Earlier this month, there was a fire at the Mazomanie Oak Barrens, likely due to an extended drought that began in the spring. The damage was relatively minor, burning an area less than seven acres in size. While it’s a stark view, the DNR already performs prescribed burns in this area to preserve the health of the prairie. When we visited yesterday, the grass was beginning to grow back.
The path, which didn’t burn, can be seen in a photo that I took of my daughter a few years ago.
Sometimes when I go for a hike, I forget my camera. Despite the initial disappointment, it’s okay. The experience will be just as sweet if I don’t document it, perhaps even sweeter as I’ll only have my memories. I feel as if these months where I haven’t been keeping much of an online journal are like those hikes without photos. I still have a good time and live a full life; I just don’t have a tangible way to share it with others.
A lot in my life has changed, but the transitions have been smooth. My uncle passed away in early July. He lived with my grandma and, therefore, tended to her well-being on a regular basis. She is 89 and now lives on her own for the first time in her life. (She was one of 11 children.) I provide her primary care, visiting morning and evening for a total of three or four hours daily. In June, I never would have thought that I could carve 25 hours out of my week, much less do it while increasing productivity in other areas as well. It is quite unfathomable, yet I’m doing it. I think that it just goes to show that we are capable of so much more than we realize, so it’s good to keep challenging one’s self frequently.
I think that I’ll make a little list of what has been going on in my world this summer:
Earlier this year, at the age of 20, my daughter finally received her Asperger’s/Autism diagnosis. We’ve long known that this was the case but, like with my own health issues, it was difficult to get someone to listen. This is quite validating and she can now receive services that were unavailable to her before this.
I pretty much abandoned my garden around the end of June. Like much of the US, Wisconsin was stricken with a severe drought and extreme temperatures this summer. The month of July was absolutely unbearable. I am partial to cold weather as it is, so the heat really bore away at my whole being. In August, the heat broke and we received a fair amount of rain. The strange weather of March through July has affected many harvests in Wisconsin, not the least of which include corn, apples, and grapes. Soon I will pull that which I let go wild. I may plant some fall crops and I might yet hoop a few beds. I’m looking at you, leeks.
While I did whip up one medium-sized basket because I was itching to do some weaving, I otherwise haven’t done much in that area. I’m planning to do a few Sauk Indian-inspired baskets for the local historical society, which is pretty exciting and interesting to me. I believe that I’m going to make a birch bark bucket and a sweetgrass basket. We’ll see…
So many people have cut back on taking photos with their camera and are instead doing phone photos. I am guilty of this as well, yet I’m trying to change that a bit. In the meantime, I can be found on Instagram @sonotcool. One of my favorites there is @heiastrid. Her life is so interesting.
I go to the local historical society about twice a week to archive glass-plate negatives. Although we started in March, we’re only halfway through the collection at this time. Each scan is like opening a birthday present. Hundreds and hundreds of birthday presents. One of them included the school above, Hillside School on Prairie Road near Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin.
Each Saturday morning, I’ve been going to the Sauk-Prairie Historical Society and working with fellow archivists to scan and analyze local glass negatives from the early 20th century.
I feel like the person in the movies who sits in a dimly-lit library at night, only it’s morning, paging through thick volumes of material and looking for that obscure clue. I’m Lisbeth Salandar tap-tapping into online databases. Last week, I signed an email “Sherlock Holmes”. Next time, maybe, Encyclopedia Brown or Inspector Clouseau.
I was sharing with my daughter some of the subject matter. In the very first image, there was a man crouching in the bushes with a child while his wife posed in the foreground with a bicycle. Yesterday, in what looks like a graduating class of six young women, way over on the edge, there is a man peeking from behind the skirt of a girl. Silas joked that this must have been the photo meme of that generation, the 1910′s version of planking. Glass negative bombing, if you will.
When I get home in the early afternoon, I sit down with a stack of books at my desk and my favorite online databases open on the computer, and I take out the notes from that day’s scans. I generally find a few hits and I get sidetracked by a lot of misses. By Sunday, my desk is covered in papers, they are my tracks in the snow. Arrows. Lists of names and places. Initials instead of whatever RMV means.
If I’m going to keep a journal, I suppose that I should aim for coherent ramblings rather than disjointed thoughts that I won’t be able to make sense of tomorrow, much less years from now.
I remember driving home the other day, noticing little summer rental cabins that are in disrepair and I thought about so many of them that are already gone. I saw a building that was once a motel, and then became an efficiency rental year-round. Now, it sits empty amongst piles of junk. I went past a tavern that used to have cottages. Instead, I saw a shack of a bar with a volleyball court. These places that were mysteries to me when I was a child seem so much more mysterious now.
I can clearly recall my paternal grandparents coming to pick me up nearly every weekend to stay with them. I knew that we were close to their house when we crested the Baraboo range and I could see the lights of Badger Army Ammunition Plant. It always looked like a Christmas tree to me. As a young adult, before moving back, I would frequently make this drive to visit family. I always wanted to stop my car at the top of the bluff and take photos of all the little buildings that were visible from there. (This was before I had any idea that they would all, slowly, disappear.) It looked so huge. I was seeing maybe 100 acres from there when, in reality, there were a total of 7,354 acres behind the fence.
Years later, I personally took part in reclaiming that land from its 60-year past, removing invasive plant species to make room for native prairie plants to stake their land. In many buildings, it was already happening, plants stretching out through the windows, waving their outstretched limbs. The parking lot where I watched for my grandpa’s car when he was still a steamfitter had crumbled; The grasses had taken it back. We volunteered for about a year and I enjoyed the work. I kind of managed to keep some of those photos in one place. I also tried to hold onto this past by helping the Badger History Group for a while.
It feels weird to be nostalgic about a place that was an ammunition plant run by the government. It must sound even weirder.
I still have the Baraboo Range. For the most part, it isn’t going anywhere. It is some of the oldest exposed rock in all of North America, with the quartzite and red rhyolite coming in at about 1.6 billion years. One of the world’s oldest mountain ranges, it lives an unassuming life in Wisconsin. It is quite literally a gigantic and strong figure from my childhood, a constant, unchanging.
It seems like I started out this journal entry attempting to thwart incoherent ramblings.
I live in an area that is often cloaked in fog, and a few times each year I wake up itching to get to the river and the dam before the sun breaks through the magic to just sit in the quiet cold, watch the fish jump, and get lost in the other-worldliness of it all.
On Thursday, I was invited to be a judge for the Sauk-Prairie Historical Society‘s annual pie contest. It was an honor to be asked but, more importantly, I was going to have the opportunity to taste a whole lot of pie. (And have serious fun while meeting a bunch of nice people.)
All of the pies were good, but what really put a skip in my step was an apple pie with a bacon and cheddar topping, called ABC pie. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I am going to get that recipe or, maybe, just attempt to replicate it. So savory.
And now, I shall humbly post photos onto the very public internet, taken by my sweet man with a phone camera, which include pictures of this very author making a variety of faces and, apparently, PIE-GANG signs. I swear, I was not revealing important pie judging information.
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