Monday, October 31, 2011

Historic Santa Fe

The above picture was taken in the town's square. For four centuries the square has served as the center of town in many aspects- culturally, socially and politically. Around this central area, in the 1600s, the Spanish built their homes, officer's quarters and barracks. Still standing today is the Governors Palace. It is the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States. This long low adobe building has been the seat of government for the vice royalty of New Spain, as well as the colonial government building for Mexico. The territorial government of the United States also used it, as well as Native Americans for a brief time after the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680. What a lot of history this building has seen, and the museum which resides in it now has exhibits which reflect the complex history of New Mexico and its many diverse cultures. Below is a picture of that building. On its porch Native American artisans gather to sell their wares.
There are numerous little shops, and art galleries around the town square. We wanted to tour Georgia O'Keeffe's art museum but it was getting late in the day. Our last stop of the day, New Mexico's capitol building, more than made up for missing that museum. The Capitol Art Foundation has made possible the placement of 600 artworks in the interior public spaces of the state capitol. The collection includes paintings, photography, sculpture, textiles, ceramic and glass works as well as furniture. Over 570 New Mexico artists are represented. This is one capitol building not to pass up. Below is a picture of the entrance to the building.
The facade of the building gives the impression that the building is square, but it is round, similar to other capitols. It has a rotunda in the center which is inlaid with a turquoise and bass mosaic of New Mexico's Great Seal. The skylight represents an Indian basket weave.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Historic Churches of old Santa Fe

Santa Fe is about 40 miles northeast of Albuquerque. We felt that there was a lot to be seen in the capitol city so we made the trip yesterday. Our entire day was pretty much spent walking around the older section of Santa Fe, which we found to be somewhat similar to old Albuquerque's town square,although much bigger. In that section there are historic buildings and museums, among which include several Catholic churches. Santa Fe is sometimes called the Royal City of the Holy Faith, translated into Spanish it is referred to as La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Assisi. I will first start here with San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in the United States. At the time of its construction the old Santa Fe trail passed in front of it. It was built in 1610, when the town was founded. Part of the structure was damaged during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, but it was rebuilt after the Spanish reconquest in 1692.
The Cathedral Basilica of St.Francis of Assisi is also in the older section of town. The congregation was established also in 1610, but the building itself has been rebuilt a couple of times. I really liked the baptismal fountain and pool which located in the center of the nave. The font is located on an axis between the church doors and the altar to remind us of our baptismal journey. The pool is cruciform in shape.
 It was through the initiative of Archbishop Lamy in 1875 that the cathedral was expanded from a simple adobe building into the large stone structure which it is today. He is buried in a crypt below the cathedral floor. His name has become famous by the book Death Comes to the Archbishop written by Willa Cather in 1926. The last church I want to mention here, the Loretto Chapel, has a circular staircase which is a marvel of beauty and construction. The top of the staircase rests against the loft at the top and on the floor at the bottom where its entire weight seems to be supported. It has no center support and has 33 steps and makes two complete 360 degree turns. It has been the subject of a book and movie.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Albuquerque, New Mexico

The above picture is of the main street of Raton, New Mexico, a few hours before their first major snowfall. The day before, Tuesday, we had left Denver about 12 hours before the first snowfall of the season had arrived there. We drove from Denver southwest into New Mexico over the Raton Pass, and about two days later that pass was covered with snow and ice.  Wednesday morning we had some light snow showers in Raton and fortunately drove out of there before the heavier snow storm arrived. We made it to Albuquerque Wednesday afternoon where, most fortunately, we only encountered rain. Albuquerque lies in a big valley between the Sandia Mountains and sweeping plateau country. Yesterday, Thursday, we toured the old town of Albuquerque which in the late 1600s was the heart of the business district. St.Felipe Catholic church dominates the town square there, the parish had its beginnings in 1706. The building has been reconstructed several times. We toured the church, and was surprised to find that it is quite small inside
There were many little shops around the town square, however many Native Americans had their wares on display outside of the shops. Most of of the items on sale were turquoise jewelry
In the Turquoise Museum, located near old town, we learned that many Native Americans purchase the semi-precious gem from China to make their turquoise jewelry. It is cheaper to buy turquoise from that country as the labor needed to mine it is less expensive. Another nugget of information we learned about the gem is that word turquoise means "of Turkish origin". During the middle ages Europeans who bought the gem from Turkish traders thought that the gem came from Turkey, but in reality the traders had obtained it from Persia. The rest of our afternoon in old Albuquerque was spent in the Turquoise Museum, where there are samples of that gem from around the world, in its raw state as well as a finished product.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Denver Botanical Gardens

