to the nth tree…

During my Monday wanderings, I was really enjoying how some of the huge trees around Clemson’s campus were highlighted against the brilliant blue sky. Of course, some of them make me wish I could climb them, and others are just beautiful to my eye. However, I was on the wrong side of campus to view the Centennial Oak, so that will not be covered here. One of these days, I will have to make a specific visit to see the largest Bur Oak in South Carolina. Of course, having seen the Angel Oak of Charleston, every other tree (except a redwood) pales in comparison.DSC_0326

As I walked down past Tillman Hall, I turned to look at the oak trees that drape over the edge of Bowman Field. The first one was even used for hanging a hammock in, over Spring Break. I saw it when I drove by to visit Fike. When there are leaves on these trees, they really shade that corner of the field. I assume both of these two trees are oaks, but different types… however, anyone can feel free to correct me. The second one has a bit more of the twists and turns of a Live Oak, without the Spanish moss of the coastal Carolinas.DSC_0327

Of course, the small reminders of spring were still everywhere, and I stopped to examine some of the budding trees, wondering what they would be, when they had leaves again. One tree was shooting out new growth, but the bright red of the new “branches” made it look like the tree had decided to grow rhubarb instead of whatever it usually grows. I thought it was funny looking.DSC_0336

DSC_0350A pink tulip tree framed the view of the Cooper Library, having been in bloom much longer than some other saucer magnolias. That bench looks like such a pretty place to sit and study, on a nice day, don’t you think?DSC_0352

More twists and turns brought me to Sirrine Hall and one of my favorite trees, with such huge branches that drape over all the nearby sidewalks. Upon closer inspection, for the very first time, I noticed the bolts that are keeping some of the branches from breaking apart. That tree is probably really old, if they need to screw it together. I wonder if there’s an old picture somewhere, showing what it looked like, thirty years ago. It’s some sort of pine, of course, but I don’t know my evergreen trees very well. DSC_0356

You may have already guessed that unless someone tells me otherwise, I can tell between evergreen and deciduous, and a few types beyond that. And I’m much better with the deciduous trees when they actually have LEAVES. But sometimes, they’re just a gorgeous tree, and I don’t really care what kind they are. DSC_0357

A tree stands alone, across the street from Riggs Hall, and I think it both funny and beautiful. A lonely sentinel, standing out against the sky. And yet, in a way, it looks like a random branch was just stuck haphazardly into the ground… and then magically grew to a huge size. The long stretch of the “twig” is the lower half, and then the handful of branches jutting out after the halfway point.DSC_0359DSC_0367

On my way further down the hill, I was attracted by the only thing blooming in the immediate vicinity. They’re probably from a pear tree, but I need to look again when I return to campus. I don’t recall the trees being the uniformly round shape that pear trees usually are, I seem to recall them being much bigger than “popcorn” trees usually are. And my usual way of identifying pear trees is by their horrible smell. Don’t all pear trees stink? The ones we had in PA always did, and I hated that part of spring, especially if the wind was blowing the reek in my direction.DSC_0369

You’ve heard this before, but I just like trees, so I try and capture them as I see them. Sometimes the photos don’t look at all like the tree does (or seems to) in real life. I continue to do my best.DSC_0370

wandering to no purpose…

When I arrived on campus, my intent was to take some pictures of the pink tulip trees. I had noticed they were only beginning to bloom, the previous day, but didn’t have my camera with me. But with the sun shining, the temperature almost reaching 70 degrees, and not a cloud to mar the blue sky, I couldn’t walk away quite yet.DSC_0314

DSC_0316Instead, I began to wander, with no real purpose in mind. Vaguely, I had thought that I would see some other flowers blooming, but there really weren’t any. I had just recently done my “building fascination” posts, so I had covered a lot of the buildings nearby. So, I just wandered and took pictures as the fancy struck me.DSC_0315

DSC_0318I went up to Tillman Hall, and walked on past the Military Heritage Plaza, walking downhill towards Mell Hall, wondering if I would find anything interesting. You never know there could have been some more statues hiding here and there. Instead, I took some pictures of the trees, but when I realized how many pictures of trees that I took that day, I saved those for another post. Remember, tree pictures are tricky (they are to me, at least), and they never seem to look, in the photo, like they do in real life. I’ve got to play around with a few of those pictures, before I put them on here.DSC_0324

DSC_0317Turning back uphill, I found myself staring at Tillman Hall again, and stopped to take photos of different aspects of the building. Where are the photos? I know, you’re going to love me (or maybe hate me) for this, but I’m preparing another “building fascination” post, and it isn’t ready yet. There are some questions I still need answered about the history of Tillman. Ditto for Sirrine Hall, which I eventually reached, in my wanderings. But in the case of Sirrine, I think I need more photos. I’m not a fan of some of the ones I took.DSC_0353

