Yikes, I really fell off the blogging map this spring. I am going to blame a combination of rainy weather and one too many irons in the fire, but I am happy to say it is green and pretty in Carlisle, and I am ready to get back to adventuring!
And it seems appropriate that my first post back is all about beautiful things: butterflies and blown glass. Last week, I traveled to Columbus, Ohio to spend time with family and during my visit I went to the Franklin Park Conservatory. It is a place that holds both nostalgia and excitement for me. The nostalgia comes from my time working as a volunteer in the butterfly garden every Sunday during one summer break in college. I was quiet, and a little awkward, and loved escorting people through the double door system (to keep the butterflies in) and watching their faces ripple with wonder as the small, striking creatures took flight in front of them, sprinkled through the air like tiny drops of fairy dust.
That summer, I also helped release newly hatched butterflies into the garden, delicately pinching their wings between my fingers and freeing them with the quick flick of my wrist. It made me feel like I was part of something bigger, something unique and beautiful. Now when I visit, I get that wonderful feeling of returning to a special place that has changed, yet somehow still feels familiar in just the right kind of way.
Stepping back through the double doors on this trip, I was amazed to see so many butterflies in one place. Instead of being sprinkled through the air, as I remember, the butterflies coated the room like stars across a night sky. The air seemed to vibrate with them. We spun in circles watching them land, feed, and spring to the air again. Some flew in tight groups, like swirling leaves, while others dipped and glided alone. A little girl near us held out her hand and one landed, perched on her finger like a snowflake, gone before she had time to breathe. It felt almost magical.
In addition to the butterflies, the conservatory is also speckled with Dale Chihuly’s incredible glass artwork, which only adds to the swept away feeling of stepping into the gardens. Originally part of a visiting exhibit, some of the Chihuly pieces where purchased by the Friends of the Conservatory, a private nonprofit group, to remain as a permanent collection. Every time I see his work I find myself in awe. The glass seems to embrace art and nature and color all in one breathe.
My favorite piece is a bright red and yellow, twisting sculpture set in the Pacific Island Water Garden, which also happens to be the home of the butterflies. The piece seems to rise out of the green like a volcano and the butterflies have taken to it as their own personal resting place. It is a combination of my two favorite parts of the conservatory: a swirling, spinning, quiet reminder of all things bold and bright.
I think I still have butterflies on the brain!
It seems like the end of November and the begining of December slipped right through my fingers: a blur of Thanksgiving and grading (so many freshman composition essays!) and rain and mini-weekend trips and suddenly it is Winter Break. The holiday season is upon us.
Yesterday, I finally ushered in the first day of winter break, and the end to my first semester teaching four classes of freshman English at a local university. I am SO ready for a break from grading, but I am glad I will have more freshman to keep me on my toes next semester. But for now, I am looking forward to spending time with family, baking (my list includes recreating Julia Child’s crossant, yes please), reading (for fun), dreaming up summer vaction plans (backpacking here we come), and finally tackling my non-school-related to-do list items.
But late fall (we are still snowless here), wasn’t all grading and gray. We packed in a few local adventures to satisfy our traveling taste buds!
Making our way to the monuments on a cool Novemeber day
Phipps Conservatory Winter Garden
Plus, Chihuly Glass!!!
Troegs Brewery…nothing like a pint of local beer
More from the kitchen soon…
Last week I jumped on a plane and ventured out beyond the bubble of winter. Fourteen hours later, I was in Washington DC, and it was 70 degrees. Talk about change. I sure wasn’t in Alaska anymore.
I made the trip to attend one of my very good friends wedding (which was wonderful) and in the process I got to see friends and family, and even spend a little time being a tourist. I have been to Washington DC several times, but it has been awhile since I revisited the historic side of the city. So I decided to take a grand walking tour: from the capital to Lincoln Memorial and back, with a final stop at the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.
What I liked most about this walking tour (besides the weather- shorts and a tank top!) was comparing my memories of the monuments to what I saw now. For example, as a kid I remember the Vietnam Memorial being something somber. Even then the long list of names made me quiet. It made it real in a way I didn’t really understand, but one that demanded respect. And strangely, that is much the same impact that it had on me last week. The feeling there is so much different than say, the Lincoln Memorial, where kids are hanging their feet off the sides of the stairs, laughing. At the Vietnam Memorial people are still quiet.
I walked past a father talking to his son, who was perhaps seven, trying to explain what it all meant. The father said, “These are all the people who died fighting in the war.” The son said, “But there are so many.” And a woman standing behind them said quietly, “Too many.”
I like that Washington DC is a place that brings together the past and what is happening now in our history. It is place where we get to think about what being American, and also human, means. Both important questions to ask.
It was also a nice little break from snow. But I was happy to be getting back to Alaska and Lucas, who was waiting for me at the airport with a warm winter coat. It is always wonderful to be home.