My own home town

I was born in a small town near the middle of Ohio along the I-75 corridor, north of Dayton, south of Toledo, called Piqua. My parents, and their parents, and grandparents, and further on back in their genealogy lived in Piqua. Most who immigrated here from Germany, or Ireland, or England, settled in Piqua and established homes and families. Many are buried in Forest Hill Cemetery along the river in the north section of town.

In March of 2011, I wrote about my memories of growing up in Piqua.

Even back in the 1950s, it wasn’t easy to find a job in a small town. When my dad returned from the service in the mid-1950s, he started working for NCR in Dayton, Ohio, about an hour’s drive away. In the 60’s my parents packed up our bags and moved us there. Neither my mom or dad really wanted to go. My mom didn’t work outside the home. All her family and friends were in Piqua. Over the years, my dad made no secret of the fact that he always missed Piqua. My parents had conversations about moving back “home” during their  retirement years. They finally made it back in January of 2013, when they were both buried in Forest Hill Cemetery.

I understand the allure of small town life.

So, this morning, as I watched a CNN report on Beattyville, a small town in Kentucky where people are struggling to get by, it brought me to tears. I am a small-town girl at heart.

But sometimes you have to move. Times change. Opportunities shift. Throughout history we can find example after example of towns and cities that once prospered but then failed. The Dust Bowl comes to mind (probably because I just watched the documentary on Netflix). Sometimes we see cities that came through a rough patch and are beginning to thrive again. Buffalo, NY, is a good example. Buffalo was a rich city at one point during the height of waterway commerce. Then other forms of transportation developed and Buffalo was left with empty grain silos decomposing along its riverfront. The good news is that Buffalo is finding a way to reinvent itself. It is finding a way to thrive in the country and world as it is today.

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St. John the Baptist Church in Bakum viewed from Elmelage farmland.

My husband, Mark, and I visited Bakum, Germany last summer. It’s a small agricultural town in northern Germany about a half-hour’s drive south from Bremen. We’ve traced Mark’s ancestors back to Bakum from 1530 until 1850, when they emigrated to Amerika. In some ways, you could argue that Bakum is Mark’s family’s “hometown.” Certainly it was his great-grandfather’s.

In the early 1800s, the population in Bakum grew at a fast rate and  the farming communities became over-crowded. People were living in barns, sheds, bake houses, in any available structure they could find. There was no food to eat. Parents struggled to provide shoes for their children. Poverty was rampant. Mark’s ancestor, Bernard Dominicus Grote, lived in the farming community of Elmelage and worked as a hired hand on land owned by the Knese family. Dominicus’ brothers all lived nearby on other farms. They all went to St. John the Baptist, the small church in town. I’m sure they did not wish to leave their family, their hometown and their homeland to come to a strange country with a language they couldn’t understand.

But they did. Like other ancestors of probably most, if not all of us.

I’m not talking about immigration right now. I’m talking about people following opportunity and doing what they need to do to survive. There is nothing new about this. It is the story of human survival from the beginning of time.

I truly hope our country can find a way to make things better for the folks in small towns who have lost their local industries and jobs. No one wants to see people suffer like that. But I also believe the way forward is exactly that, forward. Not back.

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Bailing on the blog-a-day

Two weeks ago I took up the challenge to post a blog every day. I’ve lasted exactly two weeks. But I’ve learned a few things:

  1. I still enjoy blogging. I had forgotten.
  2. I really enjoy the online community of bloggers who read and comment on each other’s posts. This group, however, can quickly grow and get out of hand. At which point it becomes either a time-consuming burden, or a guilt-ridden neglect.
  3. Having a goal in mind, to post every day for example, does motivate me to think more, write more, shoot more photos, and enriches my life.
  4. On the other hand, posting every day causes me to write more drivel and less meaningful posts which is counter to my life’s beliefs and goals. See yesterday’s post.
  5. I had hoped that the pressure of writing something everyday might lead me to a theme that I could center on instead of the randomness I continue to pursue.
  6. I need to spend more time on my longer term goals (next book for example) and less on coming up with something, anything, to fill this page.

I could probably come up with a few more points, but won’t burden you with them.

So, my post-a-day challenge has come to an end. I’m going back to my willy-nilly, post on a whim approach. Best of wishes to the other women who continue to blog on and in particular to Joss Burnell, who sent out the challenge that I temporarily accepted. She wrote a thought-provoking and inspiring post today that is well worth the read: The Third Third.

As for my blogging future, I hope to settle into some kind of regularity that you and I can count on. Time will tell if I succeed.

Now, I have an interview to transcribe and notes to organize for my birth-mother project. More on this as it progresses.

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Clinging to the old ways

My husband Mark walks into the study where I sit, still in my pajamas and bathrobe, reading “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” on my Kindle. Mark is dressed. He shoves his feet into the high-top leather shoes he left there yesterday and bends over to fit his heel into the shoe.