My meanderings did bring me back to Hardin Hall, from a different angle, and reminded me again of how much I like that building. It’s very beautiful. Further down the street, I took a picture of Olin Hall, the Ceramic and Materials Engineering building. It’s also my dad’s old building. I took this picture more from the feeling that I should than from any interesting architecture catching my eye. Every time I see it, I wonder what the picture over the door is, and then forget to ask my dad. And I find the design of the building to be somewhat dull, especially with Hardin and Riggs on either side of it.DSC_0355

Then, while trying to identify the front door picture, looking around online, I found an older photo of Olin. A black and white picture that was taken back in the 1950′s… and it’s a very striking building in that photo. Why? It had finally hit me that you can’t tell if Olin Hall is interesting or not, because it’s surrounded by shrubs, ivy, and hedges. Basically, it looks completely overgrown, like your yard when it needs mowing. Olin needs to be “mown” of all its greenery, so people can remember that it’s supposed to be a nice building, underneath.DSC_0371

DSC_0372Way down the hill, I stopped by Lee and Lowry Hall, curious whether I could find that amazing design to the building that puts it in the Historic Registry of Buildings (or whatever it’s called). I managed to find the courtyard containing the bust of Harlan McClure, but I was still unimpressed by the buildings surrounding me. Maybe someone who understands architecture needs to explain it to me, or maybe the greenery in the courtyard was blocking my view.

On my way back up the hill, I stopped to stare at Riggs Hall again. It struck me that it’s a lot bigger than you think, though not as big as Sirrine, and like Sirrine, it’s “U” shaped, with a courtyard. But the courtyard in the middle of Riggs is the home to a small parking lot, which isn’t really meant to give aesthetic appeal.DSC_0373

The side of the building on Fernow Street caught my eye, though, because it seemed that the two entryways were supposed to mirror each other… but if you look above them, you’ll see one has a fancy arched window, and the other doesn’t. Was there a reason for that? It looks unbalanced or something. I think most people don’t notice, even if they’re looking, because the wheelchair ramp outside makes the doorways look like they aren’t even (optical illusion). But that ramp wouldn’t have been there originally, so why have mirror image doors, but not windows? And what are those funky brick panels that look like something else was there originally?DSC_0375

Back on the other side of Riggs, some of the gorgeous brick is covered up by the more modern stairs/fire escape. I’m assuming it was built to bring the place up to code… or maybe they used to have a rickety stairway there that needed replacing, anyway. Couldn’t they have at least matched the brick colors?

[Update: Certain smart alecks have informed me that it isn't either stairs or a fire escape, but an elevator. I would know this, how? And it still would have been put in to bring the building up to code. I was trying to suggest by mention of a fire escape that it could have been a fire escape, way back in the day, and eventually turned into stairs. I would have assumed that if there's an elevator in there, there would be stairs also. But since I'm going by observation, and anything I can find out on the internet, I didn't know. So there!]DSC_0376

DSC_0377When I was getting close to Sikes Hall again, I stopped to take a photo up the stairs towards the Thomas Green Clemson statue. I really like how the brick seems to form steps, as well as the actual stair case, and of course, you can line them up on one side, for the photo, but not the other.

Right before I got back into my car, I took another look at Long Hall, which (I think) is where I once took a Biology Lab, back during my one semester at Clemson. But I was paying more attention to the design on the outside that makes it look like the building has Grecian columns, but doesn’t. It’s almost like they built the brick building, and then painted columns onto the outside. An interesting design, I’ll have to take a closer look, someday.DSC_0378

You’ll have to forgive me for the ins and outs of this post. I came home and couldn’t figure out where to start and how to continue, once I had started. All my photos would not fit into one post. I didn’t think a short snatch could do justice to either Tillman or Sirrine, where I took quite a few photos. Eventually, my tree pictures began to stack up, and I thought I would exclude them as well, but they were part of this wandering session, so I had to at least mention them.

Over the next few days, I will be hop-skipping around, catching up on several drafts I’ve written, as well as touching on my trip to Charleston, last week. Bear with me, I’ll get to them all, eventually.DSC_0381

time to go downtown…

A co-worker of mine finds it funny that we have a part of town that is actually labeled “Downtown”. Well, we may not be Cincinnati, with actual uptown and downtown, and all the towns in-between, but how do you get around your city without having labels for certain areas of it? Of course, most of our directions are related to locations on campus. “Near Bowman”, “near Tillman”, “just off Perimeter”, “by the Stadium”, and “on Tiger Boulevard” just about covers it. DSC_0632

Yes, for all my Aussie friends that asked me repeatedly, Clemson is a city. But since it’s always referred to as a college town, how could I be sure, when I was asked? It’s not something I’d ever thought about. And just a as a reminder, in the U.S., a college is not a high school or junior high. The name college and university (“uni”, if you’re an Aussie) are mostly interchangeable.

