Simple Pleasures: Clean Windows with Poem

Window in Living RoomWe bought our house in part for its good light. It has a small 1905 footprint, only about 30 feet by 20 feet, but it also has lots of casement windows, the old kind with weighted sashes, as well as fixed plate glass, newer combinations, and skylights in the attic. Lots of high windows.

Even the ground floor, windows are far above our heads, most of them, and our house is tall and narrow, with three floors. This means washing the windows is a job for professionals, which means it is quite expensive, which means it happens infrequently.

Northfield Historical Society

Northfield Historical Society

All this combines to render a dramatic transformation on those rare occasions when the windows are freshly washed. This happened last week, and the magic is still fresh. Now, instead of glancing out the window and thinking, “Is it raining? I can’t quite tell”, because of the accumulation of grime, I can see as clearly as through crystal clean water. The foreman of the crew–who thanked me for the board book about cows I’d given him for his new baby on his last visit four years ago–could it have been that long?–complimented us on the wavy glass set in the old frames.

Window with Green Frame

The equinotical light, long and slanted this time of year, is a thing of beauty as it tumbles the images of green leaves, white clouds, and blue sky into our house. At dawn and sunset, pink and gold fires light themselves for a few moments in cool, smokeless splendor before winking out.

Northfield Arts Guild

Northfield Arts Guild

When our windows are clean, it seems to me as though I see everything in my life with more clarity and precision. Architecturally, windows are derived from doors. Etymologically, the word “window” is derived from the Old Norse words for “wind” and “eye”.

Plaza Hotel--Milwaukee

Plaza Hotel–Milwaukee

And so, in praise of windows and window washers, I would like to share these photographs taken over several years, as well as a short new poem.

Clean Window

Wind door. Sun door. Door
for soft breeze and summer rain,
lens for clear vision.







Thank you for reading this! If you think of someone else who might enjoy it, please forward it to them. And, if you are not already a subscriber, I invite you to subscribe to the Wednesday posts I am sending out each week–it’s easy, it’s free, and I won’t share your address with anyone!

Northfield Post Office

Northfield Post Office


Urban Adornments–An Overview

Aside from architecture, landscaping, and over-all civil engineering, cities have lots of options for encouraging higher experience of enjoyment, quality of life, sheer delight for visitors and residents alike. As one of our city councilors, Suzie Nakasian,  put it recently, public art shows that we are a “place that cares about place.”


High School Sculpture--Defeat of Jesse James Days

High School Sculpture–Defeat of Jesse James Days


There are so many examples I would like to highlight that I have decided to do a series of posts–a new one every now and then–so that I can show particular approaches or places in-depth. Later this fall, I am planning one on the public art of San Jose, California, one on the hanging signage I love, and a third on examples of that most kindly of literary mushrooms, the Little Library.

For now, I offer a brief overview of Northfield out-in-public art (not necessarily Official Public Art) I have enjoyed (and was able to photograph) over the past year. I have included anonymous graffiti as well as art visible from the street on private homes and businesses, as well as officially sanctioned art pieces.

Art on Bridge Square, Northfield, Minnesota

Art on Bridge Square, Northfield, Minnesota
















This kind of addition of uplifting beauty and whimsy lifts our hearts and slows us down. We’re more likely to say a few hellos or decide to patronize the local knitting store, bakery, or art gallery for that special gift instead of opting for gift cards or items from a big box or department store, and that is good for local merchants (our neighbors). The incentive to walk, making it not only possible but pleasurable to walk to a destination, surely a most healthy mode of transport for the individual, the community, the local economy, and the planet.

Downtown Northfield Sign

Downtown Northfield Sign
















Blue Monday Sign















Downtown Northfield Sign without Text

Downtown Northfield Sign without Text
















PacMan Trim

Modern Cave Painting on the Sidewalk?

Modern Cave Painting on the Sidewalk?


Little Library--St. Olaf Avenue
Little Library–St. Olaf Avenue































Here’s the 2005 sculpture, “Harvest”, by Ray Jacobson, in sight of the Ames Mill. Made to commemorate Northfield’s 150 birthday, the sculpture represents shocked grain. Some also see three pairs of cowboy boots!


Heart of Northfield--Fountain Sculpture and Civil War Memorial with Eagle Sculpture
Heart of Northfield–Fountain Sculpture and Civil War Memorial with Eagle Sculpture
































Merely games boards? Or keenly placed graphic art as well?

Sculpture outside of the Northfield City Hall

Sculpture outside of the Northfield City Hall

Rustic Flag
















Thank you for reading this! If you think of someone else who might enjoy it, please forward it to them. And, if you are not already a subscriber, I invite you to subscribe to the Wednesday posts I am sending out each week–it’s easy, it’s free, and I won’t share your address with anyone.

News Flash! I Have Published a Sonnet in THE MIDWEST QUARTERLY! And I Am Reposting “The Fragility of the Lyric: Sidewalk Poetry in Northfield, MN”

The Midwest Quarterly Cover

I am really happy to have a poem in this publication, one which I plan to read cover to cover. A glance at the table of contents will explain why.

