Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Linkng Back Ten Years to Cuba

I have been blogging a long time and realized that many of you may not have read these posts that I wrote back in 2005.   I should remember to print these posts out for my grandchildren if all of these blogs go down in years.

Hatties blog is one I read regularly as she lives in Hawaii were I went to school for a short time.  Her recent trip to Cuba reminded me of this post I wrote so loooong ago and this epilogue that I added later. 

Come back here, please, if you want to leave a comment as those posts are so long ago in another time zone!


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Word Play

Writing is a compulsion for some of us.  We love the tidiness of words that fit like soldiers in a march toward some end and the untidiness of words that erupt like a volcano leaving bits of fire everywhere.  When we spill these words across a page, they mean different things to different people, and if we are a good writer, writing critics, just like art critics, spend precious time analyzing and deciphering and admiring.  Yet most of us are mediocre writers at best.  We know that and do not stop because it is a scratch that we just MUST itch. Most of the time what we spill is not deeply intriguing or even interesting beyond the single reading.  For some of us, it can help us understand ourselves and our place in time when no one else does.  We think our words become far more than a spontaneous and uncontrolled communication with the universe.

Some of us have a turn of phrase tumble out of our heads onto the paper that requires deeper analysis before we share, and so we tuck it away into a note for it to ferment.  Another time, maybe it is something we have seen that strikes our fancy and so we paint that scene with words.  We never for a second allow the thought to enter that this unique combination of words might be trivial and we might be lying to ourselves about its potential importance when woven into a paragraph, an essay,or  a scene.  We hope and nurture that it is a tool clearing the passage to something more magnificent down the road.  When we pull it out once again months later, we might possibly read it as the ramblings of an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing...someone famous wrote that and I just stole it...sometimes what floats to the front of the mind it is something that someone else wrote which we admired such a long time ago.

A few days ago, while cleaning up my laptop (digitally), I found a file labeled philosophy.  It consisted of about 14 lines of questions and interesting statements about life.  I was intrigued by what I had written, and at first, assumed I had been very erudite at the time I made that note.  I must have been humming like a finely tuned violin.  The more I re-read the words, though, I realized these were phrases captured from some movie I had seen...where the dialogue (I think from some detective) had been intriguing and intellectual, unlike most movie dialogue.  The questions he asked were so thought provoking that I guess I had hoped to use it as a stimulus for future meanderings of my own.


Have you ever done that?  Is your life cluttered with your notes, others' notes and jumbled words just waiting to be woven into a cleaner more interesting tapestry, or am I the only one stumbling in this cluttered and indiscriminate universe of words to which we are exposed every day?

I have been taking a digital course on writing and love being a student again.  I was never one who hated school.  I am working on bits and pieces of a "short" story in three parts as part of the course.  If I find it worthwhile and do not fear being naked, I may post it if I can actually finish it.  It is going to be close to 20-30 pages, so perhaps translating to a blog will not work...too long.  I am struggling.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

You Are Forgiven If You Arrive Fashionably Late

(The last of my 3-part series on the Ringling Brothers Circus.)  The main house on the John Ringling estate is quite a eye opener.  John and his wife never had children, but they loved to entertain and this house was designed by and constructed with the oversight of his wife.

John Ringling and his four brothers living in Wisconsin on a farm would tour towns as jugglers and skit performers.  They were very good businessmen and soon built an entertainment empire.  Each brother had a job and John was in charge of transportation. They worked fairly and split the money equally and soon had the largest entertainment enterprise in the 1880s.

In 1905 he married Mable Burton.  It is my understanding that he gave her full reign in the construction of the house.  It was named Cà d'Zan, "The House of John" in the Venetian dialect of Italian.  Easy to see the strong influence of European design and architecture...mostly Italian baroque..  Personally I think the 30 room mansion is a little over the top for my tastes.  Yet, I am sure others find it a lovely home.  As it sits right on the water, you can imagine the terror that the curators face every time Florida gets a warning of a hurricane!


You may just be able to see the houses and keys in the distance on the horizon in this photograph above.

Does the maintenance alone not boggle your mind?  Most of the staff are volunteers.  Perhaps history or archeology or architecture or art students at Florida State University?


You do not arrive at dinner here under dressed and without grand expectations.


I think this place tries very hard to capture the elegance of Europe but ends up looking like a dictator's ego-filled palace.


But, again, I must remind myself that these people made their wealth from the entertainment industry...from the circus.  Why should I be surprised that this place has that atmosphere.  Note John Ringling's portrait behind that large brown organ.  He was a very good business man and created a wealthy life with his talent.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Train, The Train!

(Some of you wanted to see more....so)  Ringling Brothers Circus today uses two trains that travel simultaneously. Back in the 1950's there were three giant train systems:  the first section being 22 cars with tents and poles and workers, the second section of 28 cars carried the ushers, canvasmen, and side show workers, the third section was 19 cars long and included the sleeper cars.  After merging with Barnum and Bailey the trains consisted of 100 double-length railroad cars transporting 1,200 employees, and was arguably the largest traveling amusement enterprise up to that time.