People would ask me if my hometown was bigger or smaller than Emerald, which as a hub for several highways (not interstates) in the Central Highlands of Queensland, was a fairly “large” town. Or was it? In Emerald, the population quadruples during the week, when all the miners fly in to work, and then most of them fly back to Rockhampton or Brisbane on the weekend. Well, in Clemson, the population quadruples (or something close to it) during the college semesters, but empties out again during the summer. And during football season, the quadrupled population gets doubled again, for all the incoming football fans. You do the math. I certainly didn’t.DSC_0629

But we’re a city. Wikipedia and Clemson’s website say so (that means it’s true, right?). The students may outnumber us, but we’re still big enough to be a city. So there. And we have a downtown, but not an uptown. How does that work? Downtown is where the Clemson clothing is sold (in way too many shops), the “new” parking garage is located, and the edge of the downtown is where the Astro III is. For those new to the area, the ‘Stro was our dollar theater, which is closed now, but there are people who hope that it will reopen again, someday.DSC_0627

Sorry, I’m rambling about this because I took a trip downtown, during Christmas vacation. I hadn’t been in a while, and it felt like about time for a trip there. Now that I know of its existence, I have to visit All In Coffee, I love wandering through McClure’s bookstore, and of course, the Hallmark has been there since I was a child. When I’m paying attention, I still find the large buildings (pictured by the Moe’s Southwest Grill) odd, as I remember when the skyline wasn’t allowed to be more than two stories. I think they had to pass a city ordinance to allow those buildings to go up. And there used to be a hovel, otherwise known as a travel agency, where the building on the right is. That agency held out for a LONG time against the downtown buildup, so maybe they sold their property for a fortune.DSC_0625

I still need to venture up the hill, towards Bowman Field, to see if any new stores have gone in, since I was there last. Since I don’t own any Clemson clothing (I kid you not) aside from my work clothes, I rarely go anywhere that sells Clemson gear. But some of the buildings are pretty old, and a few bars and stores have been there forever. I really need to go look.DSC_0624

I’ve talked about All In Coffee on this blog, before. After my usual wander through Hallmark, I walked up the hill to get a Panda Bear (white chocolate AND dark chocolate) latte, to go. They were so empty, with the students out of town, it was weird. They gave me permission to take a few photos of the cheerful place, with the bright sunshine streaming in through the windows. I haven’t been in there since then, because I’ve been trying to stay out of coffee shops and give my wallet a break, but we’ll see how long that lasts.DSC_0626

For years, I’ve been a fan of Starbucks, but if you really want to go spend time with a friend or just go somewhere to read a book, while nursing a delicious coffee, All In Coffee is the place to go. They told me how they rotate several coffees from different countries, every week, so that many of the foreign students can have something that reminds them of home. I really liked the table that was decorated with foreign bills, too. If I’d thought of it, I’d have looked to see if any Aussie money is in it.

DSC_0623The desserts looked scrumptious, but I abstained. I can attest to how delicious their ham and cheese sandwiches are, though. I had no idea a sandwich could taste that good.DSC_0622

McClure’s Bookshop is a used bookstore that has been in Clemson for… goodness, it might be ten years now. I especially enjoy wandering through their kids’ section, because it has many books that you don’t find in a Barnes & Noble or Books-a-Million. I’m sure you can order most of them online, but the main fun of a book store is being able to handle the book and look through it, rather than click through the “Look Inside” option on Amazon.DSC_0621

One of these days, I shall venture further uptown in the downtown. That means towards the Subway, on the corner, across from Bowman Field. I shall also venture further down the hill, to see what they’ve done with the park that used to be by the Astro, and what shops are located by the Papa John’s. I have a feeling The White Rabbit isn’t there anymore.DSC_0620

But for now, I’m out of pictures, and my next round of photos were taken at the Military Heritage Plaza (which was quite an eye-opener to me). So, maybe you’ll drop by when I write about that, in the next few days. There’s still plenty of time to explore the rest of Clemson and discover the little things that I’ve never noticed before.DSC_0631

i love trees…

I often post pictures of flowers on this blog, but that’s because they’re so easy to photograph. But when I’m out on a hike, and not looking for a photo opportunity, my true love is for the trees. Ask anyone that’s ever been hiking with me. I will stop and check out any tree that looks like it would be fun to climb. Mind you, I don’t generally leave these hikes in order to climb any trees. That’s something to do when nobody’s around.DSC_0576

Anyway, I find trees extremely difficult to photograph. All the green and brown seems to run together, leaving your eyes confused over what to settle on. I suppose you could say that trees aren’t very photogenic. It probably doesn’t bother them like it does us, though.DSC_0577

The best trees for climbing are magnolias, with their branches that come right down to the ground, lack of sap (ever tried climbing a pine tree?), and generally strong branches. I’ve scared a few of my friends, in the past, because they’re not into heights. That’s why it’s more fun to climb trees when no one is around to commentate. Except for one of my brothers, who would join me on some tree-climbing expeditions, when we were younger. There aren’t any good magnolia trees right near our house, so we had to venture well into the woods, where my neighbor and I once discovered an abandoned garden. Nope, no walls or locked doors, but definitely a green labyrinth, full of fascinating paths, that any child would love to get lost in. Also, full of the requisite magnolia trees, down in the bottom section.DSC_0578