The Midwest Quarterly Contents

Below is the re-posting, (complete with text of the sonnet, “April Exhilaration”, that is now  published in The Midwest Quarterly: A Journal of Contemporary Thought.

Recently my community life and my interior life intersected in a way that surprised me. One recent evening, I attended a meeting of Northfield’s City Council as part of the Arts and Culture Commission, to be part of a discussion about Northfield’s Sidewalk Poetry Project, among other things. That same evening, I read a transcript of a very thoughtful lecture, “T. S. Eliot’s Divine Comedy”,  in a marvellous series called The Western Literary Canon in Context by Professor John M. Bowers, published by The Teaching Company. (If you have ever wondered how classic books become classics, this series is a must!)

In addition to putting forward a compelling idea–that Eliot’s three greatest works (“The Waste Land”, the “Ash Wednesday” poems, and Four Quartets) were consciously constructed as parallel responses to Dante’s triune Divine Comedy, Professor Bowers further suggests that Eliot followed Dante’s example in constructing narrative structures for his more lyric reflections in order that they would last, in effect, as a kind of self-conscious canon-building enterprise.

Professor Bowers points out that the western literary tradition tends to be narrative, and that lyrics get lost in the flotsam and jetsam of history and cultural shifts because (in part) strong narratives are easier to recall, retell, and translate. He notes that we have the lyric work of Sappho and Catullus in only fragmentary form; Chaucer’s lyric work (known to have existed) is lost.

I think of my own frustration at being unable to ever to know the lyric accomplishment of Alexander Pushkin, whose work, Russian speakers agree, cannot be adequately translated, not even by such a talented literary master as Nabokov. Simply put, one of the literary forms that means the very most to me, seems (given the evidence of history) to be as fragile and ephemeral as a plucked apple blossom.

Floating Apple Blossom (Photo by Leslie Schultz)

Floating Apple Blossom (Photo by Leslie Schultz)

Perhaps that is why the living tradition of Northfield’s Sidewalk Poetry project means so much to me. This project is the catalyst for new work by poets of all ages and embodies the contrast of the short lyric or aphorism–not much longer than the typical electronic tweet–with the lasting solidity of concrete. Others seem to agree.

Capstone Event, Sidewalk Poetry, Bridge Square, Northfield, MN (Photo by Timothy Braulick)

Capstone Event, Sidewalk Poetry, Bridge Square, Northfield, MN (Photo by Timothy Braulick)


I admit that Sidewalk Poetry is not changing the canon of western literature. But here, beside the Cannon River, we are creating a small flow in the opposite direction, speaking up, stepping up, and laying down our collective conviction that the lyric is of enduring value, and a living endeavor.

Apple Blossom Cluster (Photo by Leslie Schultz)

Apple Blossom Cluster (Photo by Leslie Schultz)















Legacy Logo ColorFinal


Please note: Northfield Sidewalk Poetry is funded by the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council through the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.

Click here to read the Northfield Sidewalk Poems.

(Speaking as a Minnesota citizen, I am very proud of my state for recognizing the importance of caring for the land and the arts, two forms of the creative matrix that sustain all of daily life and commerce. I believe we are pioneers in enlightened funding of things that matter to us all.)

Speaking of new work, Eliot, tradition, and the individual talents all around us, I thought I would share a sonnet I wrote one April in Northfield, at a time when I was rereading Eliot. When I came to the famous line “April is the cruelest month…” I thought that my own understanding of April (different land, different time, very different way of seeing the world) is the polar opposite of Eliot’s.

April Exhilaration
(in praise of Northfield, in response to T. S. Eliot)

Once again, spring has cast her lush magic,
her swaying net of red-gold shoots and tight
buds.  Sleight-of-hand.  Supreme conjurer’s trick,
turning straw lawns wetly green overnight.

The sky goes oyster-grey, the weather wild.
A robin peers at its slick reflection
in a sidewalk pool and cocks its head, beguiled
by beak-flashes of curved, ochre direction.

Whatever is blooming unspools, spilling
colors like ribbons over the granite wall.
Wind crushes the new silk of the tulip, filling
its heart with the cardinal’s scarlet call.

How quickly we forget the winter past!
April is cruel because it will not last.

Leslie Schultz

If you haven’t already enjoyed in them, please find copies of T.S. Eliot’s “light” but enduringly delightful poems in his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, basis for the long-running, acclaimed musical, Cats!

Request for Help!

A reader has suggested a wonderful idea for a post, but I can’t do it alone.

The suggestion is to shine the spotlight on the place that independent book stores hold in our landscape. Now, as they are becoming an endangered species, there is more need than ever to celebrate and support independent book sellers. Do you have a favorite independent book store in your part of the world? Please send me a photo or two, their website link, and a few words (or several paragraphs!) on why they matter to you. (If you are lucky enough to have more than one of this increasingly rare species in your vicinity, feel free to send more than one suggestion.) Thanks!