This garden is one of the top-ranked botanical gardens in the nation. Fortunately for us winter has not done its damage there yet. Many of the plants are at the end of their blooming, but we still found some awesome beauty in the garden when we toured it Friday. We had only a couple of hours to see the gardens before we were due at a bridal shop for our daughter Melissa's first appointment of the week-end. She had flown in early Friday morning to spend the week-end with us and her cousin Heather. I was surprised to discover at the gardens that there is an autumn crocus. That plant is pictured below, it caught my attention as it looked so pretty nestled among the lamb's ears foliage.
 Denver Botanical Gardens currently is displaying the work of modernist Allan Houser, called Native Roots. It features Native American plants and peoples. Pictured below is a sculpture which has the title of Morning Prayer. Around the figure are prairie grasses, of which a beautiful variety of them can be found in the garden.
As I mentioned in an earlier posting, the autumn colors here in Denver have been stunning. Below is a picture of that beauty in the botanical gardens. The warm sunny day also added to our enjoyment of the garden.
While in Denver I have also found a lot of joy in just seeing the Rockies off in the distance. I searched for a place where I could get a picture of their snow-capped peaks plus some autumnal beauty. Yesterday, after church, I finally found just the location in a park. Tomorrow night snow is in the forecast for Denver. We do plan to head south  tomorrow morning, well ahead of winter's first blast of cold and snow.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lariat Loop Scenic Byway, Colorado

We are now parked just outside of Denver in Englewood. And I am very happy that a hard frost has not hit this area yet. Fall foliage is seldom seen this late in the year here in Colorado. Oaks and aspen leaves are just turning, primarily we are seeing trees which are a brilliant yellow in color. Those trees can be seen in the picture below, that picture was taken just outside of Coors Brewery, which we toured Thursday.
Coors Brewery is in Golden, Colorado on the Lariat Loop highway. The scenic highway is described as "40 miles of western adventure". Our first stop along this drive was at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater. The red rocks are towering 400 feet sandstone formations. The rocks provide the best musical acoustics in the world, musical groups started performing there in the late 19th century. Locals say that actually it was used earlier than that by the Ute Indians for their dances. In the 1940s the Civil Conservation Corps built an actual theater among the rocks. From the highest level of this amphitheater we had a good 200 mile panoramic view of Denver. The park is in an area where the Great Plains meet the foothills of the Rockies.
Sadly most people only know of the park as a place for concerts. It is also 868 acres of park land where many wild animals roam, including mule deer which we saw casually roaming around the parking lots of the theater. Many years ago dinosaurs also roamed here, Dinosaur Ridge was our next stop. At the Ridge we took a guided tour to see the fossilized bones and tracks of those ancient animals. In the picture below is one of the fossilized dinosaur's tracks, pointed out to us by our very knowledgeable guide.
Three hundred plus dinosaur tracks and a dinosaur bone quarry are on the ridge, all representing five different time periods in the Age of Dinosaurs. Our day on the Lariat Loop ended at Lookout Mountain where Buffalo Bill's museum and grave is located. After seeing those places we headed back to the city so we could listen in on a rehearsal of the Broke Bridge Band, in which our niece Heather performs with her singing and fiddle. The band plays some awesome bluegrass music! It was a perfect ending to our very long day.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Goodland, Kansas

We are now parked outside of Goodland, Kansas. Its biggest claim to fame is that, as of  2002, it is the place of a 24 foot by 32 foot reproduction of Van Gogh's Sunflowers, created by a Canadian born Cameron Cross. The reproduction stands on an 80 foot high easel. The artist has plans to place reproductions of Van Gogh's seven different sunflower paintings on the seven continents; so far he has placed one in Canada, Australia, and now in Kansas. Kansas was chosen for the site because of its large sunflower fields.
Coincidentially, I just finished reading Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick. It is a fictional story of the last two years of Van Gogh's life as seen through the eyes of a young prostitute. The book has many references to the artist's sunflower paintings ( they were a favorite of his mistress Rachel, according to the story line), so I was thrilled to see one of those reproductions here in Kansas. Pardon me now if I jump to another subject entirely. Yesterday John and I had the wonderful experience of attending Goodland United Methodist church. The call to worship for the service adapted a quote from Steve Jobs: "Out time is limited, so lets not waste it living someone else's life... don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice...Let us have the courage to follow our heart and intuition.God is at work beyond all our imagination". Pastor Dustin Petz pointed out in his sermon that Goodland Methodist needs to find a way to reach out to the younger people of Sherman County. The average age of the surrounding community is 35 years, while that of the congregation is 54 years of age. It was the first time John and I had seen a pastor whip out an iPhone to read from the Bible. That was a very good object lesson to demonstrate the point of his sermon!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Monument Rocks

