Five questions not to ask New Yorkers when you’re building a travel writing portfolio

If travel writing is all about storytelling, then I’m in big trouble

1_VvkWSWNY1it7LQX5scBmuQ
This guy didn’t want to answer any of my deep questions. Photo: M. Yung

As a Midwesterner and an aspiring travel writer visiting the Big Apple over spring break, I wanted to use a trip to New York City to build my portfolio. Sounds easy enough, right?

However, good travel writing is all about storytelling, or so the big-time travel bloggers tell me. And in order to tell a story, one must fully immerse oneself in a new culture. One must talk with the natives, learn the local customs, and ask the hard questions. Y’know, the questions that reveal fresh cultural perspectives and which way is north.

Watch out world, my travel storytelling is gonna take off any minute based on the slew of revelatory conversations I generated with New Yorkers by asking them these five riveting questions:

Number 1: Where am I?

I asked this question of a 60-something man standing against a concrete column at LaGuardia Airport. I was trying to find the pick-up spot for the Uber I had reserved. “D Terminal. The lower,” he informed me before shifting his feet and looking away.

See what I mean? There’s good fodder for a story.

Number 2: How do we get to the ferry?

The 20-something construction worker rose from the barrel he was leaning against and walked toward us. I think I had interrupted the break he had been taking at the far west end of Huron Street in Greenpoint. He pointed one block down, toward India Street, just south of where we stood. “Go through all the construction, keep to the right, and you’ll get there,” he offered.

Can’t wait to build a ten-minute read off that one, I told myself.

Number 3: Why do you think I need a fork?

Just as I uttered this profound query,  a rice noodle slinked off my chopsticks, splashing a drop of broth onto my glasses. The young waiter at Lao Ma Spicy in Greenwich Village had just walked by our table and offered me an alternative utensil. Apparently, I seemed to be struggling.

I mulled over his offer. My stomach rumbled. “Yes, that would be fine,” I said. I set down my chopsticks, blotted my glasses with the corner of my napkin, and waited for a fork to appear.

A travel tale for the ages, folks.

Number 4: Is this train headed south?

When I asked this head-scratcher, I had just become separated from my daughter as we headed back to our flat one evening. She had boarded the train; I missed it. Man, those doors move fast. So I hopped on another train on the opposite side of the platform. After finding a seat, I wanted to verify that I was indeed on the right bullet to Brooklyn. I asked an Orthodox Jewish man next to me; he looked up from his scriptures and confirmed that yes, the G train would take me south.

A novel will come from that encounter. I just know it.

Number 5: How do we get out of here?

After wandering around the subway maze that exists below Times Square, I posed this question to a man striding by in a navy blue uniform. He looked to the ceiling, waved his finger back and forth as if tracing some imaginary constellation and replied, pointing off in the distance, “Take that train to Court Square.”

Yet another meaningful exchange.

All right, maybe my conversations weren’t the kind to evoke rich and meaningful dialogues upon which to build fascinating tales of travel and intrigue. Oh, well. Maybe next time I’ll be able to focus on the people and places I’m experiencing instead of merely focusing on how to navigate public transit.

So, thank you, New Yorkers, for exploring my existential wanderings on street corners and in subway stations, and for not ducking away too quickly when you realized that I was just another tourist, confused, bewildered, and amazed at the city you know and love so well.


My daughter and I visited NYC for a week in mid-March. We asked questions when we needed to, just not ones that will give my travel writing the shot in the arm that it needs. It was a great trip, nevertheless. Feel free to leave a comment or follow my blog for more. And thanks for reading!

Advertisements

Stop, Gawk, and Drool

The NYC subway’s newest mosaic stunner: Funktional Vibrations

top
The outside wall of Funktional Vibrations above the escalator at the main part of the station. | Photo: M. Yung

You’re a lost cause.

When you push against the turnstile to exit the subway at 34th St.-Hudson Yards in New York, you can’t help it. The brilliant cobalt of Funktional Vibrations snags your attention and stops you in your tracks. That’s okay. In an hour or so, this last stop on the 7 line will be bustling and you’ll have to get out of the way. But for now, go ahead and gawk.