Near my workplace, there are several magnolias that I like to look at, and at least once, I’ve sat on one of the lower branches to eat my lunch. So far, I have not tried to climb it, though. Probably there are rules against such things at Clemson? What would it be like to get the first ticket for climbing a tree? Maybe if I threw a frisbee up there, and had to go fetch it…DSC_0579

That, and I wonder if the people in the Chemistry building would think I was spying on them. Nope, no tree-climbing on campus for me. Sigh.DSC_0580

And so, because I’m a fraidy-cat, I just enjoy looking at them. Some are just plain cool looking, wouldn’t you say? The above black-and-white photo really is of a branch, not a tree trunk. I took that while seated on a lower branch. And I just love the twists and turns to the tree pictured below. Also the crazy looking bark.DSC_0581

just down the street from america’s mall…

Everyone says that if you’re going to visit Minneapolis, then you should go to see the Mall of America. Well, I’m about 20-30 minutes from it, so on Saturday, I reviewed the directions and drove thataway. There are millions of other places to shop, on the way, so I had to stop at a 2-story Kohl’s to see if they had anything new and interesting. I especially liked the size of their home furnishings section, which had some fun odds and ends. But with only a bedroom to my name, at present, I only browsed.

You can’t miss the Mall of America, unless you’re trying, because there are lit up signs for it, which probably shine brightly at night. Now that I think on it, I do remember seeing it when I was driving to Shakopee, almost two weeks ago. Considering all the wrong turns I’ve made (either because of signs that weren’t obvious, or I wasn’t paying attention) since I got here, the Mall has lots of really good signs, because they want all shoppers to get there, not stop elsewhere.

I had reviewed the layout of the Mall, on their website, so I headed for the East parking lot, because that was near to Barnes & Noble. Hey, I figured if the place was overwhelming, I’d go cool off in my favorite store. Besides, their B&N might be colossally bigger than any other… who knows? The Mall is situated right next to the airport, so from high up in the parking garage (the parking garages are bigger than some malls!), I could see planes coming in to land, right close by. I felt like I could almost wave at the passengers.

On the way inside, there were some huge sun shades pulled down over the glass walkway, but I crouched down to see out the bottom, and get a look at the parking garage itself. It’s about seven stories, though I suppose the ceilings aren’t as high as in the Mall, because it didn’t LOOK taller than the Mall. Who knows? At first, I thought there was a parking garage for each corner, but it turns out there are only two. Which is more than enough.

My immediate terror was that I might forget where I parked, and never, ever find my car… so I took a picture of the level and row numbers. What better way to check back, than review your photos? But knowing that I was in the Tennessee section, and directly across from the doors, wasn’t hard to remember. So, I paid attention to what restaurants (bars, actually) were right where I came in. Then, I unabashedly stared around at everything, and took pictures of the mall maps.

At first, I was a bit flabbergasted at the size of the stores, not the size of the Mall itself. The entrance decor to some of them was so much bigger than I’d seen in other versions of those stores. As the Mall is roughly in the shape of a square, with department stores on each corner, it was a bit daunting to see how big the department stores were. But as I didn’t really have any money to spend, I didn’t actually go into Nordstrom, Sears, Macy’s, or Bloomingdale’s. So, I can’t give you a complete description of the inside of them.

The power bill on this mall would be astronomical, but they deal with some of it for the main areas by having immense skylights light the whole area. Of course, when it gets dark out, they must have another light source, but I don’t remember what it is. I also read (on Wikipedia) that during the winter, aside from the entrances, the main areas aren’t heated, because the lights and the people create tons of heat. Individual stores have their own heat, but it even suggested that some areas have to run the air, because it can get uncomfortably hot where there are so many people. I’m still working that out in my head, how the people can create enough heat to defeat subzero outdoor temperatures, with no main indoor heating system.

Remembering that I read that every four out of ten guests to the Mall of America are tourists, I didn’t worry too much about taking pictures or peering over railings, to look down to the three floors below (I came in on the fourth floor section, on the East side). The Mall of America is the biggest mall in the United States, when you count the retail stores, but not the area (which is something like 96 acres). I still haven’t figured out which mall is bigger in area, though the company that owns it also owns the biggest mall in North America (that’s in Edmonton, Alberta).

Immediately after coming down the first escalator, I found a good view of the amusement park in the center of the Mall. It was very odd to see a water ride, several roller coasters, a swing ride, and a bunch of other stuff inside this building, lit by a million skylights. And from there, I started to walk through the food court, and discovered how dangerous a place this would be, if I wasn’t eating right. Endless fast food, mondo amounts of dessert places (gelato? chocolate? doughnuts? popcorn?), and then there’s the regular restaurants. Later, I would walk through the restaurant level, and wished I could try the burgers and everything else, at every one I passed.

