Summer Wrap-Up & Autumn Outlook

Summer 2014 Lilies and Sink

When I think back over the past three months–glad that I will not be assigned an essay!–I still I wonder just what I did with my summer vacation, and how I will use my time this fall. As I review June, July, and August, I see how much did happen, though not always what I imagined would occur.Two themes, celebrations with friends and literary preoccupations, dominated. Here is a long summary, (kind of a flip book of pictures), of those lazy but oddly hectic months–they made for a lovely summer, yet I am eager for the next adventure of autumn.


First, Julia left for Maine, traveling with friends, mostly on the train for her third trip to the Darling Marine Center near Damariscotta.

Summer 2014 Julia Off to Maine

Summer 2014 Lilies

The day after her departure, Tim and I embarked on a home improvement venture: repainting the living room and dining room. From “Lapis Lazuli” in the north-facing dining room and “Alice Blue” in the living room, these spaces are now united in color: a grey-green “Horizon” on the walls and a pale purple “Lavendar Whisper” on the ceilings, the same as in my office upstairs. We thought two weeks of effort (including a week of vacation for Tim) would be ample, but it was a full month of effort to see it through. We love the results, though–still haven’t put up any pictures, because we’re still enjoying the serenity of fresh paint.

Summer 2014 Painting Dining Room

Even the primer made a dramatic difference! (Accent flowers from the Corrine and Elvin Heiberg cheered us on amid the disruption.)

Summer 2014 Peanut Painting

Peanut tried to help lend a paw, but it was renting scaffolding that truly made a difference. Julia returned at the end of the month and held an early birthday party for herself so all her friends could attend.

Julia's Party

Meanwhile, I took lots of photos in June, worked on a quilt, culled twelve bags of books to give away, wrote a dozen poems, and began planning a short story based on a memory of my father’s mother, and launched into study of the craft of fiction with another writer (using Janet Burroway’s book called Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft). The novel drafts, however, languished, and I took a break from sending out poems to journals, though I did submit my book-length collection, Reading the Bones, to several contests.


July began with “Zhivago Fest”. My friend, Ann, and I have for several years read ahead for a summer visit and discussion. Each year, we choose a new topic. This year, at my request, we planned a visit around a remedial read for me: Boris Pasternak’s novel, Dr. Zhivago. I have learned a little about Russian literature in the past few years, and I knew of Pasternak’s reputation. I also knew that I would not be able to learn Russian in order to enjoy the poems that made his reputation; on the other hand, all I knew was the blockbuster movie from the 1960s. Sad to say, for me Omar Sharif was Yuri Zhivago. Thanks to Ann’s willingness to keep me company, I have now a little better sense of the book behind the blockbuster. In addition, we worked in some related activities for fun.Summer 2014 Photo by Ann

Here is a photo Ann took of me in front of the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis. We also went to Moscow on the Hill, a restaurant in St. Paul, to sample to borscht, watched two film versions of the story, read some translations of the poetry,listened to lectures and read some criticism of Pasternak’s work, and made collages to commemorate the year-long enterprise.

Summer 2014 Zhavago Fest

Summer 2014 Borscht

Then I turned from Pasternak, briefly, to Dostoevsky. In preparation for a two-session online seminar with Julia Denne through, I read his novella Notes from Underground. Very glad I was to have read this work and to have had a teacher to supply context.


August was a month of celebrations, on the road and at home, beginning and ending with birthdays. First, we hosted a mystery destination picnic for a friend.

Ellen Picnic Table

The destination was Red Wing, Minnesota. Encouraged by the example of our culinarily superior neighbors, the Noers, who introduced us to the magic of Julia Child’s Queen of Sheba chocolate cake, I tried my hand at it. Both the recipe and the YouTube video were available for free online, confirming my wonder at the magic of the Internet.