After all, you came all the way over here, one day before parts of the Hudson Yards complex even officially open, to see the latest and one of the largest additions to the public art collection of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Funktional Vibrations is a mammoth mosaic (2,788 square feet, according to artnet news) that fills the ceiling of the station’s mezzanine and then oozes outside onto the wall surfaces above escalators.

Created and designed by fiber artist Xenobia Bailey, Funktional Vibrations riots on a field of cobalt blue within its dome.

mezzanine
Funktional Vibrations in the mezzanine. | Photo: M. Yung

It’s colorful. Abstract. Lava lampy. Kaleidoscopic in color and pattern. And you notice there’s an Atlantic vinyl record, too, tucked into the design. (It’s the black dot on the left side of the photo below.)

detail
A closer shot. | Photo: M. Yung

To your eye, Funktional Vibrations pulsates with life. “Bailey sees the work as speaking to the universal idea of creation and has created artwork that vibrates with energy,” according to an MTA website article. “(Bailey) refers to her accumulation of materials as in the tradition of African-American art—reflected in the music of the 60’s she grew up with—and its material culture and design, where one made do with what was available and made it into something new and wonderful.”

So that explains the Atlantic record, you think… an earlier era’s musical relic retrofitted for contemporary times. It fits perfectly—seamlessly even—into the mandala-like charms and spheres that vibrate all shape-shifty and cloud-like across the glass mosaic cosmos.

Bailey, originally an ethnomusicologist (here’s what that means!), worked in costume design before transitioning to fibers, specifically crochet, as noted by Manhattan’s Museum of Arts and Design. She is known best for her colorful crocheted hats and mandala design. Funktional Vibrations evokes that aesthetic, which observes African, Native American, and 70’s funk motifs.

So how does an artist who specializes in fibers transform her designs onto glass tile? With the assistance of mosaicist Stephen Miotto of Miotto Mosaic Studio in Carmel, NY. In fact, Miotto’s team have helped many artists selected by MTA’s Arts and Design Program craft and install their mosaic interpretations.

tesserae
A detail shot of the outer wall surface. | Photo: M. Yung

You learn later that Funktional Vibrations includes a total of three—not two—mosaic installations by Bailey. You vow to return another time to photograph the third. For now, you revel in the vibrancy, the touch of the human hand, and the simple rush of this subway stunner.

me
Funktional Vibrations was worth the search. | Photo: K. Yung

I went to New York City with my daughter for spring break. I’m still tripping out over the mosaics (and the tile work in general) that adorn the entire subway system. How did I not know about this underground art museum? Follow my blog for more posts on subway artworks.

Postcards from the seductive edge of South Africa

Peering from the Cape of Good Hope

1_4ZFrGZMfAj9quxdbghFLug
Photo: Unsplash

What is it about edges that attract us? Why do we gladly stand, albeit timidly, at the precipice of a cliff? Why the compulsion to see the very last tip of land? When all that we know for sure is safely and surely behind us, why linger at the edge to gaze squinty-eyed at the breathless gap before us?

The Cape of Good Hope is the ultimate edge experience. It seduces with the wild, the open, the unknown.

1_l7H_QIvuBnjaTvMKPyESpw
Photo: Pixabay

The rugged outcropping holds what many believe to be South Africa’s southernmost grain of sand and its southernmost sun-bleached rocky beaches. (Actually, Cape Agulhas, 95 miles east, is the continent’s most southern point.) No matter. The Cape of Good Hope holds our fascination.

waves
Photo: M. Yung

And because the edge is there, the people arrive. In cars and SUVs, pickups and taxis, they arrive and park along the asphalt road and near the Cape Point Visitors Centre.

They park, step out of their vehicles and walk south toward the vast emptiness. They walk single file along the road. They say “Excuse me” to others they pass who have already had their turn. They notice the hardy purple daisies—here, vegetation of South Africa’s Fynbos biome—that line the road.