Speaking of the restaurant row, it occurred to me that the Mall would be a really fun place to go on a date. No, don’t cringe, guys. You can meander along, being ignored by the crowds, pick up a super pretzel at Auntie Anne’s, ride a couple of roller coasters, get a coffee, peruse the books at B&N, and when you’re tired of wandering, sit down in a REALLY nice restaurant for dinner. Some were really high class looking eateries, and others were fun looking burger and wings places. The constant buzz of people gives you that feeling that you’re actually alone (like at an amusement park), because no one’s paying attention to you, amidst the crowd.

The Mall of America constantly exudes the feeling that you only get at Christmastime, in other malls. At those times of year, the world is out to shop til they drop, and you either join ‘em, or do all your shopping online. But at this Mall, that feeling is common, minus the Christmas decorations. The crowd of people never lets up in the Disney Store, as the children explore all the fun toys and costumes. I would’ve loved that Merida (from Brave) costume, when I was little. And just approach the LEGO store, and you wonder if you’ll be able to get in. The huge LEGO statues above the store, the wall of LEGOs behind the registers, and the fun displays of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars toys… the fun never ends. But while you’re enjoying yourself, someone else is waiting their turn to see what you’re looking at, so you move on, and make your shopping decision while you walk.

If you get tired of all the “shoppingness”, you can always take the escalator downstairs to see the Aquarium. I only saw the signs for it, I didn’t go close enough to see it. But I’m sure there are plenty of people who only came to see the fish, so streams of people descended into the aquatic area. What other interesting venues does this mall hide? I’m sure there are more, but I didn’t notice them. And, of course, they’re working on Phase II of the Mall project, planning to build an ice skating rink, hotels, and a water park in the big open area outside of the Mall, just past the garages. I saw the open area, awaiting it’s future use, and read about the future of the Mall of America online.

After wandering around, looking inside a store, now and then, I took a break at the Barnes & Noble, which is actually no bigger than any other one I’ve been in. But their cafe definitely had a wider food selection, with quiche and soup, as well as all the coffee and desserts. I sighed inwardly, and got a regular coffee… and then made it more interesting by adding cinnamon and nutmeg.  : )  After getting my second wind (ok, I was only at the Mall for 2-3 hours), I headed back out for another look-see.

On my second round, I found myself no longer intimidated by the size of the Mall. In fact, It think my mind had pictured it as being even bigger. But I think part of the problem is that your mind can only take in one “wing” of the building at a time. So, you can’t comprehend the entire Mall into your view, but just one section at a time. And all the escalators and walkways that criss-cross each area, they make the place look smaller, I think. I had somehow pictured the openness of an atrium going straight up, with nothing crossing it, for the length of the Mall. Or at least, something like that was in my head. You know, picture the outside of two hotels, right up next to each other, they don’t have walkways between them, and they look immensely huge. That kind of look.

I don’t remember which part of the Mall it was in, but I saw lots of decorative glass pieces, hanging on long strands, and they would hang down for three stories. I was wondering how strong the wires had to be, and how they put it up there, without it getting tangled. Did they wire them one at a time, or carry it down a walkway, with a crane, and then have to untangle the whole mess?

All in all, I think I did manage to walk around at least two levels, entirely, and not all of it was on purpose. At one point, I thought I was on the fourth floor, and couldn’t figure out where to exit. When I finally realized I was on the third floor, I mentally slapped myself, and cruised on out the door.

So, if anyone comes to visit me, I will enjoy wandering the Mall with you, if you want, but there’s no harm if you aren’t interested. But I’m also not one of those shoppers that has to go into every store. I’d rather wander, just looking, and go into one, once in a blue moon. And just think of all the food there is to try! Ok, I think that’s the best part. You could go there every weekend for years on end, and eat somewhere different every time.

Now, I need to go back to straightening up my room. I trashed my bed in order to get my suitcase into my closet. It needs fixing, now. Oh, and I still have to finish reading Rilla of Ingleside. I’m so close to finishing, but I can’t stay up terribly late, when I get up at 5:45am. Just can’t be done. If you don’t hear from me sooner, have a marvelous Fourth of July!

my day for whatever…

When I was little, whenever I said “whatever” in response to someone, my parents told me I sounded like Miss Piggy. I didn’t really know what they were talking about, because I barely recalled her actually saying those words. Though now I realize that she DOES say that now and then. Perhaps I did pick it up from her, that noncommittal answer that expresses annoyance/frustration/confusion and a number of other things. But it doesn’t answer the question.

In this case, I’m using that word for the idea of this day being for whatever I want to do, not just a nonsensical or unnecessary response. Having finished my first week of work, I’m enjoying the freedom. Since I haven’t met anyone in town, yet, though I plan to meet lots of people at church, tomorrow, I can’t make a date with anyone. Can’t go to meet anyone for coffee. I don’t have rush anywhere (though if I could meet Imogen at Bogey’s, in Emerald, right this second, I would). Also, I really need to eat lunch before I leave the house, so I have a little over an hour before I’ll head anywhere.