Ellen's Queen of Sheba Cake 2014

Then Tim and I celebrated our anniversary with a road trip. We first went to Winona’s Great River Shakespeare Festival for the reading of the 2014 winning sonnets in the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest. They did not disappoint! Then we had lunch at the restaurant attached to the Blue Heron Book Store in Winona before crossing the Mississippi to idle our way up the western Wisconsin side. I understand why it is renowned as the most beautiful drive in the country–it is definitely a contender.

Blue Heron

Blue Heron Books

First we stopped in Pepin,

Beloved Tim

Then we stopped at the Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery and a wonderfully curated store called A Cultural Cloth that brings artisans and beautifully made hand-crafted items from all over the world to Maiden Rock. Finally, we had a splendid dinner at the unpretentious Chef Shack Restaurant in Bay City, where the cuisine outshines most of the upscale Twin Cities offerings.Chef Shack Exterior

Later in the summer, we feasted with our friends the Dennes. I was glad to have had help with making a Pavlova dessert, and old favorite from the middle school years I spent in Australia. Back then, you couldn’t attend a summer “barbie” (bar-be-que) or open a women’s magazine without encountering a “pav”, so for me this fruit-and-meringue treat was a blast from the past.

Summer 2014Pavlova

We were lucky that the Dennes could stay for several days. We even got to pitch a tent for the girls, make a first visit to Garrison Keillor’s book store in St. Paul (superlative poetry section), and see the “Marks of Genius” exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

August wouldn’t be complete without the joyous capstone event for the Northfield Sidewalk Poetry project.

Summer 2014 Capstone Event

We ended the month with two more events, a lunch with three students from Doshisha University in Japan (followed, the next week, with a lovely dinner made by the Japanese students at Carleton)

Doshisha University Students Two

and, to cap everything off, a “Sundae Party” on Sunday, August 31, which was our friend, LaNelle Olson’s 85th birthday.

LaNelle's Sundae Party 2014\

Just a week or so into September, the summer seems very far away. As I write this, we’re socked in with a long forecast of chilly rain, and Julia is well launched into her fall activities. Projects that languished a bit for me in late summer are now beckoning, and will be the subjects of later posts–memorizing poems, finishing that star quilt–and I have begun a new personal endeavor: writing my autobiography.

As I conclude this review, I wonder what the summer was like for you, so if there is a highlight you’d like to share, please post a comment or drop me a line.

Until another Wednesday, wishing you well, Signature

The Wedding Dress Afield: LP Version

Katherine and IsabelThe dress I wore when Tim and I celebrated our marriage in 1988 originally belonged to Katherine Hinman Schultz, the mother of my grandfather, Charles. While I know that it was her dress, I don’t know whether she wore it when she married Emil Schultz, or whether it was simply one of her pretty dresses. She was the family artist–a music school graduate, organist for the Congregational Church for forty-one years, enthusiastic photographer, writer of humorous verses to adorn collaged place cards for festive dinners. Here she is, standing with her third and youngest child, Isabelle (who later clipped the last two letters from her first name in a burst of modernity), and the doll and buggy which appear to be aimed toward the Fox River that bordered their back garden in Menasha, Wisconsin. Kate, as she was known, was born on March 20, 1879. Her daughter, Isabelle, was born November 20, 1915, when Kate was thirty-six. My guess is that this photo was taken about 1919.

Below is the earliest picture I have of the dress, about the time I was born, decades after it was made. It is worn by Isabel, then a college graduate (first attending Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, then University of Wisconsin at Madison) and the girls physical education teacher at Menasha High School. As Grandma Kate’s journal confirms, Isabel graduated from college on June 17, 1940, just forty-nine days after her father’s pharmacy closed its doors forever. Living at home ever after, Grand-aunt Isabel began her teaching career on September 3, 1940 when she was twenty-five years old. It wasn’t easy for elderly parents to pay for college during the Great Depression–in the 1930s, you were elderly in your sixties–and I’ve heard that a neighbor who was impressed by Isabel’s quick mind helped to finance her college education.  She had red hair and, like her mother, a love of theater. This photograph was taken in Menasha, at a local history pagent, in about 1960.