I hear the sounds of coffee-making in the kitchen, followed by the coat closet door opening and closing. Then the outside door opens and closes, and I know Mark is making his morning trek down our driveway and up the private drive for his morning paper that the delivery person leaves at the top of the drive.

Mark has national and local news apps on his iPad and iPhone that he reads throughout the day. He follows the Reds baseball team with MLB.com on his smart devices. He reads long news articles from various sources on his laptop computer at his desk.

But in the morning, he makes his coffee, takes a little walk, sometimes in rain or through the snow, so that he can read his local print newspaper. Just like always.

But for how much longer?

2014-03-02Newspaper

Fernald — from nuclear poison to nature preserve

The Fernald Preserve visitors’ center is positioned in line with the solstices.

If you’ve lived in Cincinnati for any amount of time, the name Fernald likely evokes a knee-jerk negative reaction as someplace you’d rather stay far away from. From 1951 to 1989 Fernald, a short drive outside the city of Cincinnati, produced high quality uranium metal for the U.S. weapons program.

One of several lakes at Fernald nature preserve.

The general public paid little attention to what was going on at the 1050 acre site inside a secured fence line until 1984 when  the Department of Energy (DOE) “reported that nearly 300 pounds of enriched uranium oxide had been released to the environment. . .That same year, DOE also reported that in 1981, three off-property wells south of the site were contaminated with uranium. The impact of nearly four decades of uranium metal production suddenly became the center of public controversy.”  (Fernald Secrecy)

A tiny frog the Fernald naturalist caught to show us.

Negative news about Fernald was in the local paper headlines during the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1984 local residents filed a class action lawsuit for emotional distress and decreased property values. In 1989 the DOE paid $78 million dollars in settlement fees to individuals and industries within a five-mile radius of the Fernald site.

Another tiny frog.

Fernald gained national and international publicity in 1986 because of the venting of two waste storage silos and a crack in the pilot plant vessel.

Fernald’s acres are now prairie and woods, September 29, 2012.

“In 1988, two nearby camps for children closed, citing concerns about Fernald and attributing reduced attendance to the negative publicity.” (Fernald Secrecy)

A local joke sprang up in Cincinnati about being able to see a “green glow” if you were driving near Fernald at night.

“Approximately 136 acres in the center of the site were used in the actual production process; the remaining acreage included administration facilities, laboratories, waste storage areas, and buffer land. The production area contained 10 primary plants, each with a specific mission to support the uranium metal production process.”   (Fernald Secrecy)

“In 1989, after 37 years of operations to support the U.S. weapons program, site management shut down uranium metal production to concentrate on environmental compliance, waste management and remediation.” (About Fernald)

Monarch butterflies stop at Fernald when they are migrating south. The naturalist catches one and shows us how she tags it for studies.

In 1992 the cleanup of Fernald was begun.

The monarchs love the goldenrod.

The cleanup included the following projects (the links take you to the Fernald website where you can see photos and project information):

A buckeye butterfly at Fernald.

Silos 1 and 2 – 8,900 cubic yards of low-level radioactive, radium bearing waste
Silo 3 – 5,100 cubic yards of low-level radioactive waste
Waste Pits
– 790,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste
Soil and Disposal Facility
– 2.2 million cubic yards of contaminated soil
Building Decontamination and Demolition
– 223 buildings and structures
Aquifer Restoration
– 170 acres of the Great Miami Aquifer
Waste Management
–2.5 billion pounds of waste
Nuclear Material Disposition Project
 – 31 million net pounds of uranium product

You can see a slide-over photo of the Fernald production facility and the Fernald nature preserve plan here.

The good news is that today Fernald is a uranium-free nature preserve with unique sustainable site solutions that you can read about here. “The ecological restoration is transforming the site into a haven for wildlife. Over 170 varieties of birds including waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds have been observed.” (Fernald)

Hopefully with enough time, I will think of Fernald only as the beautiful serene healed prairie land  that it is now and it will evoke only memories of swaying golden fields, flittering monarch butterlies, and a great blue heron on the wing.

A pair of swans frequents the lakes at Fernald.

 

Family reunions and the passage of time

According to Einstein, “an object in motion actually experiences time at a slower rate than one at rest,” (http://science.howstuffworks.com/warp-speed2.htm). According to this theory, which I will likely never fully comprehend, last weekend should have crawled at a snail’s pace. Our children and their significant others were here for a weekend of wine, food, and games. I was in motion much of the time, or at least much more so than my normal quiet sedentary life with Mark and Arthur.

But that wasn’t the case at all. The weekend passed in a fast blur of motion and color and laughter and a baby’s cry. The preparations for the weekend that occupied my thoughts and many of my activities for the two weeks prior, are completed, used up, and cleaned up. The baby gate and porta crib are folded and stored away. The guest set of dishes, warm from the dishwasher, are stored on a high shelf in the pantry again. Clean sheets and towels folded in stacks on top of the dryer and in the dining room wait to return to the lower level where empty guest rooms are bereft of any lingering reminders.

