Peace | Can’t We Act Better?

by Jim and Melanie

We stepped out the front door into the sunshine for a walk. Nearby were two young doves. They sat very still so we would not see them. Adult doves fly away in an explosion of sound. These sat there until our return.

How nice if they carried a message of peace and harmony between people of Earth. Such terrible things we humans do to each other. Our thoughts and prayers are with our French brothers and sisters today.



Gun Violence | The Costs Are Huge

How I See It

StopViolenceWe pay a high price in the U.S. for our lack of action to curb gun violence. It is inexcusable how little is done to combat the spread of weapons of carnage. Especially disturbing is how large percentages of the general population think smart measures should be taken, yet, political forces prevent it.

The price we pay is obvious when we see the stories of police violence toward citizens, shootings of police, murders, robberies, and senseless horrible mass killings. People are understandably fearful for their lives and those of their children and loved ones. Some segments of our society are in much greater danger than most. We must try to turn the tide against this.

Besides the emotional and societal costs, another price we all pay is in actual monetary cost. This isn’t reported as often. It doesn’t carry the visual impact of a shooting or senseless crime. Media wants…

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THIS is Iowa

by Melanie

Note: It’s time to remember what community is about, and the intricate, sometimes invisible ways we’re bound together. I wrote this four years ago after an evening at the North Liberty Barbecue and Blues Fest. 

Your vantage point may be different from mine. If you see Iowa from 30,000 feet, or perhaps whizzing through on I-80 at 70 mph, you don’t see what I see.

From my vantage point this evening, I saw feet. Settled into grass rough as a boar’s bristle hair brush, I ate my barbecued brisket sandwich and cole slaw, and I saw feet. Women’s feet, clad in rubber flip flops, towering high heels, strappy sandals, ballet flats. Stretched out in front of me, my own feet, the exception: clad in thick crew socks greyed from a laundry mishap, and a pair of athletic shoes.

Children, little boys with pale skin, pinked from the heat and sun. Many have blond or reddish hair — the northern European genes still run strong in this part of the state. Other little boys with their chocolate brown skin and tightly curled hair. Little girls, towheads with tank tops and tiny skirts, and dark-haired girls, dressed the same, all holding tightly to a parent’s hand.

I remember passages of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book Little House in the Big Woods, where she so aptly describes the swirling skirts dancing at Grandmother Ingalls’ house, all from the viewpoint of a small child. I think of my view from the ground, how limited my scope is here, how little I see.

Looking up I see more, taller children, young adults, young families pushing their strollers. Varying colors and attire, still they seem much the same. The police officer stands out in his uniform, though. He sports a painted pirate patch over one eye and a curling mustache, lending unexpected panache to his appearance.

The next generation older, those of us in our 40s, 50s, 60s, we are more diverse. Men wear tank tops or polo shirts or Sturgis rally t-shirts. They have long hair and crew cuts, beards and smoothly shaved faces. Dew rags and straw hats and ball caps… If you think all Iowa men wear “farmer” caps, John Deere or Case caps, let me assure you it isn’t so. Half the men I saw tonight in their 60s look like old hippies, and the others looked like anyone’s neighbor.

THIS is Iowa. Iowa is not what you see from 30,000 feet, nor speeding by on our main highway. Iowa is not defined by our agriculture or our industry or even our presidential caucuses.

Iowa is our people and how we come together. We come together at the North Liberty BBQ and Blues Fest this evening, at the Kalona Fall Festival, at Hooverfest and the Iowa City Jazz Festival, and hundreds of festivals across the state, across the year. We come together at the farmers’ markets and the football games and community concerts, at churches and synagogues and the Mother Mosque of America. We grant each other a high degree of tolerance and respect.

We are not well represented by the fringe elements proposing a radical GOP platform. We are not well represented by the vile and reprehensible Steve King. We are purple, not red. We are well-educated and rational. We love jazz and blues. We have a long history of progressive civil rights laws, and we were one of the first states in the nation to welcome marriage equality.

What you see from a distance is not what I see. The view from afar does not show you our people, our faces, our children of many colors. The view from the ground is different, is real, and is the future. THIS is Iowa.

Too Much

Some of my (Melanie’s) thoughts on very upsetting recent events, and how we treat each other.

Catbird Quilt Studio

I don’t post political stuff here as a rule. “Politics” and current events can feel both very removed from and very intrusive in our daily lives. I know many quilters and crafters use their projects to escape the everyday, or to provide meditative time for processing events both worldly and close to home.

We have reached the point, are past the point, of too much. Yet I fear that it is still not enough, enough to break the hatred and fear rather than feed it. We (as a society, not necessarily you individually) feed hatred and fear when we escalate our language online, when we treat each other with less respect, when we reject common courtesies in favor of our own momentary needs.

What do we need, so DAMN urgently, on the phone, that we can’t leave it alone while driving? Think about how you used your phone ten years…

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Lines | From Past to Future

My daughters and I visited teacher friends on July 2, 1979. They had sparklers in preparation for the July 4th celebrations. Of course, the girls wanted to play with them. It seemed like a good opportunity for a picture. It was getting dark as evening neared.The camera needed a longer shutter speed of a half second or more. The pictures turned out much better than I expected. Sparks flew and burst into small branches before dying out. We had fun.




In 1985, the Chicago Tribune Magazine ran a photo contest. Readers were invited to submit photographs with the theme ‘Lines‘. These two pictures from six years before seemed to fit the theme. I submitted the top photograph. A few weeks later I received a big envelope in the mail from the Tribune containing a check for $250 and a framed certificate. I won second prize.

Today, both beautiful daughters have wonderful children of their own. Some are the same ages as in these photographs. Much has changed in all three of our lives. Important things have also remained the same. When they look back to see the lines connecting their pasts to the present, I hope they see many lines full of happiness.

House Finch | Give Me Shelter

I looked out the front window to see how heavily it was raining. The corner of the garage has stucco covered quoins under the eave. Sitting quietly in a notch was a House Finch, eyes closed and dry, waiting for the rain to stop.

Milkweed | Busy Visitor

I transplanted three common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) plants from a path we walk to our garden last year. They were about a foot tall at that time. They have done well this year and are over four feet tall and now in bloom. This busy bee was so intent it let me get very close for this photo. No sign of Monarch butterflies yet.



Leaves of Trees | Underside Views

I walked the path with the Sun to my back. It was about 9 am. The small trees nearby had turned their leaves toward the light. Upon my return, I noticed how much detail was evident in the structure of each leaf as the sunlight shined through it. I brought the camera up close to each in macro-mode. There were different shades of green, symmetry, vein structure, etc. Each image can be enlarged for detail.


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