Spooky Fun: Images of Halloween & a Cauldron of Poems: “Beware”, “Doppelganger”, and “Driving to Appleton”

Halloween Pumpkins

Halloween is a great time for harvesting pumpkins and reflections, taking stock, and just getting silly. Hope you like the grab-bag below of images, insights, and poems below! (For images of a special dog and a special cat, scroll all the way down!)

Ann's Pumpkin

Halloween 11In the photo above, what’s scarier? The silhouette of the witch on her broom, posted on the blinds,  or the images flickering on the television inside? Your guess is a good as mine but I’m going for the televised images.

When I was in second grade, my best friend and I used to race home from school to see the latest episode of the (now cult classic) television show, Dark Shadows. For those who don’t know or remember, the opening credits are layered over waves crashing at the base of a cliff on the Maine coast, atop which sits a spooky house. The voice-over (a ghost? a warning?) says eerily, haltingly, “My name … is Victoria Winters…” We’d hear that and be off to be deliciously spooked for half an hour. Who knew what would turn up? Vampires? Witches or warlocks? Werewolves? Ghosts? It was all fog and suggestion, a jumble of plot lines we’d try to untangle. Anything might pop out of the closet or the crypt. (A side note: last year, curious to find out what I would think of them now, I rented a few of the early episodes from Netflix. They were hilarious! And my daughter says that the disco dancing–in which actors keep both feet planted in place–is truly scary.)

Halloween 15

Back then, my taste for narrative leaned toward the gothic more than it does now, though I still enjoy the atmosphere in a poem like “Maude” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, or “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe. Back then, I read Ripley’s Believe it or Not as well as Little House in the Big Woods, but when it came to Halloween costumes, I always wanted to be a beautiful gypsy or a fashionable witch, never anything scary or gory. I didn’t think then about how fashion itself can be scary. (High heels? Belly piercings? You see my point.) Then, in college, my first roommate arrived with a subscription to Vogue magazine. During the fall of freshman year, I wrote this poem:


Vampires are in vogue
this season. See them draped in fur,
gaunt, lurking
in the birches, mad-eyed, or
smoky restaurants, hungering
for that gleaming
suck of fame.

Birch Eyes

Later still, encountering the idea in literature of the “doppleganger” or double, I thought about how much of what can truly scare us is what we sometimes see in the mirror: our own worst self looking back at us through our thoughts and actions. There’s always that gap between how we want to be (and be perceived) and what we manage to achieve. Now, that’s scary stuff, kids!


He is here again, the bad twin,
the other, the feared-but-known.
Where are his eyes?  His nose is gone.
All that remains is the grin.

I think he is trying to get in.
The birds have fallen silent.
And then I know.  And groan.
He rises from my very bone.


Nonetheless we disavow the doppelganger. We do our best to close that gap between actual and ideal, try not to sag in our intentions to be our best visions of ourselves, to smile, to play (even) through the pain of disillusionment that is just part of the human experience. And it’s funny for me to realize that Halloween, with its traditional juxtaposition of tricks and treats, masks and monsters, ghouls and glitter means more to me each year. Below, a final salute to Halloween in one more poem and several more photographs.

Halloween Broom


Pumpkins sleep close to houses.
Evening light covers them with gold.
These farmhouse windows are lit but cold.
Grey barns settle on their stones.
Everywhere sheaves lean
Toward their centers.
Great rolls of hay seem to lumber.
Winter is coming, but now
The culverts are purple with thistles,
The cattle are plump,
And there, in the hollow,
A rusted harrow rests.

The woods beyond
Are full of gossips.
When the moon washes over
The tops of birches,
They’ll ride to the cut fields
To glean
And mend their brooms.

Leslie Schultz

Halloween Rowan

Above, rowan berries: traditional specific against witches–unknown whether it has any effect on gossips.

Halloween 14

Halloween 9

Halloween 10

Halloween 2


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, free, and I won’t share your address!

Halloween 5

In Praise of Glorious Autumn Leaves & “Housecat” (Poem for Alpine)

Autumn Pink Leaves in Japanese Garden 2008

Autumn Oak Leaves 2007

Every year, I am dazzled by the colors of the leaves as they turn and fall. Above are pink and green leaves in the Garden of Quiet Listening, a Japanese garden on the Carleton College campus, just a few blocks from my house.  Every year, I want to hang onto these colors, to bring them inside, to keep them in some way past their expiration date. Here are a few attempts:

Autumn Leaves Preserved 2003

Autumn Leaves Wall Hanging 2003

Autumn Leaves Raked with Julia 2003

Many years ago, when it was brought home to me that all mammals don’t perceive color in the same way that humans tend to, I tried to imagine the world from the point of view of my cat, Alpine. Below is her baby picture, taken the first day I met her.

