Monday, June 13, 2011

My Big Adventure

Me, happily watching the world go by...
I've been away for a bit, off on an Adventure that began last Thursday when I accompanied James to Milwaukee for the annual Bead and Button show. James used to sell his glasswork as one of the vendors there but has recently taken a much-needed break from it, and friend and fellow glassworker Julie Nordine has since conveniently stepped into his space. It's a different experience for us now as attendees. The city is ours for the taking.

This year instead of driving like fiends the two of us took the Amtrak 'Empire Builder' train to our destination. I'd brought books, sketchpads, and a pillow for napping, and I could have left them all at home as there was just that much to see.

The 6-hour ride rocked by in a blur of gentle rhythms and views that one can only catch from a passenger car. I saw the picket-fenced backyards of the Midwest with their just-begun vegetable gardens, bonfire circles, and private Edens where a lawnchair or two could be tucked into leafy clots of creeper vines or under shady grape arbors (and sometimes were).... I saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes dancing in an open field with their fledglings. I saw lawnmower-created crop circles that may or may not have been intentional. I saw miles of telephone poles with insulators the color of Ball jars, and at least three broomsticks standing on end along the woodsy bank (a railroad thing, perhaps?). Golden deer paused at attention in the trees and watched us pass. And in teeny tiny towns with red brick train stations, children stopped on their bikes and waved....

No sooner had we arrived at our hotel than I came down with a monumental sinus infection that absolutely kicked my ass. But I was on an Adventure! And my rules state that Adventures are so important that sometimes you just gotta work through the pain. Our Milwaukee trip happens once a year and I didn't want to miss a thing. So in addition to attending the Bead and Button show, taking some classes, and reconnecting with great glass artists, great friends, and great customers who have become great friends, James and I took every opportunity to see the city.

We visited the Safe House (an annual must-see), and saw the Science Museum. We walked along the edge of beautiful Lake Michigan (that IS the body of water that Milwaukee is on, isn't it?, I'm totally stupid when it comes to geography....). We watched as a bridal party was photographed on the deck of the schooner Denis Sullivan, admired a church so fancy it could be the Yank version of Hogwarts, took pics of a kite in flight that was shaped like a huge rainbow-colored devil ray, bought a book full of the photos of fish skeletons, took video of a pub on wheels (that must be seen to be believed), shared pints of Guinness with a friend at nearby Mo's, encountered magic everywhere (a finger-sized cypress tree growing up through a crack in the sidewalk, a Dumpster with the graffiti'd message "You Are Beautiful", a city bus going to someplace called Mayfair), and had an all-around memorable time. James is seriously the best traveling companion ever, especially for someone like me who needs a 'handler.'

My sore throat and fever caused me to be rather 'out of it' for much of the sight-seeing, unfortunately. And I did miss dinner with friends. But there's also something to be said for hunkering down in a cave-like hotel room with a Do Not Disturb sign on the door and nothing to distract you from your recovery save for the occasional footsteps in the hallway or firetruck siren far below on the city street. And for long hours of much-needed rest, I did not forget that my housework and lawncare worries were miles away back in Minnesota, too far for me to care about. It was a nice feeling....

By Sunday afternoon I was more than happy to curl up in a window seat once more and let Amtrak do the driving. And this time I not only saw a breathtaking sunset but I caught sight of a stitched-together patchwork of a houseboat afloat on a lake, a white-painted cabin that had once been an old railroad car, a privacy fence made up of dozens of fancy wooden doors secured side-by-side, what I can only assume was an ADA-compliant deer stand, a silo no taller than a garage door (it had a window and a chimney, too; just the cutest thing), and a tiny cemetery in a clearing in the forest where the few bleached-white gravestones circled a little garden of yellow flowers. I felt privileged to witness them all and sorry for the passengers napping or glued to their laptops watching movies. How could they not be aware that magic was happening right outside their windows??

And now it's business as usual again. The garden peas grew in my absence, and so did all the weeds. My suitcase still needs unpacking and mail needs to be dealt with. An art commission came while I was gone. Boo is happy for the lap I've made. And some chicken soup and ginger tea are calling to me.

Adventures are fabulous, certainly. But it's also good to be home again. :)

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