Only a very small portion of the older train is in the museum - personal travel cars of John Ringling and his staff.



No expense was spared for decor!


Looking down the train from the back end.


Above is the  lounge where John and his wife read and listened to music and watched the U.S. go by.  Such luxury !


The bedroom. 


The kitchen was very efficient and the cook prepared complete meals. 


The bathroom...with actual bath!!  Since they had to have access to water for the animals, I guess bringing/getting water for a bath was not that difficult. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

It Never Forgets


The news has recently said that the Ringling Brothers Circus was going to phase out its elephants from the circus.  I saw this elephant act decades ago in D.C. and that event made me decide I would probably never see circus animal acts again.  I could sense that the elephants were frightened.  You could see it in their eyes and by other things they did.  Ringling Brothers had, over the years, been receiving criticism for revealed behind the scenes harsh treatment toward these animals.  As we have learned, elephants are far more intelligent and complicated than we ever assumed.  In some atonement Ringling now has created a 200 acre conservation center in central Florida to retire these elephants in a phase out program.  I also remember years ago another video going around showing elephants using their trunks holding paint brushes to paint rather nice paintings in some place in Asia bringing in lots of amazed tourists with their money.  Behind the scenes training revealed unimaginable cruelty being inflicted to get these elephants to do something so unnatural.


As I wrote in a post before, I visited the Ringling Brothers museums during my trip down south.  In the photo above is the patio that John Ringling created just outside his large and rather garish house in Sarasota, Florida, now owned and maintained by Florida State University and on the same grounds as a circus museum, an extensive art museum, a miniature circus model and other interesting venues along with a beautiful garden.  That day was the warmest we saw...maybe 55F?


A large room houses a fascinating model of the three ring circus.  The model took years to create and is built in 3/4 to the foot scale.  Fifty-five train cars were also handcrafted and can actually be packed with all the circus figures.  It is a reproduction of the Ringling Circus in the 1920's and fills a large room.  This venue is very popular with all ages.  I did not take pictures inside the actual building as I guess I got distracted, but you can Google "Howard Brothers Circus Model" and get an eye full and experience a bit of the big tent excitement.

Ringling Brothers Circus was an important part of Americana and while we have many more distractions and entertainments in our modern world, this little bit of nostalgia was enjoyable.  (Let me know if you want to see the house or actual train.)

Monday, March 09, 2015

Soft Cold

Within days the ice storm, I wrote about in the prior post, melted and was almost immediately followed by another cold front bringing hail in the early hours of the day and a snowstorm in the later part.  The tickety, tickety sound of the hail hitting the skylights was like little wrens dancing on a tin floor. Then it changed to snow.  There is nothing more lovely and surprising than a heavy dry snow storm coming through on a late afternoon.  While we have had cold weather in these parts, we have not had lots of snow like so many others.  One storm of a few inches I missed while I was on travel.  This second one came through the second week of march and left me with beautiful scenery.  Such snowstorms (when not in super abundance or brought with frighteningly high winds) are so soft and clean when they cover everything.  They purify the sins of the earth.  Everything is virginal once again.

Snow is initially fun to watch because it is gentle and quiet and not intimidating like a summer electrical storm.


The clickity sound of the hail on the skylights was replaced...by...no sound at all.


Birds came in from everywhere and began to wait patiently for the sun to set.


The storm place a layer of soft fluffy crystals with bits and pieces of loose down sticking to the barks of trees and building in drifts pushed by the wind catching bunches and throwing them high.  A true pillow fight of large proportions. By nightfall every edge was smoothed in crystal white.


The evening meant a fire in the fireplace and some apple spice cake making from all those apples I picked and froze  last fall.  We each had a big slice.


By morning the sun arrived boldly and the yard had been dressed in a new smooth white silk with only the fox's footprints in the front yard and a lone deer's hoof prints in the backyard to break the perfection.  (This post was written days ago as I have been busy with kids doing lots of stuff.)

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Hard Cold

Our return to the land of the frozen was dry but bitter. We waded through 6 inches of snow covered in ice to the front door and carried our gear ever so carefully.  By the next day a rain that originated with warm air high above us in the atmosphere fell through the frozen air and as it reached near our ground it became liquid ice and this is what we saw when we woke the next morning.


I put on my camouflage gear and winter boots and headed out early for just a sneak at what the river looked like.  The dock was wrapped like a silver package in a sheet of ice with a glitter dusting of snow and my concern for both my camera and my bones made me stop short of the edge where it hung over the water.  The nets in the left foreground are oyster floats.  I think the oysters are down in the mud right now, but I will have to ask hubby if these are just empty or set-asides. Other oyster farmers in the area are worried about their oyster stock in this frozen water.  The plastic owl leaning drunkenly below is supposed to chase away birds from leaving calling cards on the dock, and now askew, he is hardly looking intimidating.  The boat was pulled in late fall for some motor maintenance and sits on a trailer in the front yard and not on the boat lift below.  This finger of the river is frozen all the way out the day this photo was taken.  An unusual event, certainly.  This is as far as I was brave enough to walk.