Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fading October

October is usually one of my favorite months, but this year, October forgot to come. Well, actually it did come, but it brought with it an abnormal amounts of rain and cooler than normal temperatures. More often than not, the jeweled colors of autumn, gold, ruby and jade, were displayed on a backdrop of gray skies and rain.

It was no different in North Central Texas where I spent most of last week. Several evenings during my six-day stay were spent listening to thunder and watching the radar to see if we would get five inches, or five tenths of an inch, of rain.

The day after I came home, I took a walk, hoping to catch the last of the fall color. I walked past the old Southport Lighthouse and snapped a few pictures of bare trees. Closer to the beach, the trees still had some color, but somehow an image kept coming to mind. It was that of an old woman, who in an attempt to keep up appearances, dabs bright red lipstick on a pale face. Somehow, both the image of the old woman, and the half-naked trees, made me a little sad and sorry that October had flown by so quickly.

After my walk, I spent some time catching up on the blogs I follow. I saw that Loreen, the 1,000 Mile Beach Treker, will be spending a week in the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. Cool. The restoration at the Southport Lighthouse is almost complete and I have heard that in the spring will be open for visitors. Maybe they will also have a visitor/volunteer program as the one at Grand Traverse that Loreen is doing, but I won’t apply. Too close too home. Maybe they have one at the Key West Lighthouse. If they do, I’ll apply for February. Why do I think I won’t be the only one?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Changing Seasons; Changing Topics

This morning at the YMCA where I exercise, the gym was unavailable because they were holding the Third Annual Disability Resource Fair. The participants could partake in yoga demonstrations, chair massage, and a variety of physical activities. Those who were able could try the rock-climbing wall. A Championship Wheelchair Basketball Team from UW-Whitewater was scheduled to perform later in the afternoon.

As I watched the attendees, some with their own attendants, from my view on the treadmill I marveled at the good cheer in the building today. The crowd seemed to be mostly teenagers and young adults and their disabilities covered a wide range. But almost to a one they had big smiles on their faces and seemed so happy to partake in this outing. And so did the people who accompanied them. I saw several people with digital cameras taking pictures of the various activities, especially those attempting the rock climbing.

I had thought I would write today about the change of seasons. The leaves are almost at their peak color in this part of Southeastern Wisconsin and yesterday I took some pictures of trees in my neighborhood. I am posting a few but the truth is they are not nearly as inspiring as the people I saw this morning – those with disabilities and those that were there to help them.

Several of the houses I passed on my walk yesterday are decorated for Halloween. Here’s one of my favorites.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Hydrological Highway?

Is Hydrologic Highway too much of a mouthful? Does Water Wonderland sound too much like a water park? How about the Aquatic Escarpment? And why speculate about what to call the Great Lakes Basin other than the Great Lakes Basin anyway?

My brain storming for a clever name was prompted by a report of a presentation yesterday at University of Wisconsin Parkside. The speaker at the Executive in Residence Series of the UW-P School of Business and Technology was Richard Meeusen, CEO of Badger Meter. Meeusen, commenting that Wisconsin is becoming a leader world wide in fresh water science, said that, "Wisconsin has the opportunity to be the Silicon Valley of water technology".

Meuseen is not alone in recognizing the role that Wisconsin has come to play in the water sciences. Last week Gary Wilson wrote an editorial for The Great Lakes Town Hall called “Milwaukee Rising?” Here’s an excerpt of what Wilson said:

The University of Wisconsin's Milwaukee campus is home to the Great Lakes Water Institute which bills itself as "the largest academic freshwater research facility on the Great Lakes." Research and education are its prime focus, both critical disciplines in the water age.

The International Joint Commission, the U.S. and Canadian body that advises the two governments on boundary water issues, just cited Milwaukee (and Toronto) as a "success story" for its wastewater management and acknowledged its "well-designed and long-term plans."

Milwaukee's daily newspaper, the Journal-Sentinel, has dedicated significant resources to Great Lakes coverage. This in a difficult period where most papers are scaling back on environmental reporting.

You can read the entire editorial and the comments it prompted on the Town Hall website. I would have included a note about the exhibits at Milwaukee’s newest museum, Discovery World, which make learning about water fun. I would also have cited Governors Doyle’s proposal to allocate for establishment of a School of Freshwater Science at UW-M. $240M.

Fortune for all, it’s not just in Wisconsin that water issues are finally taking a front seat. It’s happening all over the Great Lakes, and although I would like to see Wisconsin prosper from water technology, the truth is that the more Great Lakes cities and states involved in the effort, the more the effort will succeed. Maybe my old hometown, Buffalo, could reap some benefit. From what I hear, they could really use it.