1_BIUFZOBVaRDwmSsIlEiWhA
Photo: M. Yung

They eye the ostriches grazing in the distance. They see the large kelpy swaths that flutter to shore and snag on the rocks and driftwood from unknown, faraway voyages. They stand on tip-toe in the cool gusts that stir and blend the merging waters of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

They smile, teary-eyed, into the blinding noonday sun for photos to mark this occasion. They know they will never return.

1_FeZTkPfLrVCvq4TdoGfmJA
Photo: M. Yung

For many of us traveling from other continents, the pilgrimage is made to the Cape of Good Hope for the first and last time. We know this.

Tucked inside airliners that require eleven hours to traverse Africa, we envision our eventual walk on the beach at the Cape of Good Hope. We land at Cape Town, fit in a night’s sleep and make the 45-mile southerly drive to arrive at the inevitable, exotic edge.

We peer into the distance at the unknown, watery wilderness, teetering at the tip of South Africa. We stare at the seduction, we embrace the edge… and then we leave.


Thanks for reading! We traveled to South Africa with family in 2012. I’m documenting some of my memories from the trip in short essays. Next up: touring the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George in Grahamstown.

Dear Venice… We have to talk.

Finally, I’ve found a city I can trust myself with — Ravenna, Italy.

1_pQeWsLl3C3BjaqkHiwdhtg
Photo: Pixabay

I didn’t mean to fall in love. I wasn’t looking for someone new. I had never even heard of Ravenna until I went to Italy.

But, Venice, I’m torn. In so many ways, Ravenna attracts me.

It’s untouristy. Affordable. Strangely familiar.

And yes, I’ll admit that although our relationship was brief and passionate, it has withstood the test of time, Venice. After all, I still long for your watery passageways and roaring, rushing boulevards. I fantasize over your shimmering lagoon and all those glossy gondolas slicing through the wakes of vaporettos, taxis, delivery boats.

But Ravenna, well… Ravenna is different. It grounds me. Located just three short hour away from you by train, its rugged stability thrills me in a comfortable, predictable way.

Finally, I’ve found a city I can trust myself with.

Ravenna is real. For one thing, there are cars. There are people looking right and left. There are horns blaring instead of gondoliers chanting gondullah gondullah gondullah.

IMG_3731

And Ravenna’s mosaics! That austere 6th-century Byzantine architecture! I can’t deny that jewels such as these drew me in: Sant Apollinare Nuovo, the Basilica of San Vitale, Galla Placidia’s Mausoleum, the Archiepiscopal Museum, and the Neonian Baptistery.

FullSizeRender (3)

In Ravenna, the sights are spectacular, seductive, strong, and silent. And a quick glance in any guidebook shows that my new love interest holds thirty more palazzo and churches from antiquity.

IMG_6531
Photo: Katherine Yung

Frankly, Venice, I never thought I would say this, but I see a future in Ravenna, but not necessarily in you. I fear you’re too exotic for a long-term relationship.

IMG_3757

After all, I’ve stood in St. Mark’s, your gold-drenched basilica. I’ve felt the reflections from the ceilings and walls warm first my cheek, my neck and then my shoulders as the afternoon sun dipped below the Adriatic. In fact, you’re so beautiful it terrifies me.

IMG_3754

Yes, Venice, you have the glitz, the passion, the prestige. You have those opulent icons: St. Mark’s, Santa Maria Della Salute, the Grand Canal. Rialto.

What am I leaving out? Oh, your cruise ships. Your crowds. Your selfie-stick vendors on the Accademia Bridge.

And that’s another reason why I’m torn, Venice. You make me dizzy with love and desperate with doubt at the same time. Have those annoying tourist trappings driven me away?

Four words: Possibly and I’m sorry.

Despite your glamour, Ravenna captivates me. This quiet city has stolen my heart with its own brand of starry-eyed elation. Its warm, steady embrace just feels right.

IMG_3759

Thanks for reading! Have you been to Ravenna, Italy? Have you ever traveled somewhere only to find a hidden gem you weren’t expecting to find? Feel free to leave a comment!

 

Why staying one night anywhere is never enough: Knysna, South Africa

 

Knysna wanted to tell us a story, but there simply wasn’t time.