The well-stocked kitchen refrigerator is nearly empty. The refrigerator in the garage, so recently packed full of beverages is now an empty shell save for a lingering can of Diet Coke or two.

The Fisher-Price farm and zoo, the wooden train track running through the room, are all stashed away in containers where they will lie untouched for months.

Arthur, exhausted from his nonstop surveillance of a toddler, lies still and limp in a  curled position on the sofa, then the bed, and now on his pillow in the study.

I stumble around with a foggy head and try to remember what I should be doing.

I may wish that the time we had in motion this weekend passed slower. I may wish it would have lasted forever. But that is not the case.

Now I’ll sit at my desk and type to you, or in my rocking chair on the porch and read, or in my recliner in the evenings beside Mark as we catch up on the news or a television show or two.

And I’ll hope that my slowness will make time pass faster until we are all together again.

Ornament, gardener, or nuisance?

As I was standing in front of the dryer folding clothes Wednesday just before dusk, I looked outside and saw this new garden ornament in our woodland garden.

Then she started to move and I realized she wasn’t an ornament at all, but a gardener. She was pruning the flower buds right off of our Oakleaf Hydrangea.

When she moved over to our new little flowering crabapple tree, that failed to bloom this year because someone had eaten off the branches at the bottom, I started wondering if she is after all, what my husband might call her — a nuisance.

I just wish I could train her to nibble on those dead, brown hydrangea blossoms from an early spring freeze.

I let Arthur out to chase her off, but she’s wised up to him. He doesn’t scare her anymore. I stepped out on the deck to call Arthur back, but she’s also wised up to me.

So I abandoned my woodland garden to the woodland creature and returned to my laundry.

Early ancestors, vegetarians, parenthood, and ambivalence

I feel a ramble coming on. Thoughts are jumbling around in my mind about our earliest ancestors, vegetarians, parenthood, and ambivalence.

It all started with a tweet from a blogging friend, who I’ve mentioned before, Julia Munroe Martin, alias Wordsxo. Which is actually quite a clever, concise, and cryptic name if you think about it, unlike Random Thoughts from Midlife, which is bulky (I curse it every time I have to log in to make a comment on someone else’s blog), and non-descript, but probably every bit as descriptive of what is going on in this little section of the WWW.

Julia told me about the Cornell Lab’s live cams of the Great Blue Heron and Red-Tailed Hawk nests complete with noisy, hungry babies. Talk about a time drain, once I turn these on, I have a lot of trouble turning away unless mama or papa is sitting asleep atop the babes, which actually happens a fair amount of the time. The rest of the time, like the sparrows and starlings, the devoted parents spend trying to feed their ravenous chicks. (Is there a special name for baby blue herons, or baby hawks? Another side-trip, another diversion, another wild goose chase. I warned you about the rambling.) (And does the frappin’ period go inside or outside the parenthesis? This one always drives me crazy.)..

Back to finding my point. The baby birds in the live cams (or in the videos of big events like papa-drops-off-a-vole) are absolutely adorable fuzzy little charmers. The baby herons’ spiked hairdo’s and miniature long necks will make you laugh. The hawk babies’, with their soulful eyes invoke a desire to cradle one in your hands. Then mama or papa heron swings back and drops a fish into their midst. Or mama or papa hawk lay a rabbit across the nest. I don’t need to tell you what happens next. Hence, the ambivalence.

I was thinking about all of this last night as I was eating a juicy piece of steak.

I have no desire to debate the merits of vegetarianism. I know people who are vegetarian or vegan. I’ve considered it for myself at the very outer edges of my mind. But I don’t go there, because I want to be able to eat meat. Life seems easier to me if I am able to eat meat. So I don’t dwell on it.

Here’s the other thing, and where our ancestors all come in. You may think, like I do, that your ancestors are from England, or Germany, or Ireland, or Africa, or the far East, or any number of places. But the truth is, we all have ancestors who lived in the very earliest of time, dwelled among caves, hunted and gathered. Ate meat. I don’t claim to be an expert anthropologist, although that is on my what-to-be-in-another-lifetime list. And I don’t know if all human life stems back to one (I guess that actually should be two beings) or whether this miracle occurred in several different places on our planet. But I do know that spontaneous human creation is not happening today, nor did it happen in modern times.

If it were possible we would all find out that our roots go back to two, or four, or ten, or some number of the earliest of our ancestors who were men and women living in caves, building fires, and hunting and eating meat. It’s our heritage. And it’s part of our natural inclination.

We can talk about overcoming natural inclinations at some other time if you’d like.

So how do I make sense out of cute little heron babies attacking and devouring fish, or a hawk mother delicately feeding her fluffy chicks meat from the fur of a soft bunny rabbit who was probably minding its own business eating the lettuce in someone’s garden, or trying to get food for it’s now orphaned babies in a nest somewhere? How do I justify eating meat while loving little critters and big animals and all of nature at the same time?

I see now that I don’t really have a point at all, but a question.

Related post/s:

As the Nest Turns by Wordsxo