At that point, I’m thinking of heading to the Mall of America, seeing as it’s only half an hour from here. I’ve reviewed the directions, it looks quite simple, and I’ve read that if I take ten minutes in every store, it’ll take me about eighty-two hours to finish looking in every shop. So, in that case, there’s no pressure. I’m not a serious shopper, more of a wanderer, so I can wander where I please, gawk all I want to, just soak up the insanity of how big that place is supposed to be… and then head back to Shakopee. No need to see it all, I have a year to do that, if I want to. I can do whatever I want to, today.

Meanwhile, I’ve promised myself that I’ll read some more of my book, which I’ve had very little time for, this week. A few minutes over my morning coffee (before I start working), and a few minutes in the evening, between checking everything online. Some days, my brain has been so out of it, I haven’t been able to concentrate on a book.

But a few days back, I started reading my favorite of the Anne series, Rilla of Ingleside, and since it’s been several years since I read it last, I’ve found my viewpoint has changed quite a bit. Perhaps it’s because I’m reading it on my Kindle instead of the actual book, but I’m reading bits that I’ve skimmed, in times past, and things are striking me differently than ever before.

Those of you that love Anne of Green Gables (and rightfully so), but have never read beyond it, you have no idea what you’re missing. Yes, I harp on this subject, regularly. The rest of the Anne books follow Anne and Gilbert’s courtship, engagement, separation while he’s in school and she’s teaching, and then their early years of marriage. New characters that are dear and wonderful arrive on the scene. What would life be like without the man-hater, Cornelia Bryant, (“that’s just like a man”) but who is still a part of “the race that knows Joseph”? Susan Baker becomes a treasured part of the household, though she is never a servant, and loves her “Mrs. Doctor dear”. Captain Jim brings his wisdom and storytelling to the scene and the mystery of the beautiful Leslie Moore must be solved.

Rainbow Valley changes the focus of the tale, introducing us to Anne’s children. L.M. Montgomery certainly knew what children were like, and the tales of Jem, Walter, Nan, Di, Shirley, and Rilla are already precious and entertaining. But not stopping there, onto the scene comes the children of the new pastor, motherless children who are often forgotten by their absentminded, yet wonderful, father. Demons for mischief, but they never mean any harm by it! To crown the scene of childhood adventures, the arrival of the orphaned, runaway Mary Vance shows the difference between harmless mischief and really, truly trouble. Perhaps someone will finally join in to exert some control over these wonderful, needy children?

This brings us to Rilla of Ingleside. The youngest of Gilbert and Anne’s children is Rilla Blythe, who is just about fifteen years old. Life is exciting to her, she has no ambitions beyond her first dance, and dearly as she loves her siblings, she doesn’t want to follow any of them to college. A trifle spoiled, one of the most beautiful of the Glen girls, she’s ready for life to continue to be a beautiful song, for years to come.

But hovering on the horizon is that specter called World War I, which they knew as the Great War. On the eve of Rilla’s first dance, England declares war on Germany. The young men of town are excited and thrilled, ready to volunteer and go to the aid of the mother country. The girls do not understand why this would be exciting, and why it should interrupt their lives. The young men are looking for the glory of it all. And young Walter Blythe, who has always had a keen eye for the beauty and the ugliness in everything, sees what this war could become, and trembles at the thought.

Not being that far into the book yet, I’m only just rereading the part where in the face of his friends and brothers’ volunteering in the armed forces, Walter confesses to his youngest sister, Rilla, that he is afraid of joining. He is hiding behind needing to get over the aftereffects of having typhoid, but in truth, he is completely well. Rilla does not understand why he should need to go, not understanding what the effects of this war will be.

During this time, the women of Glen St. Mary are just beginning to rally behind their boys, organize a Red Cross, and keep a steady, smiling face for their departing loved ones. Anne and Gilbert go about, being as brave as can be, but their smiles do not always reach their eyes. Anne is facing what only a mother can understand, sending her son to war, with a smile on her face. And during the rest of the book, we read along as Rilla goes from a flighty, slightly self-centered young girl to a woman, with a knowledge of true love and true loss. And though I’ve read this book many times, my heart continues to break for those who have lost their boys. Because these characters are written so that they’re real to me. It may be only a book, but I still tell you, if you’ve never read it (or any other Montgomery book besides Anne of Green Gables), you have led a deprived life. Rilla of Ingleside is one for the ages.

In real life, we should never forget the sacrifices of “our boys” from the war that’s happening now, to the wars of long ago. What we have in every country that is free is a direct result of their commitment and dedication, their sacrifice for their families and the country they love.

wand’ring through the olden days…

Near the end of my road trip, last month, I made sure I had time to visit the local antique mall near Chambersburg, PA, because it was a favorite place for me to “take a wander” when I was living there. With 4-5 buildings loaded with all sorts of antiques (and some handmade crafts), who wouldn’t want to stop by?