1_E0suM9WKFysl3S3CZCewsA
The Knysna Lagoon | Photo: Pixabay

We were nearly ready to leave when the winds began howling at 34 South, the seafood eatery where we had dined on oysters, beef, beer, and cheesecake. Raindrops swiped against the plate glass windows. A gust of wind rocked the rafters. The bartender looked up from his pour. A squall blustered through Knysna, “the jewel of the Garden Route” in the Western Cape of South Africa.

Locking arms, my daughter and I left the restaurant and headed out, hunch-shouldered, toward our waiting minivan that had been rented for our two-week tour of South Africa’s Garden Route.

Pushed by violent gusts of wind, bistro chairs scooted across the wide concrete sidewalks of The Waterfront of Knysna Quays. One flipped and careened across our path. We shrieked. Maritime flags above us whipped and ripped in the straight-line winds.

We found our van and climbed inside, allowing the wind to heave the doors closed. Rain poured and pounded against the roof and windshield.

Our host headed back to Leisure Island, an idyllic residential suburb surrounded by an estuary. We crossed the causeway and looked forward to the warmth of our hotel, Cuningham’s Island Guesthouse, one of many quaint lodges nestled along the isle’s manicured avenues.

1_dCiCeCUJ0p1nTKA6PNKWOg
The estuary that surrounds Leisure Island in Knysna. | Photo: M. Yung

We climbed out of our minivan, splashing on the asphalt driveway. Lifting our jeans above our ankles, we bounded down the complex’s brick-lined paths through water four inches deep.

Once near our respective rooms, our party—my in-laws, husband, our daughter, son, and our professional hunter who had planned this portion of the journey as a prelude to an Eastern Cape safari—escaped the rain, retreating to our rooms without the customary pleasantries. On a calm night, we would have discussed the next day’s plans and determined a time to leave in the morning. However, not tonight.

The next morning we would breakfast on eggs, sausages, and tomatoes, and then emerge from the cocoon of Leisure Island.

We would travel the tidy streets of Knysna and notice the affluence of well-maintained homes surrounded by emerald green lawns.

Moments later, we would pass impoverished townships and notice women sorting through piles of clothing on dirt streets that stretched into the distance.

1__7DRESn3-DxsBTXiVsJSPA
Township in Knysna | Photo: M. Yung

We would wonder at the disparity. We would question the two extremes.

We spent too little time in Knysna back in 2011. One night anywhere is never enough. This beautiful city wanted to tell us a story—but there simply wasn’t time.

The next evening, we would be in Tsitsikamma, further east on our Garden Route tour. The forecast called for more rain and blustery cold, common for the winter month of June.


I visited South Africa in 2012 and now wish I had written more then about my experiences there. This post is my first attempt to record some details of what I remember. Follow my blog for more stories from this trip.

Ten reasons why Ed Sheeran needs to slow the heck down

He’s starting to act like the megastar that he is.

IMG_7494

Dear Ed:

Loved your concert at Arrowhead Stadium. Really great show as per usual. I appreciated the changes you made to the setlist since your 2017 arena tour, which provided returning fans like us with some variety. Everyone, for example, needs to hear “Tenerife Sea” performed live, so thank you.

But… and I hesitate to say this because it was such an awesome show, but at times, there was a little too much “star power” in the air. Things seemed a little rushed, a little hurried. But just at times, though. Were you bored? (That’s understandable.) Had you performed a few fan favorites a few too many times? (Probably.)

So before you pack your bags and set out for Brazile to continue the tour in February, think about slowing things down a smidge. Here are ten reasons why you might want to do that…

1. Because a stadium concert is not a race. You are not being timed. While you may have performed your setlist 3476249 times on this tour, your fans (most of them, anyway) will only hear it once. Respect that.

2. Because “Perfect” is only perfect when it’s performed perfectly. This ballad recently spent its 52nd week on Billboard’s Hot 100. It may feel dated to you, but it’s still fresh to thousands. Don’t rush the soul You know this.

IMG_7685
The Wibbles, Ed’s cats on Instagram.

3.  Because if you slowed down, you might be able to figure out a way to include live cats in your show. You know you want to.