ASY Author Photo 2013



Thank you for reading this! 

If you think of someone else who might enjoy it, please forward it to them or post it on facebook. And, if you are not already a subscriber, I invite you to subscribe to the Wednesday posts I am sending out each week–it’s easy, it’s free, and I won’t share your address with anyone.

(Please note: images of T.S. Eliot are in the public domain.)


Back to (Home) Schooling for the First Year of High School & Poem “Desire”

Yellow Leaves Leslie Schultz Watermark

Labor Day is (paradoxically) an extra day of rest, a little booster rocket of celebration needed for the burst of energy we summon to launch into fall. Doesn’t autumn feel at once like an ending (to the growing season, to the languid opportunities of summer vacations) and also a new year, a threshold marking heavier clothes and weightier endeavors?

In our neighborhood, there is also an annual picnic held on the Hill of Three Oaks, on the nearby Carleton College campus. Families come. Children are one year older than last fall, giddy with the anxiety and possibilities of stepping into a new grade. But that will be later. The evening picnic is the time to pass potluck dishes, lounge on the brittle August grass, converse with kind neighbors, swat mosquitoes, watch the young ones run across the fields in seemingly random but purposeful ways, and watch the sun sink over the St. Olaf hill. The day after Labor Day is Back-to-School.

IMG_8546 (Pink Leaves) Leslie Schultz

Our family isn’t always able to attend the picnic, and this was one of those years. With a mound of apples to preserve, an mound of mulch to move, and a several text-related deadlines, we decided to stay home and tend to this enjoyable labor. For us, the shift into the school facet of fall isn’t so sharp and clear as it is for our neighbors, because we have been homeschooling since January of 2006.

Since we homeschool, we have some flexibility if we need or want to take time off during the traditional academic months of September to May, and we also have the option to continue to work on academic subjects during the summer. Most of the time, Julia is keen to continue making progress in languages, music, mathematics, and history–as well as in her creative writing–during the summer. At the same time, the pace is slower, she has fewer structured courses, and we plan for time off and for visits with friends. In addition, Julia spends more time swimming, having sleep-overs with friends,  training for the local Y Kids Tri triathalon, biking, and reading more books just for the sheer pleasure of the summer read. We also dream up a few special summer projects. This year, as regular readers know, we published a co-authored novel called And Sometimes Y, and hosted a readers’ theater to examine William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in detail.

Monarch & Coneflower Close

But will things be different, now that Julia is on the cusp of high school?

Enrolling in a baccalaureate program is four years away, but last month, she took her first admissions tour, and she is beginning to make choices that will prepare her for the roller-coaster ride of college admissions in just a few short years. We’re planning a couple of other campus visits, to colleges in other states, next year. Julia now keeps her own records for time spent on each subject, and she’ll begin to prepare her first transcript in January. She’ll also take the SAT for the first time then. Julia is thinking about a program we have in Minnesota, called PSEO, in which she can get support to attend college-level classes while still in high school and planning to work through a high school chemistry text this year. This is the fall she’ll publish her first solo title–something she’s been refining on for four years–and continue to work on a novel.

This year, she plans to continue to make lots of time for folk dance and recorder–she is a founding player of the Rice County Recorder Consort–piano, music theory ,and the Mexican Folklorico dance troupe. She’ll continue with Chinese, Latin, and Greek, and  riding lessons at Winter Haven Stables, and she wants to spend more time in prairie landscapes.

McKnight Prairie

On the Way to Winter Haven

(View on the Road to Winter Haven Stables)

For this year, the weekly schedule looks similar to last year’s, but I sense that change is moving in, like weather that hasn’t yet arrived. It will be interesting what directions Julia uses to chart her course. And it remains to be seen how I will chart my own!

Compass Plant   (McKnight Prairie Remnant)

Compass Plant (McKnight Prairie Remnant)


The summer sky is swollen silver and blue,
perhaps meaning rain, perhaps a cyclone, or
perhaps nothing at all, a few drops on the dust
while the birds frantically hide in the wide maple crown.

She sits bent-legged on the braided rug, leaning into
three books at once, old books with cut pages and
spines of slick leather.  Behind her is the kitchen
door, where the supper dishes will wait her out.

She is so young.  She could be a colt or a bird who has not
yet stood to find its balance.  Her head bends toward her knees,
and her hands reach out to the world she begins to enter,
born up by a wind of desire into the storm of herself,
welcoming, as heroes do, a difficult passage.

Leslie Schultz

Julia holding Peanut

White MailboxOther News

Future posts will include: “Urban Adornments” (a look at the ways that cities add to the quality of life through public art both humble and monumental), interviews with several creative people, more on homeschooling adventures, and lots of photographs and some new poems.

Thank you for reading this! 

If you think of someone else who might enjoy it, please forward it to them.

And, if you are not already a subscriber, I invite you to subscribe to the Wednesday posts I am sending out each week–it’s easy, it’s free, and I won’t share your address with anyone.