If you can think of catchy name for our area, which can summarize in a slogan the high-tech efforts in freshwater science, let me know. But whatever that name is, it certainly is better than The Rust Belt, our previous title. How about Aqua Fresh? Oops, I think that is already taken by a toothpaste. Sorry.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Saving Treasures on American Samoa

The other day in my posting about the National Parks, I asked the question of how the National Park of American Samoa had fared during the recent tsunami wave that struck the South Pacific. Today, in an article on the National Parks Traveler, I learned that it did fairly well. The headline reads “Restoration Efforts Show National Park of American Samoa Artifacts in Better-Than-Expected Condition” .The article explains that many of the artifacts were rescued from the water that inundated the Visitor Center and removed to safer locations.

As a novice weaver, I was particularly interested to learn that some of what was saved is examples of traditional Samoan weaving. Over the past two years, I have a developed a greater appreciation for the craft of weaving as I slowly learn to weave myself. I would really like to see the restored pieces some day – and add another stamp to my National Parks Passport.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Simmons Island Beach and Art

The only way that Simmons Island Beach and Art are related is that I read articles about them both this morning. I am still a newspaper reader, and although I find lots of good information on the internet, I still like to read the newspaper.

The second topic first. Art. A few days ago, I wrote about ArtPrize, the art competition currently taking place in Grand Rapids, MI. The Arts section of the New York Times had a story about the exhibit and although Mary Gillis, the artist I was featuring was not included in the piece, it is still worth looking at slide show of some of the other installations. In addition, it’s always nice see something in the NYT about art in a Great Lakes State. Art does happen west of the Hudson River.

The other article was one of local interest. The headline in the Kenosha News read, “City Looks to Enhance Lakefront.” The City of Kenosha wants to draw more people to the lakefront, especially because so much of the current commercial development is in the western part of the city. Some suggestions for increasing the number of visitors, which is estimated to be about 20,000 per month now, are to improve the railroad station ( I am not sure that will do anything toward this goal but I agree it should be done), streetscape designs along the main thoroughfares entering the lakefront area, and better marketing.

Mayor Keith Bosman would like to see more traffic on Simmons Island and its beach. As a frequenter of that beach, I know it is under utilized, although in the past few years, the number of beach goers has increased. This year doesn’t count because the weather was cool, but I think there are ways to improve use of the beach.

For one, it could be cleaned more often, and more waste containers provided. The city has fixed up the historic bathhouse a little and there are now restroom facilities and a foot washing station – but I am not sure how many people know about it. The city has also made it difficult for anyone interested in opening a concession stand. The one year that one was open, people purchased snacks there, but this year it wasn’t there.

Why is North Beach in Racine so popular? Could it be that it is clean, has concessions, washrooms, has adequate parking and a great children’s playground? Granted, the sand beach at Simmons Island is smaller, but the park is not. I don’t think it would take much to improve attendance but you have to give people a reason to go there. On a hot summer afternoon, a significant number of cars in the Simmons Island parking lot sport Illinois license plates. What do the people of Illinois know that the people of Kenosha don’t? Or are the people of Kenosha all up at the Racine beach?

By the way, the Simmons Bedding, for whom the island was named, also made the New York Times this week. The company, which has changed hands many times since leaving Kenosha, has declared bankruptcy. The NYT article is a good analysis of how this happened to Simmons as well as many other companies. It’s not a pretty picture.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

After and Before the Rain

Today started out gray and cloudy and it went downhill from there. Midmorning, as I ran errands, it was drizzling – just enough to put the intermittent wipers on (After seeing the movie about the guy who invented them, I don’t take them for granted any more). I came home and felt like the weather – chilly, gray, and dripping in my throat. So when it was getting to be 4 PM and I still hadn’t given Burlee the Pug his afternoon walk, I grumbled but put my fleece and my raincoat on and figured it would be a short walk.

Just as I got outside, the clouds opened up and the sun shone through. The winds were calm. I went back inside and took off the raincoat, but something told me to grab my camera (one of my errands today had been to get the 2G memory card to go with it). I was so glad I did.

As Burlee and I walked toward the harbor, I saw blue sky above me. However, to the west were more storm clouds – and the ones that had been overhead all day were still out on the lake. Of course, there were a few fishermen by the harbor. Even in the rain, there is always someone dangling a pole out there.

I took pictures in both directions, and to the north, too. Great clouds. As I walked back, the reflection of the clouds on the huge windows of the Kenosha Public Museum were worthy of a picture, too.
By the time I got back to my house, which probably wasn’t more than 15 or 20 minutes, the wind had picked up. Strong gusts, which according to the Weather Channel are between 25-35 miles per hour, were blowing those clouds right over my head, so I expect to see more rain today. No cemetery tour for me tonight. We’ll see what the weather is tomorrow and if it’s a good night for visiting graves in the dark. In a way, I almost hope its raining again. I am a little bit of a coward, I admit.