4. Because if you would just slow the heck down, you might know where you are. And then you wouldn’t have referred to us several times as “Kansas.” I wasn’t going to mention this not-so-minor detail, but you should know that it was a little irritating because you were actually in Missouri. But I get it. Long tour. Different city every night. Okay, done on that one.

5. Because those moments during the concert when you casually talked at length to the audience were the best. More of that, please. The part about the two groups of men in attendance, disinterested boyfriends and super dads? Kinda true and kinda funny.

6. Because “Thinking Out Loud” deserves better. Don’t speed through this song for the ages. After all, this is the only Ed Sheeran song that many poor, misguided souls can name. Don’t disappoint them (even though they deserve it, dang it, for not knowing your full repertoire.)

IMG_7486
Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium fills up prior to the show.

7. Because if you slowed down, you might think about performing some earlier songs from Plus or Multiply. Runaway? Nina? The Man? But thanks again, by the way, for that sparkling performance of “Tenerife Sea.” That song truly is one of your best-of-all-times. The silence that enveloped Arrowhead was key, and I’m glad everyone obliged (okay, except for that one guy) when you asked for quiet so we could hear every note.

8. Because seeing you leave was a little harsh. Your exit felt like the ultimate brush-off. As you descended the ramp, you simultaneously tossed your mic, shrugged off your Chiefs jersey, disappeared into your waiting SUV, and sped away to the next gig. And you did all that in less than ten seconds. That hurt, Ed.

Ed_Sheeran,_V_Festival_2014,_Chelmsford_(14788674990)
Ed in flannel, back when flannel was his thing. Photo: Drew de F Fawkes–Ed Sheeran, V Festival 2014, Chelmsford, CC by 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52317768

9. Because if you slowed down, you might be able, for old times’ sake (or just for me), to throw on a flannel shirt. After all, it was mid-October… prime flannel season. If I was ever to see you perform live in your signature flannel, October was it. Oh, well. Your layered Hoax t-shirt was fine, I guess.

And the final reason you need to slow the heck down…

10. Because many of your fans suspect you’re readying yourself for another long hiatus from the stage, social media, and society in general. Face it: many of your fans still suffer flashbacks from 2016, the first time you did this. Even though I understand the break helped you stay grounded and sober, please slow down and think hard before evaporating again. True, a break would allow you time to create your next album, and I’m all for that, so if a hiatus is what you need, then go for it.

That’s it. Those were my ten mostly serious reasons to slow down, Ed. Three points to summarize: 1) give your songs (and your fans) the attention and time they deserve, 2) star power does not become you, and 3) cats.


Thanks for reading! Click like if you enjoyed this post and feel free to leave a comment. Here are two links to my other Ed Sheeran concert reviews.

T-Shirts Work, Too |  Ed Sheeran 2017 Divide Arena Tour Review

The First Time I Met Ed Sheeran | Ed Sheeran 2015 Multiply Concert Tour Review

Sins of the flash in Torcello, Italy

The quiet rebellion of women who take pictures anyway

joelvalve-671592-unsplash
Photo: Joel Valve on Unsplash

When you visit the island of Torcello in the Venetian lagoon, you observe a sign inside the basilica that forbids photography. Ugh, you think. But it’s so beautiful. Inside, the apse—a half-dome of sorts—is encrusted in gold mosaic. The Virgin Mary resides in its center, alone, regal, royal. It’s graphically arresting and elegant in its simplicity; it contrasts with the opposite wall, a riot of colors, shapes, lines… Biblical scenes of the Last Judgment.

The cathedral is exquisite. One simply must have pictures to remember. So you plan to purchase them in the form of postcards from the adjacent gift shop when you leave. Problem solved.

Why then, the click? Why then is that woman over there snapping away? Lost in thought, she roams the chapel, gazing at the art, studying the expressive scenes, recording her visit on her sleek 35mm Canon.

Your immediate thought: she must have special permission. She must be a researcher working on a project. You explain as much to your husband. No, he says, she’s just ignoring the sign. His nonchalance startles you. As if this is just what people do, and in this case, a woman.

