between 20 and 25 families lived in New Salem, and it was an active commercial center.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) reconstructed New Salem, using the original foundations and historical information about the town and what it once looked like.  There are 22 recreated structures, from homes to the types of businesses that once existed there.  One log cabin is original – it was built in New Salem, moved at some point to Petersburg, and later moved back to New Salem when the village was reborn.

New Salem flowers

I arrived in time to have a late lunch and see the village.  I purchased my admission and checked out the museum first.  The museum has artifacts on life in New Salem, information about Lincoln’s time and experience here, and of course, they dive into the Lincoln/Ann Rutledge saga.

There are conflicting opinions on Lincoln’s relationship with Rutledge.  Some believe that Lincoln held Rutledge very close to his heart and was interested in marrying her.  Others believe that their relationship was simply a friendship, and that Lincoln’s affectionate way of writing about her was simply because he wrote the same way about everyone he cared for.  There are also those who believe that William Herndon, Lincoln’s former law partner, spun up the Rutledge story after Lincoln’s assassination in order to take a jab at Mary Todd Lincoln, whom he despised.  We will probably never know, and perhaps all that is known is that Rutledge died in New Salem in 1835 at the age of 22, and that Lincoln sunk into one of his many severe depressions after her death.

The village site itself is amazing.  The reconstructions are very well done and look like the original (I think – given that I wasn’t around to see the original).  It probably helps that these reconstructions aren’t too far from their 100th birthdays…  They are decorated with period artifacts and there are period costumed docents stationed at various places to answer questions and tell you about what their lives would have been like when Lincoln lived here.  One young woman told me that she was refusing to go inside her home because she had been surprised by a snake inside the previous day!  Things we don’t have to consider in Western Washington, but I would have liked to have seen the snake!

I enjoyed wandering around and checked out all the buildings.  The village contains homes, a post office, a general store, a blacksmith shop, and various other businesses reminiscent of the time period.  Even though Lincoln did not work in these buildings, the post office and general store he worked owned would have been similar to these reconstructions.

I took my time, checking out the interiors of each building, enjoying the leisurely afternoon!  There were lots of butterflies and bees on the flowers, and New Salem even has a horse!  It was a great place to learn about Lincoln’s young adult life!

Circus Trip 2018: Carl Sandburg Birthplace State Historic Site

Day 20, Saturday, August 4, 2018

After I visited Knox College, I checked out another historic site in the small Illinois town of Galesburg.  Carl Sandburg’s birthplace home has been preserved and is now operated by the State of Illinois as a State Historic site.

Sandburg was born in 1878, served in the Spanish-American War, and won three Pulitzer prizes (including one for his biography of Lincoln) and the Robert Frost medal for his writing.  He left school at the age of 13 to perform manual labor jobs, driving a milk wagon, a bricklayer, farm laborer, hotel servant and coal heaver.  He did attend West Point for two weeks, and attended Lombard College, but never earned a degree.

Sandburg also worked for a time as a reporter in Chicago, and his writing is often about Chicago.  His poetry focuses on the common man and often features working class themes.  This focus on the themes of the common man allowed much of the American public to relate to his writing.

 

He moved to his estate in North Carolina, named Connemara, in 1945, and lived there and wrote until his death in 1967.  After his cremation, his ashes were interred underneath a granite boulder at his birthplace home – he remains there today.  Connemara is a National Historic Site now and I would love to visit there too!

Even though the Sandburg home was not a place I had on my list, it was certainly a worthwhile stop.  The guide was very enthusiastic about the poet and had a lot of knowledge to share.  I was the only one there when I visited and got to take my time looking at the exhibits.  I let him know when I was ready to visit the home, and he took me over; I got to spend as much time as I wanted looking at the little home.

I left Galesburg after my tour of the Sandburg home to drive even deeper into the Land of Lincoln.  I stopped by a grocery store to replenish my supplies and then I was headed toward Springfield!

Chenin, by Field Recordings

A few months ago I joined a wine club at our local wine shop.  I love the wines that the owner chooses for his shop, and for years I have asked him to pick wines for me.  I tell him my preferences and my price range, and let him pick some for me – he always knocks it out of the park.

During my divorce, I closed down my non-essential spending in order to replenish the savings that my ex had wasted.  Then once I had savings built up, I went on my big trip and needed to live off of those savings for a bit.  But now, with a paycheck coming in again, I have a bit extra to splurge, so I joined the wine club.  It gives me an opportunity to try some new things.  Each month I get one white and one red, and I opened last month’s white on Monday night.

The wine is called Chenin, and it is a Chenin Blanc from Field Recordings, a winery from Paso Robles, California, that I have been hearing about for years.

This wine is delicious!  It is 100% Chenin Blanc, sourced from the Central Coast of California.  It is a combination of green apple and floral flavors, with a light minerality.  I paired mine with such gastronomic weekday delights as tuna sandwich, cream of mushroom soup, and BBQ pulled pork and rice, which basically means that it tastes good with anything!  The winery recommends pairing it with shellfish, salads or turkey subs, which basically means that I probably love these unpretentious people.

You see that I drank it out of my Dia de los Muertos candy skull stemless wine glass – I got it at the Dollar Store!  Wine is meant to be accessible, and who has the time or money to eat scallops and steak every night, or pull out the fancy wine glasses?

Try this wine – you won’t be disappointed!