I’m always fascinated by the immense variety, not only of the items themselves, but in how well some have been taken care of through the years. You can tell that some people go looking for antiques in thrift stores, so they can keep their booths well-stocked with treasures that are in good condition. Other people are just looking for a buck or two, in order to get rid of their junk.

Looking through the kitchenware is a must, for me, because I’m always looking for Mirro cookie presses, but some of the other things are very tempting. It makes me want to buy random items for cool-looking storage, and not always to be put to their original use.

Some people collect old bottles, but I’m not really familiar with the ins and outs of what makes a good one. I have some beautiful matching green bottles with a wave pattern running around them. They look like vases, almost, but they’re too narrow at the top and too tall to get any flower or plant into. I’d been searching for a bottle to give a friend that collected them… and ended up keeping them for myself. But I still look, when I’m in the antique shops.

I love the freestanding drawers that come from old sewing machines. If you see the picture with the “Our Leader” metal plate (near the top, after the rolling pins), the drawers are behind it. When you pull the drawer out to use, there’s no outer “wall” to it, so you see the gap it leaves. Someday, I’m going to buy one to put on my desk or dresser. They’re beautiful.

As I wandered through the stores, I was surprised at how much I liked the dancers figurine and the busts, atop the wooden cupboard (below the deer head). But then, right next to them, on a lower table, I was almost alarmed at how creepy some other clay faces can be.

The sleds reminded me of one we had when I was little, but then, that was the last time we lived anywhere near the “serious” snow. No point in buying another, when you live in the south. Some other kitchen gizmos were interesting, but some of them, I had no idea what they were for, even after looking at the tag. I thought some ladies would be thrilled to have that sign about what their husband called to say.

I can’t help looking closely when I come across any thick ceramic crocks. My family has a huge one that we use for a trash can, and I have memories of playing in it when I was little. It only had sewing room scraps in it, then, and we were small enough to fit into it. We occasionally got stuck, too, and had to be pulled out. But try as I might, I can never find one that’s as big as ours, and they’re mightily expensive, even when they get close.

The glass telephone sign was pretty neat, and I wished I could come up with a place to put it, but until I have my own place again, there’s really no point in stocking up on more stuff. The glass doorknobs were beautiful, reminding me of some I had at my last house. And though I couldn’t think of any use for the balls of thick carpet cord (that’s what the tag says!), I’m pretty sure my crafty cousins would have come up with something.

Amidst the fun of old Star Wars glasses and classic kids’ books, you’ll find terrifying items like this yellow-eyed baby doll. I wouldn’t give it to any child of mine, because they’d probably have nightmares until they were fifty. It reminded me of a booth that used to be in that building, which had a mannequin that was dressed in vintage clothing. But one of my little cousins was scared to death of it, and would have to leave that area, in tears, not willing to even walk by it. I should let him know that it isn’t there anymore.

The wheel that was meant for rubber stamps put me in mind of getting my library book stamped, when I was a child, and of the scenes in The Music Man, where Harold Hill sings to Marian the Librarian, and she ends up stamping his hand, several times.

The old-fashioned rolling tea cart was fun and charming, and the glass table with the bear holding it up made me smile. And the metal lunchboxes and Smurf glasses made me think of my childhood. My grandma collected the Smurf glasses, and we always used them when we visited her in Pennsylvania.

From that very last antique building, there’s a door into a craft section, where local artisans sell their furniture, candles, soap, and many other interesting items. I have as much fun in this section as the previous one, and unlike being at a craft show, I can stick my nose anywhere I want, and not have to worry about talking to the booth owner, since they aren’t in the store.

The old-fashioned crates that they often use to display items, I usually wish they would sell those, too. In my last house, I was always looking for extra shelves for my books, and those crates would have answered admirably. Or they could have displayed other fun items, hiding in different corners of the house.

You can’t live in the south and not appreciate some of the humor that’s always aimed at rednecks. But if you didn’t know it, all rednecks don’t live in the south. Strangely enough, in that section of PA, there are a number of locals that pronounce “fire” as “fahr”. I’ve never figured out why, because it’s the local accent, not just some southerners that came north. You know, like Fayetteville is pronounce “Fattville” by those that are from there. Yep, you’re still in the north!

The candles were the last items that I came across before leaving the store. Some of them had nice names and smelled wonderful. Others had some very strange names. I’m afraid that “Elf Sweat” smells kind of sweet, not necessarily a nice smell, but not quite a bad one either. If Legolas smells like that, I really wonder what he eats when no one’s looking. Some of the other oddly name ones, well, they smelled revolting, so I don’t know why the maker named them that.

I hope you enjoyed my little trip. At the time, I was enjoying having my Canon PowerShot working again, so I could keep it in my pocket, and be unobtrusive, for once. It still takes nice pictures, but I will say that I’ve learned a lot from taking pictures with my Nikon for so long, and I won’t easily revert back to my little camera.

walkin’ round the Square…

After spending an hour or more in The Mercantile, I stepped back outside, and took around Pendleton Square. Up the hill from where I parked, there’s an older building of which I’ve always loved the style, but it rarely has anything in it, store-wise, so I’ve never been inside. It’s now advertising for a salon, and I’m not sure what else. I think it’s because of it’s out-of-the-way position, off the Square, that anything that moves in there doesn’t get much attention.