Oh, you reply, secretly envying this woman’s quiet rebellion that allows her a certain freedom that you will never claim. Disobey a sign that clearly states no photos? You shake your head. It’s right there in 96-point Times New Roman even. You roll your eyes at her audacity. This disregard for convention and rules astounds you.

You wonder how much inevitable damage each click does to the Byzantine masterpieces. Over the decades, who knows? She could be causing irreparable harm, you think. This should go down on her permanent record, wherever those are.

You ask your husband about the inevitable damage. Probably doesn’t hurt the art at all, he explains, adding something he read reported most cameras have filters that limit or remove UV waves.  Doesn’t damage a thing, he says.

Here I’ve been, you think, following all the rules all this time.

You continue to stare at this renegade designing her destiny, staking her claim with a few flashes that you still cannot bear to sneak on your measly iPhone. It’s true, you think, this woman has shown you to be the fool that you are.

She clicks another shot and checks the tiny screen. It must have been good, you think.

Her crimes finally and fully committed, the woman strides purposefully across the nave, stuffing her camera into a turquoise canvas tote bag. On the side of the bag is a design: two kitschy, feathery angel wings protruding from behind a shield. The design is cliché and you abhor that about things.


Thanks for reading! This is another story generated by a week-long trip to Italy I took in 2017. There are more stories on the way. Feel free to leave a comment and click follow for more.

A dull ache for a sharp object left in Italy

When Mom’s pocket knife gets confiscated

 

paul-felberbauer-672975-unsplash
Photo: Paul Felberbauer on Unsplash

When the security employee at the gate asked me to step aside, I remembered. My pocket knife. Oh no, my pocket knife, I thought, realizing I had left it earlier in the little cosmetic bag inside my purse. I had forgotten to check it with my luggage and now I was at the gate and my knife was going away.

The uniformed employee explained in her thick Venetian accent, “We must take this from you. If it’s you really need, you go downstairs, fill out the form, and it be sent to you.”

Standing there, I knew we wouldn’t have time to make those arrangements. And besides, it wasn’t a valuable possession. But then again, it was.

For twenty-five years, I had carried that pocket knife.

Back in 1990, I had chosen it from a mound of identical ones heaped in a small cardboard box next to a cash register in the sporting goods department at a Kmart in Topeka, Kansas. It had cost my boyfriend (now my husband) an entire dollar. It featured a steel blade, a wooden casing, and bronze hardware that over the years, had polished to a golden shine from being nestled in my purse for so long.

Similar to how candy bars are placed at checkout stands to captivate small children, that box of $1 knives held equal allure for the fishermen and hunters who visited that department. Not that I was one of them. We had gone to the store to use the restrooms tucked away behind the restaurant at the back of the store. As he waited on me, he spotted the knives and bought one for me.

“Keep it in your purse. It’ll come in handy,” he told me. He was right.

That little knife had been many places… all over Missouri and Kansas, Nashville, Asheville, several cities in Maine and Vermont, Columbus, Atlanta, Sarasota, Highland Park, Phoenix and other Arizona locals, multiple sights in the Los Angeles area, Oregon and Washington State, Cape Town and other South African cities, DC, New York City, Taos, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Dallas, New Orleans. Over the years, we had journeyed across the country to attend annual family reunions, exhibit my husband’s ceramic art at festivals, and accompany him as he served artist residencies.

And now, its final destination would be Venice, Italy, where it would be left behind, a hindrance to a quick departure, discarded inside a gray plastic tub under the counter.

I regret leaving that silly little knife because it wasn’t just a pocket knife. It was a symbol of family life and motherhood and had been more often used for non-cutting tasks. That knife spread peanut butter on sandwiches many more times that it ever cut into a fish or snipped a cord on a tent or tarp. It was this mother’s indispensable tool. As such, it was always easy to locate.

My son and daughter both knew I carried a pocket knife and I passed it back to them at least once or twice on every road trip we took over the years. Need to break open a family-sized plastic bag of M&Ms? Get Mom’s knife. Opening a DVD? Get Mom’s knife. Got a stray thread hanging from your hem? Ask Mom to hand back her pocket knife.