Isabel Wearing Dress circa 1960

And here is the dress on the day of its reconstituted glory on August 6, 1988. Our niece, Nicole, wore a flower girl dress made of the same fabric as the brand-new under-dress I wore. (One of my early quilting efforts can be spotted in the background.) When the dress came to me, it was yellowed with age, ripped in a number of places, stained, and the lining was completely tattered. This Phoenix-dress shined anew after a seamstress had made a completely new under-dress of peach cotton lined with silk and replaced all the edging with bias tape made from the same fabric as the under-dress.

Leslie Tim and Nicole 1988

Actually the theme of twin dresses chimed in twin ways: not only did this old dress transform from a lined confection  to a lacy frosting over the newly fashioned sleeveless peach dress lined with silk, it was the second dress I wore for our wedding.

Tim and I were legally married on August 4, 1988, by a justice of the peace in Hastings, Minnesota. The ceremony for friends and family was celebrated two days later at the home of Sally and David Tellekson in Kenwood, Minnesota. Our dear friend, LaNelle Olson, officiated. Below is a photo Tim took of me (with witness Jim Herzog in the background) after the legal ceremony. That August was a record-breaker for high temperatures, but I felt cool in this new-but-retro-styled sundress. Ah, the days of daring to wear bold horizontal stripes!

Leslie's Justice of the Peace Dress

Fast-forward to 2010. As regular readers know from my post a few weeks back, this was the year I faced facts regarding the “glory rag” stored in my basement. Even in 1988, refurbished, it was too fragile for another wearing. Like many a nonagenarian, its fibers didn’t have any give. And twenty-two years in storage hadn’t helped. The silk netting upon which the heavy crocheted string was appliqued was rotting, rips and tears abounding. It was time. The dress travelled with me in my neighborhood, to the headwaters of the Mississippi, to Little Sand Bay in Lake Superior (where Tim and I plan to have our ashes scattered someday), even as far as Jamestown, Virginia.

Under the August full moon, we travelled to New Ulm, Minnesota and took the dress to the highest point above the Minnesota River Valley, climbing the stairs of the “Herman the German” monument, allowing the dress to bell out over the tops of the trees.

At Red Oaks Farm, his boyhood home, Tim and I set up a tent for ourselves, a tripod for my camera,  and a funeral pyre for the dress. Tim created a support of apple wood pruned from trees he had planted when Julia was a toddler. The fire ring was made from the foundation stones of the old barn, demolished decades ago. I decorated the dress with fresh roses. We offered toasts–to ties that bind, to old friends and new beginnings, to love, to letting go. When the moment felt right, we lit a match.

Today, I have vivid memories of this beautiful carapace of a dress as well as about 1,000 photos of it. It stands apart from our wedding day with a life of its own. And one day, when the time is right, I know it will enter into a poem.  Meanwhile, the peach-colored under-dress (The under-study? The daughter? The Cinderella?) is now a stand-alone diva of a gown safely packed away in case Julia ever wants to wear it.


Below is a (believe me) small selection of the wedding dress adventure photos that are now in my hands. If you scroll through quickly, perhaps you can make a flip book!

Dress with Scilla

Dress with Apple Blossoms

Dress with Canoes

Dress Sleeve with Twigs

Dress on the Way to Big Bog

Dress with Pool B & W

Dress with Pool Color

Dress and Portage

Julia Taking the Dress Swimming

Dress with Frayed Couch

Dress at Itasca

Dress at Pothole Park

Dress by Big Bay Color

Dress by Big Bay

Dress with Sheep

Dress at Crossings II

Dress at Crossings I

Dress at Crossings III

Dress at Little Sand Bay

Dress in New Ulm

Dress in Old Granary

Dress in Old Granary Color

Dress and More Flame

Dress and Champagne

Moon Flame

Dress with Pink Rose

Dress with Julia's Hands

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