Alpine as a Baby

Some of you might remember Alpine. She used to spend lots of time on window ledges (and couches, too).

Alpine on the Couch

Alpine Undignified

Alpine Undignified

Alpine has also inspired lines in several poems over the years, including the whole of this poem.


Alpine’s down is filling in
Between her summer fur and skin.
Crouched low on a window ledge,
She watches leaves desert the hedge.
She cannot see their orange and red;
Does Alpine mourn the autumn dead?
Not she; she yawns at the setting sun,
As much to say an evening’s done
As to convey an unconcern —
For whether seasons stay or turn.

Leslie Schultz (1982)

Alpine with Patience and Fortitude (New York Library Lions)

Alpine with Patience and Fortitude (New York Library Lions)

Here is Alpine the literary cat, overlooking Gulliver’s Travels, Vanity Fair, and (maybe?) Jane Eyre, colorful volumes held upright by scaled down copies of the famous New York Library Lions, Patience and Fortitude. Regarding color vision, it seems that the jury is still out on which colors cats can see. (If you are curious, here is an interesting link to an NBC News story.) All I know for certain is that I wouldn’t exchange my human color perception for anything, not even feline grace.

Autumn Leaves on Brick

Autumn Leaf with Polka Dots 2007

Have you seen any polka-dotted leaves this year?

Signature2Thank 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, free, and I won’t share your address!

Autumn Leaves on Second Street 2007

Waxings and Wanings & An Elegy for Autumn: “Compass II” (Poem)

Mississippi River, Looking North From 46th Street Bridge, Minneapolis

Mississippi River, Looking North From 46th Street Bridge, Minneapolis

As the days shorten and darken, it’s natural to turn contemplative, to wonder if what have we done is of lasting value. Other mammals, like squirrels, feel the need to hurry their accomplishments toward a finish line. And yet, it is a new start, too. This is the time of the traditional Celtic celebration of the new year. I think that is the mood I feel with a new school season starting: a tallying up, a reckoning, a sense of “Okay…now what?” as I look ahead.

October Cottage

This week, as the leaves approach their most firey, I was able to take some photos of the Mississippi shoreline, view the scamperings and hear the scoldings of the squirrels, sigh with relief over a finally-repaired roof, and sigh with satisfaction over a well-stocked freezer full of organic farm produce. Now I am eyeing that stack of books–biographies of Jane Austen and Dorothy and William Wordsworth, Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, Brunetti’s Cookbook (for vegetables with a Venetian twist), and a mystery I have been meaning to read for ten years, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, which I found at a Little Free Library location recently.


As I type this, the rain that has been threatening all day has begun to dampen the pavement but I am basking in the glow of images of the past: albino squirrels in Northfield and Minneapolis, the blue bottle tree on Orchard Street, the contrast between the Cannon and the great Mississippi into which it flows. Time for the season’s first cup of hot cocoa and good book!

Albino Squirrel in Northfield

Albino Squirrel Minneapolis 10 9 2013



More than a flock of geese veeing their way south,
one industrious squirrel, its piston-mouth
dropping walnut shells like sharp metal filings,
and acidic turns in walnut leaves’ stylings
(their change from deepest green to lemony yellow-gold)
leaves me bone-deep certain that the year is old;
makes me wonder if the harvest is enough
and then ponder if the winter will be rough,
if the Christmas season will hold any cheer
or if implacable blue shadows draw near.

Autumn is rich in harvest and imagery,
its coppers and golds rusting towards elegy.
My lone hope is to refine this sinking mood,
to render polished words from bleak attitude,
and strike, on the anvil used by all the bards,
something more lasting than those keen, tanic shards.

Leslie Schultz



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, free, and I won’t share your address!

Cannon River, Looking South From Second Street Bridge, Northfield

Cannon River, Looking South From Second Street Bridge, Northfield

Urban Adornments Afield: The Utility Boxes of Minneapolis and the Doors of San Jose

Mpls Box 1

This morning, when it is tempting to feel quite downhearted about stalled government at the national level, I want to shift focus to some truly inspiring examples of partnerships between local governments, local communities, and local artists. Maybe these two examples, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and from San Jose, California, will give you, too, a moment of respite by reminding you of the ways we join together to make things better.

