Weekly photo challenge: Shine (through leaves and trees)


The “shiny” negative space in this photo imitates the  leaves. That’s why I love this one.

This photo wasn’t from this fall. We had a dry summer and it seemed that the leaves were dull and boring compared to other years. I did enjoy one beautiful weekend in Connecticut with a group of friends from my hometown. We stayed at my daughter’s home for a long weekend, and the weather was perfect. We visited wineries and Newport and the beach and the casino and an apple festival. The leaves in CT were at their peak and surprised us all along Rte. 2 south of Hartford. We had a wonderful time, but it was over before I knew it. And I don’t think I thanked them enough for coming.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette


This was one of the last photos I took on my quick trip to Iowa last weekend. It had rained earlier, and the sky was full of incredible cloud formations, but it was getting dark quickly. South of Marcus, I saw these 7 identical little storage bins silhouetted against the western sky. (I’m sure they have a name, but I just can’t think of what it would be.) One of my favorites from the trip.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Room


Weekly Photo Challenge: Room

This is a photo of my parents’ living room in their home in Marcus, Iowa. The carpet was 1980s orange. The curtains (according to the stories I heard) were sewn by my great-aunt, my grandmother’s sister. My great-grandparents lived in this house many years before my father and mother bought it and retired here.

On this day we moved all the furniture on the front and side lawns for my dad’s house sale. It was a beautiful September day in 2010, and the day after that we cleaned the last things out of the house and closed the door forever. My father died in January 2013, and I have not returned to Marcus since. I hope to do that this summer sometime.

When I took this photo, I remember how the sun poured into the room, and how it was so quiet inside. I remember the muffled sound of the auctioneer as he sold away the things of my parents’ life together.

Reading the newspaper

Marcus High School Class of 1975 on Main Street

Marcus High School Class of 1975 on Main Street

Reading the Files from the Past in the Marcus News

110 Years Ago — 1899

Mrs. Scott Zink, 21, died Wednesday, July 19, in the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Richards. She had contracted typhoid fever on her way to visit them.

90 Years Ago – 1919
John Baertling departed for New York City, New York, where he will sail on a Norwegian liner, the Slavangenfjord, for Sweden. It will be his 14th trip across the briny deep.

70 Years Ago – 1939
Grasshoppers are unusually thick in some places, especially south and east of Marcus.

Mr. and Mrs. W.H. Daubendiek of West Bend recently spent eleven weeks in Germany. They report that the people are very happy and contented with no employment. They enjoy five good meals daily. Mr. Daubendiek feels there will be no war unless someone attacks them.

65 Years Ago – 1944
Donald W. Hendrickson, USMM of Marcus, is another Marcus boy who participated in the invasion of France on D Day.

Her Rolling Pin


Another poem that is in the works. The final poem will probably look different from this first draft. Any comments? Any suggestions? Any confusion? Any questions?

My Mother’s Rolling Pin

The wood is rich, warm, almost oily,
from years of shaping pie dough, the lard pressed
deep into its solid core.

Attached are mismatched handles:
one painted red, one of blonde wood.
Surely jerry-rigged by my father to make do for a day.

My mother made pies, especially in summer,
when fruits made their way into her kitchen
in children’s pails and bushel baskets.

But it has been years since she patted dough
on a floured board and set her weight
against the misshapen lump.

She rolled up and down, back and forth.
A sprinkling of flour dusted on a sticking place,
and the dough stretched and gave.

And then the folding and unfolding into the pie tin.
And then into the oven, crust browning, juices
oozing out, scenting the curtains, tugging us in.

I slip my hands around the grooves my mother made.
And then I hear what I’d never heard before.
She was humming: so soft, so sweet, so sure.

Here, then, her brush, her pen, her dance, her song,
her flute, her sculptor’s knife, her poem.
And the artist I never knew.


Weekly photo challenge: Fleeting

Four sisters: me, Jean, Nancy and Mary


The stones, the blinding light of late-afternoon sun in summer, deep shade, a Sunday, surely a Sunday.

The dresses, the pin-curled hair, pigtails, the distant sound of bird song, a voice calling for someone, footsteps on gravel.

Three more brothers in the years to come. But, on this day, four sisters and a gravestone for one son.

The loss, still raw. The house, still quiet.

On another summer day faraway, their mother will tell one daughter that the boy would peek over her crib to make her laugh. She will say it was his favorite thing to do.

It will be the first thing she will ever say to the daughter about her brother.

It will be the last thing, too.

Weekly photo challenge: Culture

This link will take you to a photo essay done by the New York Times a few years ago that features the voices of Marcus residents explaining this little town phenomenon that takes place every August in northwestern Iowa.


I’m not sure if it fits the category of “culture,” but it does describe the life I grew up knowing, and I do believe it is a landscape that is slowly — and sadly — disappearing. Below, are my own images from past fairs. I probably won’t make it back this summer, but not because I don’t want to be there.

Thank you to the volunteers who work so hard to make it happen every year.


Weekly photo challenge: Kiss



Amazing the power that a photo has.

These photos were taken at my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary party at their home in Marcus, Iowa, some 40 years ago in the early 1970s. I wasn’t even there that evening. It was a card party for their friends and relatives. No kids allowed.

However, I probably saw these slides dozens and dozens of times. And every time we watched them, we would laugh as Grandpa wound up and laid a wet one on our Grandma.

The Kodak carousels of slides were stacked and organized next to my Dad’s desk. He set up the screen in the living room and we went through a handful of carousels regularly. And just as regularly, a slide would get stuck in the carousel. My Dad would swear in his PG-garbled way: “You-dirty-rotten-shin-rackin-mother-som-bidder.” And then my mother’s warning: “Jerry?”

No doubt, without this slide, I would not know of this moment. But because of it, I can remember my grandparents. My gentle, inventive Grandpa and my tough, creative Grandma.

I can see them kiss forever.

Weekly photo challenge: Unique

A soldered piece created by my dad from farm implements.

A soldered piece created by my dad from farm implements.


This is one of the pieces of my dad’s work that was sold on his sale a year ago. Now that he is gone, I wish we still had this. I know a woman who lives near Marcus bought it. I may have to search for her. He enjoyed doing pieces like this — finding new purpose for things that might have rusted away in a corner. And, so, when I found out that the topic for this week’s photo was unique, my mind instantly landed here. I enjoy its balance and his clever use of functional farm tools as art. It is a pure lesson in looking at the stuff of our everyday lives with new eyes.