These rock formations are about 20 miles southeast of the town of Oakley. Just before turning off the dirt road, which leads to the formations, we stopped at an old restored stone building. A sign by the road said it was the Keystone Gallery, an art gallery/fossil museum. I grumbled a bit about making the stop, as I just wanted to see Monument Rocks. It turned out to be a very informative stop, however! Barbara Bonner, who owns the museum with her husband Chuck, greeted us warmly and was very eager to share with us their stories of fossil hunting in the surrounding area. The land having the fossils covers two counties of Kansas. We saw some of their collection of fossilized ancient fish which they have found over the twenty some years they have had their museum. Chuck's primary occupation is painting and his work is also displayed in the museum. Barbara and I also discovered that we both have sons, of of the same age, out on the west coast and in the gaming industry. Despite that rather long stop we did make it out to the rock formations. The wind-carved and water-eroded limestone towers average about 70 feet in height. The site can be described best as a  many layered ancient Cretaceous seabed sitting on a semi-arid plain.
Weathering has exposed many marine and reptilian fossils in these rocks. While walking around the formations I could find many small rocks on the ground with clam shells embedded in them. We also visited the Fick Museum in Oakley on Friday where some more marine fossils are on display. Paleontologists have been able to remove large pieces of rock with the skeleton of the ancient marine creatures still embedded in them.It is quite an involved process to remove the fossilized limestone and then to mount it for study and display.  On exhibit in the museum is xiphactinus audax, which is figured to have been about 16 feet long. He is similar to modern day Tarpon . The fish was collected and prepared by paleontologist George Sternborg.
Also on display in the museum are 11,000 shark teeth, as well as many other fossil artifacts. Vi Fick, wife of the paleontologist Ernest Fick, created a lot of fossil folkart using such materials as fish vertebrae and oyster shells. Indian artifacts are also on display on the museum.  Native Americans used the fossils to make jewelry as the crinoid necklace pictured below. Crinoids are marine invertebrates as sea lilies and feather stars.
It was quite a fascinating museum with a wide variety of local memorabilia and artwork.  I will close off this posting with one more picture of the Monument Rocks.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Oakley, Kansas

The town of Oakley is not named after Annie Oakley, the cowgirl sharpshooter turned entertainer. She joined Bill Cody's Wild West Show in about 1886. Before Wild Bill Cody started his Wild West show he was a military scout working out of Fort Hayes, Kansas. In 1886 he and his partner Nate Salsbury loaded up their Wild West Show on the S.S.Nebraska and headed for England. They took quite a menagerie with them; 18 buffalo, a small herd of longhorn cattle, 200 horses and 12 elk. The show toured Europe for 10 years. Annie Oakley, the star of the show, was with them from 1885-1902. My posting today is not only about cowboys, but also of Native Americans. Our second stop of the day yesterday was at Battle Canyon.
 The site of this Native Indian battle is advertised as the place where the last officer was killed in military action in Kansas. There is ever so much more to the story which speaks to a desperate situation that led to this battle. In 1878 a group of Northern Cheyenne chose to leave their reservation in Oklahoma because of the lack of food and malaria which was depleting their people in large numbers. The Cheyenne, which included 94 warriors, 120 women and 141 children, escaped the reservation. In that group was a squaw of General Custer and their son. The Native Indians were chased by the military to a canyon in Kansas. Here the Cheyenne women and children hid in the natural cave at the end of this dog-leg canyon, now know as Battle Canyon. A battle ensued until darkness fell and the soldiers retreated to re-group. The Cheyenne escaped in the middle of the night, leaving their pack horses laden with supplies and their lodge fires still burning. About one half of them did reach their northern destination, the other half were eventually captured.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Our Last Day in Lindsborg

Our plan was to leave this area on Monday. However, we recently learned that our daughter Melissa will be in Denver later this month and consequently we now are in no rush to get there. We do have a concern about the  weather as it is getting cooler even out here in Kansas. Hopefully the snow will hold off for awhile yet in Denver! We also felt that there is a lot more in the town of Lindsborg to explore. Our first stop today was about one mile outside of the town at the Hoglund Dugout. In 1868 a young couple from Sweden, Gustaf and Maria Hoglund, created their first home in a 6ft.x12 ft. pit. During their first summer they used their wagon as a roof. It was hard for me to comprehend living in that small of a space with no windows!
In Lindsborg, after wandering through many of its fine small shops, we walked over to the Red Barn Studio. From 1945-1991 it was the home and studio of Lester Rhymer. When he married his wife Ramona her parents gave them several buildings, two of which were a livery stable and a wash house. He combined them into one rather large rambling building, adding a breezeway in the process. With extensive decorative touches he ended up with one awesome building.
Rhymer's house and studio proved to be a very intriguing place to tour. It is filled with his paintings, original prints, sculptures, ceramics, jewelry and furniture. Every year for Christmas he made his wife elaborate wooden toys with operating parts, they also are on display in the home. He also worked with fabric, even making a quilt. He usually worked only with recycled materials, finding them in the town dump or at auction sales. He twisted and crimped aluminum scrap to make decorative art objects. Below is a picture of the courtyard of the Rhymer home which shows some of his woodcarvings. The artist also created the ceramic tile on the brick wall which depicts the sun, a common theme in a lot of his artwork.
After touring Rhymer's art studio we walked the Valkommen Trail, a paved walking path around Lindsborg with  historical markers. At the site of the water and power plant there is an interpretive sign explaining how charges for electricity and water were calculated during the early part of the twentieth century. The customer was charged by the light bulb; one dollar for two light bulbs monthly. Water cost six dollars for one faucet, and one dollar was charged for every additional faucet. Annual charge for a bathtub was three dollars.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Smoky Hill River Valley of Kansas