What is more ungainly than a utility box or service door, unless it is one that is covered in graffiti? Today, I want to celebrate the way two cities are thinking outside the box by combining vandalism abatement, urban beautification, and support for neighborhood artists–many of them young people.



Now, I am someone who frequently finds graffiti weirdly beautiful and strange and incredibly creative. On the other hand, a little (even of the very best) of this freelance civic expression goes a long way; too much tips the landscape in a broken windows wasteland, an appearance of neglected and shattered hopes.

Mpls Box 2

 In Minneapolis, there is a new program to expand public art by local artists that captures the spirit of the city, beautifies baldly utilitarian surfaces, and deters vandalism. If you drive along Lake Street toward the Mississippi River, you’ll spot several examples. More can be found in other neighborhoods. These public art pieces are either painted by the artist at the site (and then coated for durability) or created by first digitizing the art, then transferring it to a vinyl wrap that is applied to the metal box. Both result in surprising and mood-lifting “art surprises” just where one least expects to see them.

Mpls Utility Box Dogs 1

 Here’s a terrific example: isn’t the symphony of blues a marvelous contrast to the golden leaves this week? What will it be like next to the snow of December? Now look a little bit closer:

Mpls Utility Box Dogs 2

I love the sweetness of the eyes of each dog. And I am so pleased that there is room for the work of two artists, front and back, along with their names, photos, and brief statements, as you can see below:

Mpls Utility Box Dogs 3

Mpls Utility Box Lines

 Below, a vivid close-up of a flower contrasts with a burnt-out building.

Mpls Utility Box Flower 1

Mpls Utility Box Flower 2

 Farther afield, in beautiful San Jose, California

Last year, Tim and I travelled to San Jose. We stayed right downtown, at the historic Sainte Claire Hotel. Both of us were wowed by the friendliness of the people, the number of cultural institutions (and great food!) within walking distance, and the absolute abundance of public art, from murals …

San Jose Mural

to mosaic tiles…

San Jose Mosaic

to whimsical sidewalk chalk…

San Jose Graffiti

The form that most captivated me, however, was the way the city had partnered with young high school artists and local businesses and organizations to transform blandly ugly service doors into portals into other realms through one-of-a-kind art.

Door 3A

According to Rick Jensen, Communications Director of the San Jose Downtown Association, the non-profit that launched the Downtown Doors project in 2003, it received national recognition last year. In 2012, the National Endowment for the Arts gave the project a $25,000 grant from the NEA, and it also won the International Downtown Association Award for public place-making in 2012. (And the award was received by them in …. Minneapolis!…. last September.)

Rick’s email informed me that, “The Washington, D.C.-based International Downtown Association (IDA), a champion for vital and livable urban centers which strives to inform, influence and inspire downtown leaders and advocates, gave its highest Pinnacle Award to SJDF in the category of Public Space, “recognizing capital improvements that enhance the community’s urban design, physical function or economic viability.”

“The San Jose Downtown Foundation’s project received this prestigious award for demonstrating excellence in downtown management,” said David Downey, IDA President and CEO. “Each year the IDA honors the very best programs and projects in each category to recognize great work and most importantly to set the standard for best practice in our industry. Downtown Doors is a wonderful example for all downtowns to emulate.”

“In awarding Downtown Doors a $25,000 ArtWorks grant,National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Rocco Landesman spoke directly to the essence of the Downtown Doors program:  “The arts should be a part of everyday life.  Whether it’s seeing a performance, visiting a gallery, participating in an art class, or simply taking a walk around a neighborhood enhanced by public art, these grants are ensuring that across the nation, the public is able to experience how art works.””

With 25 new doors serving as the canvas for 25 new young artists in 2013, the City of San Jose now has 80 showcases for imagination. For a map of locations and thumbnails of each unique design, please click here.  I love to think about the young people who were in grade school when the program began and had work accepted this year; similarly, I wonder where life has taken the original cohort of artists.

Door 6

I know on a much smaller scale, from working with others in Northfield on public art projects, how much care and idealism, how many hours and meetings, go into a project like this. So today, I would like to salute these two major cities for their ongoing and inventive commitment to bringing people together through art.

If your town or city has a program that lifts your heart around public art, please let me know!


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!


