Gala Ending

When I stop to think about it I wonder if the banquet manager suffered from a headache at the end of it all.

Dinner will be for 300, give or take a dozen.         Easy.

Set up for the silent auction in the same room.      Not a problem to open another section.

Cash bar — writing is thirsty work.          Certainly.

Sound system and podium.       Check.

Oh, one more thing. You need to use the same space converted from lunch to book signing tables. Two hours between the events.

By ones and twos our small group gathers in the room. One lady is a published author. Three of us are on various steps of the lader to publication. (How long is that climb?) And one supportive spouse shares the meal and conversation with us.

Food and drink. Photos. Speaker. Contest winners announced. The weekend event peaks in the ballroom on Saturday night.

The program ends. Conferees chat, check the auction tables, and drift off to their hotel rooms or transportation to nearby homes. In the morning we scatter back to our own homes, loved ones, and thoughts. We’ve work to do. All that knowledge presented needs to soak in and find an outlet in our next written story.

Already the hospitality specialists have set up for the next business meetings, conference, or reception.



Thought for this Holiday

Today we take a break from our Friday garden. This is Memorial Day weekend and the following is written to provoke a moment of respect and honor for the men and women that have served and sacrificed for our country.

Memorial Days

            “On behalf of a grateful nation…”

            Mr. Glaus said those actual words. They were not part of any movie script. They were part of the actual speech as he handed the flag to mother.

I had watched them fold it. We had stepped back, away from the casket a little to give them room. A few steps back was tricky business. So many had tried to take advantage of the shade of the large basswood tree. Not that it was any cooler. But the midday sun was at least filtered.

Mother and I nearly stumbled. The green carpet hid the obstacle. Mother was never good on uneven ground anyway. This time the obstacle had been the low marker for my grandparents’ grave.

My thoughts had not closely followed the graveside prayer. Oh, I stood politely and bowed my head slightly. But my eyes stayed on the flag draped casket and my thoughts went back to other times I had stood in this cemetery.

Memorial Day! Young girls in pairs laid a spray of evergreen with poppies on the grave the Legionnaires had led us to. They stood straight and tall in dark blue shirts. One at the head, one at the foot of the grave saluted as we laid the decoration.

Memorial Day! The high school band played the National Anthem and Sousa marches. Young girls followed legionnaires to the graves and set down the evergreen sprays with poppies. A trumpeter slipped from the ranks of the band to play “Taps” from the edge of the woods after the three volley rifle salute.

Memorial Day! A college student now, I stand with mother and an uncle. Together we watch dad and the other Legionnaires guide young girls to graves with offerings of evergreen and poppies.

Mr. Glaus and Mr. Bechel folded the flag with deliberate motions. Mr. Glaus stepped to mother and spoke as he handed her the large, thick triangle. “On behalf of a grateful nation…”

The tears started then. Not a flood. Just enough to make me glad the small package of tissue was in my hand.

“Ready! Aim! Fire!” The first of three volleys burst over the gathering.

Taps! One trumpet sent the familiar, lonely refrain into the air.

I wiped at my tears. Mother gave me a questioning look. “Too many Memorial Days.”

Long may it wave.

Indoor Oasis

Whoosh — the first automatic door opens.

Aaah – the second closes behind me.

Still, warm air bathes skin chilled after walking only a dozen yards after exchaning my warm car cocoon for the constant prairie wind. It’s a stern reminder that my travel was as much north as east across Illinois.

Atrium. Lobby. Gathering place. Oasis. Yes, defined as a quiet peaceful place in the midst of turbulent surroundings. The large sunken room before me personifies all of this.

A fountain near the center splashes a soothing welcome. Hotel guests work on computers, snack, or chat at the surrounding tables. More distant from the bubbling water upholstered chairs and loveseats encourage conversation between old friends or new acquaintances.

Are you here for the conference?      Where are you from?    What do you write?

The last question is tossed back and forth as the romance writers gather. We’ve come to learn, teach, mingle or network.

Day and night the indoor oasis offers the pause, the meeting place, the respite brains assaulted with new knowledge, sights, and people seek.


Growing Promise

A few days past I remembered to take my camera along on my walk.

Several weeks ago these trees hosted white blossoms. What hides among the spring leaves now? Can you find them? Small, green, round, and poking out at odd angles.