The Swedish festival of Lindsborg ended Saturday, but yesterday we were treated to more of the culture at Bethany Lutheran during the Sunday services. A children's choir, with the children  in their Swedish garb, sang "Children of the Heavenly Father" in Swedish. It is wonderful that the town and its people still holds onto its heritage after 140 years! The town of Lindsborg was settled by Lutheran Swedish immigrants in 1868. By 1881 the citizens had started up Bethany College. On Saturday we stopped at the college and its campus church, Messiah Lutheran  (daughter church of Bethany). Messiah has five sets of beautiful stained glass windows designed by Eldon B. Swensson, a church member. Below is a picture of one of them which has the title "Messiah's Path of Light". In the picture are Bethany's steeples as well as the Bethany College dove.
The first immigrants of Lindsborg settled in the fertile river valley of the Smokey River, pictured below. We took in the beautiful autumnal view of this valley and its surrounding wheat fields at Coronado Heights. In the 1930s the Works Progress Administration built a castle on this hill to serve as a picnic area and park.  In the 1950s a  professor from Bethany College  found Spanish chain mail a few miles southwest of the park and hence the park was renamed Coronado Heights. It is thought that perhaps the legendary explorer, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado passed through the Kansas Smoky Valley in the 1541.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lindsborg, Kansas

It was a wet day yesterday, with continuing winds of up to 30 miles an hour. We still managed to have a great day in the town of Lindsborg. We knew there was a festival going on in the town, but we did not know the particulars. As it happened, we were most fortunate to attend the town's biennial Hyllningsfest. This festival, which honors the first Swedish pioneers of the town, has been occurring every odd year since 1941. During the year of Hyllningsfest the local schoolchildren learn Swedish dances in their general music classes. These performances, as well as other musical offerings, were a part of the festival which we enjoyed yesterday.
The teen dancers were accompanied by fiddle players. One of the girls played a nyckelharpa, a Swedish musical instrument. I found out later that it is a "keyed fiddle". In the picture of the musicians below the girl with the nyckelharpa is at the end, on the right.
 Everything Swedish was a part of the festival; besides the musical presentations there were also arts and crafts and Swedish foods. While wandering through the festival we also got in a tour of the town. We had read somewhere that the town has 47 works of art in the form of sculptures, wind vanes, murals, iron works and tiles. Counted in that number are 29 wild Dalas. It is perhaps Sweden's best-known icon, a bluntly-rounded, tail-free horse which had been first whittled out of wood. It is a symbol of identity and welcome.
 We stopped at Bethany Lutheran church as it is one of the historic buildings of Lindsborg. Too our pleasant surprise we happened to arrive when an organ concert was being performed, which we listened to for a short while. In that church another fiberglass Dala greeted us. I will have more on Lindsborg in my next posting.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Abilene, Kansas

On Tuesday my husband John was released by his doctor to travel once again. By Wednesday we were on the road again, heading west to California. We are now parked outside of Salina, Kansas and have experienced the strong winds of the plains. Yesterday we drove to Abilene to tour the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. The campus has been built around the childhood home of Dwight D. Eisenhower. That house seemed to small for a family of six boys! It was built in 1898 and  Ida, Dwight's mother, lived in it until 1946. It has since then been preserved as a museum.
The presidential museum displays an awesome piece of American history. In Eisenhower's lifetime America had seen rapid technological changes, from the invention of the automobile and jets to the arrival of the space age. It took us a good four hours to tour the museum and I could not begin to cover all the information we learned in this one posting. However, I will share with you some Eisenhower trivia. Eisenhower's family was Mennonite, his mom was not too happy when he entered West Point. The day that this five-star general orchestrated the most decisive battle of WW ll on June 6,1944, his only son John graduated from West Point. Unfortunately his dad could not be there. It was during Eisenhower's presidential term that the motto of the United States became "In God we trust". The words "One nation under God"  was added to the Pledge of Allegiance during Eisenhower's first term. Eisenhower was the first president to have a Chief of Staff, and also was the first to have televised press conferences. Below is a picture of his statue located on the campus.
On our way home later that day we drove to Rock City. Who would have known that such geological wonders can be found in Kansas? In this park are about 200 sandstone concretions.