Homeschooling Adventure: The Creativity of the International Crane Foundation (ICF)

I am most used to the kind of creativity required to make new things–from word-built objects like poems and stories; from arrangements of color, form, texture, and line like photographs and quilts, to new placements of plants in the garden or ingredients in a recipe. Because of my daughter’s passion for ecosystems, however, I have been learning for the past several years about the creativity brought to bear by an amazing organization: the International Crane Foundation (ICF). Last June, Julia and I planned our second visit to this visionary place, the center of an organization that has inspired Julia on many levels. We were joined by my sister, Karla, an extremely talented wildlife photographer. When cranes are nearby, all of us uncap our camera lenses, as you can see below. Crane Weather Vane















Founded in 1973 and headquartered in Baraboo, Wisconsin since 1984, the ICF combines Midwestern roots with a truly international in focus on species preservation, habitat restoration, and interspecies cooperation. Cranes function as key indicator species, and the ICF factors in meeting dire human need as a powerful strategy for preserving key wetlands and nesting sites A hallmark of the ICF vision is to inspire and empower the local populations to protect cranes and their habitats by providing economic incentives and by spreading the word about how wilderness and wetlands is critical for humans as well.

Julia at ICF 2

As a homeschooling parent & teacher, I see the ICF as a kind of role model because of their creative inventiveness. When they see a need, they find a new way to meet it. For example, after meeting the enormous challenges of hatching healthy whooping crane chicks in captivity, a new challenge emerged: how to teach young cranes to migrate more than 1,000 miles without adult cranes to guide them while, at the same time, to prevent these chicks from imprinting on humans so they can function in the wild. What solution would you devise? I don’t know that I would have be able to come up with the workable solution ICF did in 2001–to use light air craft as migratory mother figures, guiding the young birds all the way from Wisconsin to Florida!

Julia-eye view:        Julia at ICF June 2013 I love the International Crane Foundation, and it is my favorite charity. Though there are many worthy causes to choose from, the ICF’s work in wetlands, some of the most fragile ecosystems, and with the people who live near them, earns ICF the highest place every Christmas time on my contributions lists. I have been to the ICF twice now and think it is inspirational and great! I took this picture before I was aware of the International Crane Center–although I identified it as a crane when I was eight, Nancy Braker of the the Carleton Arboretum let me know it is probably an egret. (Thanks, Nancy!) Egrets, herons, and cranes are all so beautiful! I think it is fitting that cranes are symbols of peace.

St. Augustine  (photo: Julia Braulick)

St. Augustine (photo: Julia Braulick)


Karla-eye view:

Karla at ICF

Karla at ICF

Early June was a lovely time to visit the ICF.  It was a little cold with a misty rain, but the cranes were out in force.  I found the ICF to be peaceful and beautiful, a perfect place to spend a day in nature.

Recycled Glass Path (photo: Karla Schultz)

Recycled Glass Path (photo: Karla Schultz)

The pathway to the crane exhibit is made of recycled glass.  It glistened in the morning light.

Whooping Crane Vocalizing (photo: Karla Schultz)

Whooping Crane Vocalizing (photo: Karla Schultz)

One crane was enthusiastically communicating.  I wished I was able to understand the language of cranes.

Lupine Flowers (photo: Karla Schultz)

Lupine Flowers (photo: Karla Schultz)

The nature trail that wandered down to the pond was bordered by bright green grasses dotted with flowers.

Whooping Crane Preening (photo: Karla Schultz)

Whooping Crane Preening (photo: Karla Schultz)

A crane engaged in a routine task of preening looked so graceful I was reminded of ballet. Leslie-eye view:

Leslie at International Crane Foundation

Leslie at International Crane Foundation

Woods and Wetlands at ICF

Woods and Wetlands at ICF

Crane at ICF

Cranes are not complete strangers in Northfield, either. We saw evidence of a turning tide in 2010. Not too long ago, the endangered whooping cranes visited our area, near the amazing piece of land maintained by Carleton College called the McKnight Prairie. If you are able to visit Baraboo, Wisconsin, do stop and enjoy the features of the International Crane Center: an impressive array of cranes from around the globe, an interpretive center (and friendly, knowledgeable staff), woodlands, wetlands, and prairie. If you can’t visit in person, be sure to peruse the fascinating ICF website where you can see wonderful pictures of cranes in their natural habitats around the globe, read about the history of saving these threatened populations, and help support their mission through membership and online shopping for books, gifts, photographs, and jewelry. If you have a favorite crane or a favorite story of habitat preservation, please let us know!                               Leslie, Julia, and Karla___________________________________

Julia at ICF 3