Spinning around to face the rest of the Square, I can see the long line of buildings to my left, and the two buildings that are on the green itself. The big one is Farmer’s Hall, a historic building that now houses a restaurant, 1826 on the Green, on the lower level. The smaller building is now home to a Pendleton official’s office, I think. And having reviewed some links to historic Pendleton, I just realized that I forgot to turn around and look at the Hunter’s Store Hall, which would’ve been to my right, as I left The Mercantile. I’ll have to take a look at it, another time.

I’m not actually familiar with the history of Farmer’s Hall, or the other older buildings in the area, which is kind of sad, considering I live just down the road. I’ve never been down the road to visit Ashtabula, an old plantation house, though I’ve driven past the sign for it, many times.

Instead of concentrating on the history, I walked into the green of the Square and looked up at the towering oak trees, so huge, so noble, and wonder how long they’ve been towering over this area. I’ve found that I’ve missed our stately trees, both deciduous and evergreens, though the eucalyptus trees of Australia are lovely, too. If you can get an idea of the size, from several of these pictures, they really made me feel small and insignificant.

Every April, that large green area is covered with booths for the Spring Jubilee, the platform in front of Farmer’s Hall is loaded down with musicians, and all the craftsmen within several states bring their works of art to be seen and sold. When I was younger, I always started with a candy stop at The Mercantile, and then munched my way through the white booths, wishing I had the money to buy everything. One year, we sold some crafts of our own at the show, and that was the year that the March didn’t come in like a lion, but April sure did. Our booth almost blew away.

From there, I stopped to admire a dogwood tree. They have them in Pennsylvania, too, so in spring, when I was homesick for South Carolina, the dogwoods would “bloom”, and I felt like I was at home. I don’t say the dogwoods really bloomed, because the white “petals” are actually leaves, and the flower of the dogwood is supposed to be in the center of the white “petals”. Kind of like the poinsettia plant, which has red leaves, but most people think of them as petals.

The row of stores, across the way, have changed a number of times over the years, with the exception of Mountain Made. The store that is The Bridal and Formal Shoppe of Pendleton, it used to be a splendidly random gift shop that carried dishes, dolls, soaps, decorative rocks, and everything else that your heart could desire. And it was always shifting around, so I never knew what to expect in there. Since it changed hands, though, I have some fun memories of my cousins trying on several dresses for a formal outing, and posing in their lovely dressing room.

On the other side of the Square are two antique stores. The one that’s a little lower than the road, the last time I was in there, it seemed to be full of old farm tools and things that I wasn’t into, but I will say that it’s been years since I’ve been inside. I shall have to visit, and see if they’ve changed, though it still is a fascinating looking building, I think. The other antique store used to be a gas (fuel, petrol) station, as you’ll see from their funky layout. It gets even better, inside, because the back rooms are what used to be the garage, and it still has speed bumps on the ground. I always thought the building was just plain fun, along with the antiques being attractive and desirable. Yes, I do like antiques, but they’re usually beyond my wallet.  : )

There are one or two more antique shops on the other corner, but I stopped at Mountain Made, and didn’t make it any further. So, stop by later, and I’ll take you into this shop that’s half store for the work of local artisans and half antique store.

i’m still around…

I know, you’ve been wondering if I’d fallen into Sydney Harbour, or some such thing. But no, I’m here in Sydney Airport, all in one piece, and I have an internet connection! Unfortunately, it’s slow enough that pictures don’t seem to be an option. I’ll see if it let’s me upload one, just for this. If not, you have much to look forward, for the next week.

Yes, I have been writing up my week, every evening, so it should keep you very well entertained, for over a week. Which is a good thing, because by that time, I’ll be too busy packing to leave for the U.S. to have time to do any major blogging.

Ok, it looks like I won’t be able to upload any photos. I did try.

In the meantime, I have plenty of time to read and rest, after my busy week. Drink plenty of coffee from Gloria Jean’s, or even buy an excessively expensive doughnut from Krispy Kreme, if I want. No, I think I’ll wait until I get home for that. I’m here quite a lot earlier than I planned, because everything seemed to be closed for Good Friday, and lugging all my baggage around town was wearing my shoulder out.

But until I’m within six hours of my flight, I can’t check my bag, so I have it all with me here. Every once in a while I get up and wander around the shops. There’s a very tempting book store, but as I can’t buy any of them, I must resist. Maybe I’ll give in to some of the chocolate shops, soon.

Anyway, it’s good to be back online, and rather than continue to bore you to tears, I’m going to go back to reading my book, Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott (I finished reading the first one, Eight Cousins, or the Aunt Hill, several days ago). Yes, I’ve read it a couple thousand times, I’m sure, but it never grows old.