Just prior to leaving Venice, as I buckled up inside the plane, regretting my decision to leave my knife, I recalled how six years earlier, I had flown from Johannesburg to Atlanta with a knife my son had purchased as a souvenir. Despite its massive four-inch blade, he had somehow forgotten to pack it in a checked bag. I offered to stow it inside my purse, warning him it would likely be confiscated at our first departure.

Nope. X-rays and inspections by hand never discovered it. Of course, that would happen to a brand new knife without any peanut butter experience. And of course, that knife has since been long forgotten, I might add.

As for my knife, I have since replaced it, but the blade on my new one is narrower and not quite as functional as the one left in Venice. I mean, you can spread peanut butter on a slice of bread if you really want to, but it’s the not the same as my Kmart special.

I’m one of those people who feels sorry for the last Christmas tree on the lot. So it’s no surprise that I’m still feeling nostalgic for my lost pocket knife… a year and a half later.

Somewhere in Italy, it’s languishing in a gray bin of confiscated sharp objects. Maybe it’s been recycled by now. Maybe it’s been donated to a charity. Hopefully, it’s performing some mother’s mundane tasks, making her life a little easier, and definitely more memorable.


Had an experience similar to mine? Like this post, follow my blog, and feel to leave a comment about any precious object that’s drifted out of your life. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Someone doesn’t like Laura Ingalls Wilder

The quest for the “universally embraced” author

453px-Little_House_on_the_Prairie_Melissa_Gilbert_1975
By NBC Television Network [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In July, I wrote a  post called “Punishing Laura Ingalls Wilder.” This post was about the recent decision by the Association for Library Service to Children to change the name of its Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.

The name change was made, according to this document from then ALSC President Nina Lindsay to the group’s board of directors, because “Laura Ingalls Wilder has long held a complex legacy, as her books (the Little House on the Prairie series) reflect racist and anti-Native sentiments and are not universally embraced.”

My mind fixes on “not universally embraced” over the words “racist” and “anti-Native,” since those two elements would preclude the approval, and I ask myself, So is that what this is all about? Being approved by all? No dissension? No variety of opinion? No provocation?

Wouldn’t that make for boring reading?

Diversity in literature is what I would rather see. Latino perspectives. Native perspectives. African perspectives. European perspectives. Historical perspectives. Contemporary perspectives. I want to read it all.

And I would think the ALSC does, too. Here’s what Lindsay wrote in a bio on the organization’s website, “At its best, the public library enables a freedom of the mind that is foundational to social equity.” Sounds like an open and appreciative mind. Sounds like someone who values all perspectives.

So why the snub to Wilder? Why deny inclusion to Wilder? Because someone somewhere disagrees with her perspective? Because someone somewhere in the universe doesn’t embrace her?

If the ALSC wishes to honor only an author who is universally embraced, well, no thank you. And good luck finding one.


Even though it’s been a few months since the ALSC changed the name of its award, I’m still mulling it over. Leave a comment with your thoughts on this topic. Thanks for reading!

Travel to places that make you feel small: Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley is good for that.

maria-sabljic-546889-unsplash
Photo by Maria Sabljic on Unsplash

Those spires. Those ledges. Those bluffs. Behemoths of weight and mass, rising from the high desert floor with quiet heft and bulk.

The space between them is as much a part of the experience as the monuments themselves. My perspective disintegrates. My awe overwhelms. There is no way to determine: how far is that from me? How much expanse between those mittens?

The valley appears surreal, other-worldly. The interior of a cave where the sky forms the walls.

I hear the purr of a single car traveling the dusty road, a red thread snaking in the distance. Other than that, nothing. Even the breeze is silent, its sound swallowed in the burnt sienna drapery of rocky canyon gowns.

The valley transforms me and I am small, insignificant, a dot of breath in the stillness.


We travelled to Monument Valley three years ago and I’m still thinking about it.

Click like if you enjoyed this piece and follow me for an occasional travel post. Also… I would love to hear about your own canyonland experiences. Feel free to comment!