Orchard fruit starts small. Nothing new about that. You and I started out small. Even the tree holding this fruit started as a small thing that a human child could play giant beside. But these will not take years. We need to have patience lasting only months before the pears will hang full and ripe.

Hide and seek – pear style

Not Alone in Error

It underlined that I was a hick in the big city.

Oh, I’d visited before. And I expected toll roads in Chicagoland. At my meal break I’d even put some money from my wallet within easy reach and wondered what the current rate was.

My mistake was in believing these toll booths would be like other encountered in Illinois and other states. You may be familiar with the type – every lane goes through a gate. Those that pay with cash come to a complete stop while the vehicles with passes slow for the computers to read and deduct the fee.

A new twist – only a few lanes jog right to booths while other lanes continue at highway speed. Slow on the uptake I didn’t understand the signage.

A word to the hotel clerk when I checked in set me on a path to maintain a spot free driving record. Go to the web site, give them the information of all the when and where and what plus a valid credit card and all will be well with the tollway.

Would you believe I left Chicagoland on toll free state highways?



Easy Digging

The evidence is there – right in the middle of the garden.

The creatures worked again. Did they dig in the dark? Or bright daylight?

My imagination sees one now. The head swivels on the thick neck and small bright eyes check for humans. Front paws test the surface. Too hard! Dash across sun warmed patio blocks and hop onto a ledge. What have we here?

A few body lengths later he checks again for enemies, tests the dirt with sharp claws, gathers momentum, and lets the dirt fly. Dig, dig, dig and the head, shoulders, body, and even the cute little chipmunk tail disappears into the new hole where a thoughtful human stirred the dirt for easy digging.

Taking a break from digging.

Farming a New/Old Crop

They are popping up like slender, mutated mushrooms after spring rain. Larger than most villians in those cheap movies of the 1950’s. You remember them – scary enough to have your date shiver and jump into your embrace in the dark.

These are science. Not ficition. A new twist on an old concept becoming prominate across Illinois. A summer or two ago I departed the Interstate and went on state, county, and then local gravel roads to get up close.

A new group decorates the landscape along my route. They appear tall and slender. Up close they are thick, the slender is only in proportion to height.

More are under construction. I catch up to pilot vechiles with banners of “Wide Load”. One by one the traffic slips into the left lane, approaches with concentration to the task at hand, and passes a large flatbed with his cylindrical load. Another portion of windmill stem moves across the prairie.

Three large fan blades somersault in the constant breeze, moving the apparatus to make electricity to power a computer and all the other items that contribute to the standard of living Americans aspire to.

This is a distant cousin of the windmill I grew up around. On a 40 foot steel frame that historic one pumped water for a herd of animals and a houseful of humans.

A new crop for a breezy state.

Hanging Herbs

Don’t let the title fool you. I’m not going to lynch a man named Herbert.

Winter is cold enough in this city that all but the very hardiest of herbs fall victim to frosty leaves and chilly roots in the months of January and February. One solution to prevent starting over each year is to bring them inside and set them in the window as a fragrant houseplant.

How can I make this easy? I don’t want to mess with re-planting and re-potting twice a year. Ah…..I have it.

Double layer garden.

Miles and Miles

Spread a map of the United States in front of you. Close your eyes. Jab a finger toward the middle.

Where did you end up? A dozen states are possible but today we’re going to talk about crossing one portion of the heart of the heartland – Illinois.

Pioneers found prairie stretching across a flat horizon with native grasses imitating the sea in the wind.

On my recent trip from St. Louis to Chicago the expansive flat geography was impossible to ignore. Mile after mile the sight from the highway is a distant and level horizon. Trees break the straight line where they follow rivers on their inching descent or mark a farmstead where a forward thinking person planted shade and a windbreak.

Are you looking for a small town? Scan for a grain elevator. Tall, cement and metal they stand next to the railroad track as a reflection of the rich nature of the land. This is the home of abundant crops of soybeans and corn. Late April and tiny plants emerge only far enough to sight rows at the southern end of the journey. Further north the fields lay dark and level waiting for seed.

Miles and miles of Heartland

And there’s a new crop…..perhaps not so new….but gaining in prominence. To be explored soon.