If you want to see some more beautiful pictures of Lake Michigan, check out the blog,, which I recently came across. I don’t know who writes this blog except that he or she has an office at Carthage College with a full view of the lake, and has posted some wonderful pictures.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Maritime History in the Cemetery

It’s October, the time of year for pumpkins, falling leaves, and cemetery tours. For the past few years, the Kenosha History Center has sponsored historic tours of Green Ridge Cemetery. The walk this year, which was yesterday afternoon, emphasized Kenosha’s Maritime history. The walk highlighted four historical figures with ties to ships and the shipping industry as well as the gravesites of six Lighthouse Keepers of the Kenosha Lighthouse, dating between 1836 and 1871.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t take the tour this year for reasons I won’t go into, but I did pick up a copy of the guide booklet. This afternoon, a cool, partly cloudy, but still pleasant afternoon, I walked over to the cemetery, which is about a fifteen-minute walk from my house. Using the map provided in the booklet, I tried to find the gravesites of these significant figures from yesterday’s walk. I was able to find only a few of the gravesites, but I did find one that I had been especially interested in seeing.

Stephen A. Jackson was born in England and came to America in 1839. He began his career as a steamer captain in Buffalo N.Y. before coming to Kenosha in 1867. Now you see why I was particularly interested in this man. If you have been a reader, or know me, you know that I too began in Buffalo, N.Y. and then came to Kenosha.

The marker to his grave is one of the more interesting ones in the cemetery – it’s the one up at the top. Jackson was one of the figures with a reenactor and again I was sorry not to see my neighbor, alderman, and knitting friend’s spouse, Don Moldenhauer, portray Captain Jackson. This morning’s Kenosha News had a nice picture of Don as Jackson.

Charles O’Neill, lighthouse keeper in the mid 1800’s, has a large marker. That’s probably because O’Neill was politically connected and did not spend most of his career as a lighthouse keeper. He was a farmer – and probably a pretty prosperous one at that. George Kimball, whose worn marker is shown above at the right, is credited with building the first beacon to light the port in 1836. One of the markers I couldn’t find was that of Lorinda Merrill, who was the first female keeper, when she took over the position after her husband died in 1871. She kept the light for just one year, but the walk’s brochure poses the question of what it was like to walk up and down the narrow spiral staircase, which is about the height of a five-story building, several times a day in the long bulky skirt Mrs. Merrill must have worn in the mid 1800’s.

Two evenings this week, the history center will host a Cemetery Lantern Tour. It will not emphasize maritime figures as did the walk yesterday but my husband and I may go one evening. After all, even though the center says this is not a haunted tour, being in a cemetery on a chilly October evening after dark is spooky and this is October, isn’t it?

On my walk back home, I shot this picture of people enjoying the nice afternoon on their bikes. Not everyone wants to stroll in the cemetery in October. Can you see the four bikes in the background?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Great Lakes National Park?

I have been enjoying Ken Burn’s series on the National Parks and if you haven’t seen it, you are really missing some great TV. As someone who has visited 21 National Parks (out of 58 according to Burns and 60 according to the National Parks Conservation Association) and whose Passport to the National Parks has a total of 102 stamps, I have been waiting to see this program for a long time.

When I started collecting stamps in 1997 there were, if I recall, about 360 units of the parks service and my goal then was to see them all. Besides the national parks, the units include National Monuments, Lakeshores, Historic Sites, Trails, Parkways, Rivers and so forth. You can see a whole list of the types of units and how they are defined on the website of the NPCA. Over the years, the number has changed and now my target is 391, but I fear that this is an elusive goal and I may have to be content to visit just a large percentage of the total number.

Living in the Midwest, achieving my goal has been a challenge. My passport thrived the one year we lived in Northern California when my husband did interim work in Sacramento. Winter and summer vacations have helped, too, but if you look at a map of National Parks in the Great Lakes Basin, you will only see Cuyahoga Valley near Cleveland, Ohio, and yes, I have been there.

In Wisconsin, we have no park but we do have the Apostle Islands and the St Croix River sites (and yes, I have been to both) and some scenic trails. Michigan does better with Isle Royale which is a National Park and, Pictured Rock and Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshores (no, none of these yet) as well as several historic sites. Indiana has the wonderful Indiana Dunes Lakeshore, which I have visited often. Illinois. Ohio and New York’s sites, at least the ones near the Great Lakes, are mostly historical (and yes, I’ve been to several of them).

What has been interesting about Burn’s series, besides the fabulous photos, which make me wish for the very first time I had HDTV, has been the historical perspective on the development of the parks. Often just one determined person was influential in convincing our government to preserve parts of our country for the masses, regions that for other individuals could have been sources of great wealth in mining and forestry rights. Even today, these fights go on and I frequently get email requests from NPCA or the Sierra Club asking me to tell my Senator or Congressman what I want him to do to preserve our natural heritage.

Imagine if someone were to create a Great Lakes National Park. What would it include? It would be bigger than France and the United Kingdom combined, and would be both above ground and underwater. It would include sand dunes, Carolinian and Boreal forest, wetlands, and a variety of geological formations. It would be rich in fresh water, minerals, plants, and animals. I can only imagine what controversy such a proposal would create. Just look how hard it was to pass the Great Lakes Compact. No, I don’t expect that to ever happen. Still, just imagine having that stamp in my passport.

By the way, the National Park of American Samoa is one of the 58 (or 60) national parks. I wonder how it has fared following the earthquake this week. Well, I hope.