Category Archives: Sunday Snapshot

Sunday Snapshot: Frosty Clover

I’m in the throes of NaNoWriMo right now. I’m behind on my word count but I can finally feel the rhythm of the story . It’s a weird sort of hope, like finally seeing the life preserver floating in your direction after treading water for hours and hours and hours and being excited about it even though you know you’re in the middle of the ocean and you haven’t seen a boat for days.

In traditional Kansas fashion, our weather has been erratic. Today it’s raining and in the 50s (exactly right for the stormy Kansas horror novel I’m piecing together), but earlier this week, we were waking up to temperatures in the single digits. Still. The morning frost can be magnificent and beautiful if you don’t mind standing still long enough to take it in. It shows us the details that get lost in all of the green of spring and summer.Frosty Clover

Candles on All Souls’ Day

All Souls' Day Candles

Today is All Souls’ Day.

It’s easy to forget this holiday exists. At the stores, the Halloween costumes have already been replaced with Christmas decorations, and the grocery stores are trying to wedge Thanksgiving fare in between October and December.

Historically, Halloween is the day we pray for protection from evil. All Saints’ Day–November 1–is the day we celebrate those in heaven. All Souls’ Day–November 2–is the day we pray for the dead.

***

When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents. They lived only a couple of miles from my childhood home, and we saw them every few days, which means we were there to witness the routines of daily living.

My Croatian Catholic grandparents brought with them many of the Old-World rituals. Soup before every meal. Baking povitica every weekend. Special rituals like sprouting wheat seeds at Christmas.

It just so happened that I found myself at my grandparents’ house on November 2 one year. I remember walking into my grandmothers’ kitchen and finding a pie pan full of glowing white candles.

“What are the candles for?” I asked.

“Today we light candles for our family and friends who have died,” she said. And she pointed to each candle and told me who it was for. Her mother. Her father. Her grandmother. Her first husband. And on and on.

I was in awe of so many glowing candles on something other than a birthday cake.

“I don’t have anyone to light a candle for,” I said. Not really comprehending what those candles really meant, I was disappointed not to have any of my own to light.

“That means that everyone who matters to you is still here,” she said. “One day, though, you’ll have candles to light.”

***

I still remember when my brother called me in March of 2002 to tell me that my cousin was killed in a car wreck. It was the first time someone who truly mattered–a cousin we’d grown up with–was gone.

“We’re lucky, you know,” my brother told me before the funeral. “Somehow, we made it until now before anyone in our close circle of friends and family died.”

I was twenty-six.

And then it began.

The Big Deaths. The ones that truly alter the flow of your life. The ones that make you realize that generations are passing, that things will never be as they were. That there will come a time when you realize people you loved have been gone from your life longer than they were in your life, even though some part of you thought they would always be there.

And now I understand why my grandmother lights candles. It is more than a prayer for their souls. It is a day to remember the people who touched our lives and to celebrate how they shaped us.

***

Today, I pulled out my own pie pan and found myself filling it with candles.

My husband and I light candles for my cousin, my mother, my paternal grandmother, my mother-in-law, my husband’s four grandparents, my husband’s uncle, a candle for all of our pets, and one more candle for everyone else who touched our lives and has since passed on.

After lighting her own candles and offering prayers and reflection, my grandmother went on with her day. Cooking. Cleaning. Folding laundry. And the candles were allowed to burn. Because those who touch our lives are always a part of us, always glowing in the background, even when we aren’t thinking about them at all.

Sunday Snapshot: A Cow in a Field

I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ve managed to not post anything for almost a month, even though I have a whole bunch of things I can write about.

Here is a picture of a cow to tide things over.

We met on a minimum maintenance road somewhere in southeastern Franklin County. When we stopped to inspect a section of muddy road, this cow came by to say hello.

We met on a minimum maintenance road.

We met on a minimum maintenance road.

Sunday Snapshots: A walk on the prairie

Our weather station reported that today’s temperature reached 102.3 degrees. The air is thick with humidity, yet the ground is so dry the grass is brown and even the weeds are losing the will to live. But two weeks ago, parts of Kansas were blessed with heavy rains and mild temperatures, and Jim and I found ourselves at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

The movement of clouds create ever-shifting light and shadows on the prairie.

The TPNP is quintessential Kansas, one of the few places where you can experience giant views of native prairie. In addition to the original homestead and school, the park includes bison that graze in the pastures, and nearly 40 miles of hiking trails weave through acres of grasses and prairie flowers. The trails are open 24/7/365, and the lighting around the visitor center is thoughtfully designed to minimize impact on the night sky, making it a perfect place for stargazers and photographers.

Southwind Nature Trail.

Following Jim along the Southwind Nature Trail.

Because we didn’t have a lot of time that day, a park ranger recommended that we follow the Southwind Nature Trail and the spur to Lower Fox Creek School, a total of less than three miles of walking. Yet in such a short hike, we climbed hills, crossed a creek, spotted butterflies, and were surrounded by cheerful birdsong. It was good for the soul.

Wide Open Spaces

Sunday Snapshot: In the setting sun at St. Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park

I’m writing more about St. Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park later this month. In the meanwhile, here’s one of my favorite photographs of the plant life there, shot in the warm glow of the setting sun.

It looks a little like chamomile, but I think it's Daisy Fleabane.

It looks a little like chamomile, but I think it’s Daisy Fleabane.

Sunday Snapshot: Museum at Prairiefire

I learned about the new Museum at Prairiefire completely by accident: I happened to catch a discussion on a friend’s facebook page about places to visit in Overland Park, and someone mentioned a new museum opening in May.

Museum at Prairiefire.

Museum at Prairiefire.

The museum is part of a larger development called Prairiefire, which has created an upscale small-town village of arts-and-crafts-inspired apartment buildings, a shopping area, a cinema, and the museum, all within walking distance of each other. The museum building itself is gorgeous and is surrounded by a wetlands park filled with native plants.

The museum includes a Great Hall (free to explore), an American Museum of Natural History exhibit (admission fee required) and a Discovery Room for children (admission fee required). During our visit, the Great Hall was filled with dinosaur and fish fossils.

The big reason to go during the next few days is the AMNH exhibit, Water: H20 = Life. Originally on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, it is now a wonderful traveling exhibit. It’s beautiful, it appeals to the senses with a combination of live animals and plants, text, sound, hands-on demonstrations, videos, and technology. We noticed that even younger children were taking their time exploring the exhibit, and we were amazed by how much we learned about human, plant, and animal water needs and usage. Jim and I were especially enamored with a short film about the availability of fresh water on the planet, which used multiple projectors to create a three-dimensional globe in the center of the viewing area.

The people of Tonle Sap live in floating houses and work in floating businesses.

The people of Tonle Sap live in floating houses and work in floating businesses.

Mudskippers have adapted to live in and out of water.

Mudskippers have adapted to live in and out of water.

Our favorite part of the exhibit: a video on fresh water availability projected to create a 3D world.

Our favorite part of the exhibit: a video on fresh water availability projected to create a 3D world.

The exhibit runs through July 13. If you’re in the Kansas City metro area, it’s worth a stop. We’re already looking forward to the next exhibit.

Sunday Snapshot: Sharp-Morrison Cemetery

Sharp-Morrison Cemetery in Linn County, Kansas

Sharp-Morrison Cemetery in Linn County, Kansas.

It’s known as the Sharp-Morrison Cemetery, because the larger monument belongs to George J. Sharp (1809-1873) and the smaller one belongs to George J. Morrison (1871-1879). They are alone at the edge of a field, not far from where No. 15 School once stood, shielded by the ghost of a tree gone nearly as long as the two Georges.