In Praise of Old Hotels

I finally finished the "In Praise of Old Hotels" series over at Wordpress...except it doesn't feel finished. It has nine parts. Nine seems unsettled...like there should at least be ten or twelve. Maybe I need to hit the road again.

As I was going through my notes and writing the different descriptions I was a little surprised at the different writers who visited and spent time in some of the hotels. Owen Wister wrote a portion of The Virginian while living in the upstairs balcony room of the Occidental Hotel in Buffalo Wyoming. He had a good view of the activity out in the dusty street...cowboys and lawmen coming and going. Ernest Hemingway spent time at the same place as did Teddy Roosevelt. The Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck, NY is another spot frequented by authors and, back in the day, the founding fathers. The Paisano Hotel in Marfa, TX was the 'bunk house' for the actors during the filming of Edna Ferber's 'Giant', James Dean's last movie. Elizabeth Taylor, Dean, Dennis Hopper and Rock Hudson spent time there.  I suspect that maybe the screen writers paid a visit. I wonder if Edna Ferber did too.

If you were going to 'hole up' someplace to further your writing, where would you go? I think my choice would be either the Essex Inn (off season) or the Iron Horse...nothing to distract except the trains. I like trains.

Any-who...maybe the muses take vacations to some of these spots.  Here is the link: http://feralchats.wordpress.com/

 

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Mr. Shaw's Gift to the World

On May 3, 1819, Henry Shaw, a young upper class Englishman, landed in the small town of St. Louis, Missouri, with a large shipment of hardware products. He was only eighteen years old at the time but he soon started a hardware business and became one of the wealthiest men in the city. He was the owner of a huge estate and became a famous botanist and collector after he retired at age 40. His estate became a botanical garden patterned after Kew Gardens in London.

After his death in 1889, his estate, known as "Shaw's Garden", was set aside as a public garden, along with Tower Grove Park, for the enjoyment of the people of St. Louis...the white people, anyway.  Shaw was a man of his age and a shrewd businessman.  He never married but that is another story. He also was a slave-owner but that was not unusual in pre-Civil War St. Louis...and that, also, is another story. His racial prejudice was not unusual in his day (and for many years afterward) but change came, slowly but decidedly.

Shaw's Garden (as it is still known by most locals) became the Missouri Botanical Garden and is one of the leading botanical gardens and research institutions in the world. Admission is $8.00 but local residents have free admission two days a week.

 

The Italianate-style Tower Grove House was Shaw's country home and the center of his large estate. Today it is a house museum surrounded by herbal and Victorian-style gardens. Shaw is buried in a granite mausoleum in a grove of trees nearby.

Shaw spent his retirement years pursuing his love of botany. Being extremely wealthy, he was able to collect living plants from all over the world. He also collected botanical specimens, books and plant material and had to build a museum and library to house his collections. The library was built in 1858. That building still stands but a new, modern library and research center is located nearby.

 

Shaw had a special greenhouse - his orangry - built in 1882. This is now the Linnean House, probably the oldest continually operated greenhouse west of the Mississippi River. Today it houses various types of cactus and dry climate plants from around the world.

 

Sculptures in the Garden

There are dozens of sculptures scattered through the garden. This is a small one - about 15 inches square.

 

Memorial to victims of

the 9-11 attacks given

by Zimbabwe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The Mausoleum

 

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) and the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) are now collaborating to create a world catalogue of plants (online) by the year 2020. New plant species are frequently being discovered but over 100,000 species are endangered with extinction.

My last visit was a hot July day several years ago. It was a typical humid summer day in St. Louis. The garden is very shady due to the 100+ year old trees and, although it was 95 degrees, it was fairly tolerable. Being a Friday with a heat advisory posted there were not many people and we had much of the garden to ourselves.

The major blooming 'show' was the daylilies in full regalia. They have hundreds of varieties...no two look alike.  These are some random pictures of the daylilies.

 

Float like a butterfly - sting like a bee.

 If you find yourself in St. Louis and you're looking for something to do  -- be sure to check out the garden.

(Revised and reposted from 'I Spy With My Little Eye' photo blog on BlogSpot and FeralChats/Wordpress. All photographs are by the author)

 

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First Week of Being Home Bound

After getting in bed much too late last night (actually this morning), I fell asleep almost immediately, but not before the thought went through my mind:  Oh, I forgot to record my blog on Green Room.  So this morning I am doing so.  I will eventually get the hang of a new routine.

Staying at home is not something I have been able to do much in recent years.  Consequently, I must confess I have really enjoyed this past week at home.  Each day I have become a little stronger and surer on my feet as I have accomplished my regular household chores and light meal preparation without breathlessness.
 
The lovely bouquet that Mary Ellen and Brianna brought me last Saturday is still lovely in the living room.  Jeannie’s huge flowering basket of purple petunias was just the annual summer lift I had failed to provide for the front porch this season. Together Gerald and I have kept it watered nicely.  I have slept late late late without feeling lazy, and I’ve worked slowly instead of having to hurry.
 
After the second shot to help thin my blood, the home health nurse reported the better figure to my doctor on Monday, and a call came from the doctor’s office that no more shots were necessary.  Now the doctor is trying to determine exactly how much warfarin (rat poison) I need each day to keep the INR figure ssteady between 2 and 3. Gerald took me to see the primary doctor on Wednesday, and the home health nurse checked me again on Friday.
 
I think the hospital doctor scheduled home health nurse visits for Monday, Wednesday, Friday again this week, and I am hoping by then my blood will be flowing perfectly at the correct thickness created with a stable daily dose of the correct amount of warfarin. And if my body has not yet already dissolved all the clots in my lungs as I think it has, I hope that task will have been completed by then too.   I have been emphatically told that I need to stay on warfarin for the rest of my life, and that I will be glad to do.  I was already glad to do so; but being told it was no longer necessary made me think I should follow the doctor’s advice.  I did not want to be a pill popper. I think the doctor’s advice was statistically correct, but unfortunately my genetic make-up was somewhat of an anomaly. For me going off warfarin turned out to be an expensive experiment. But now I know, and I will pop those daily pills with a clear conscience.
 
One of the negatives of old age is that a large number of your loved ones and friends are also.  Right before I went to the hospital, my brother Jim called from Mattoon to tell me their paper carried the obituary of a dear friend, who lived in nearby Charleston.  I guess Shirley Keller Karraker was my longest friend in the world since we were in preschool Sunday School together for at least a year before we started first grade and  then went through 14 years of school together.  Jim and his wife Vivian were inviting me up to spend the night in case I wanted to attend her funeral on Tuesday. 
 
Of course, I wanted to do that—especially since I have really been wanting to go see Jim and Vivian anyway—but I told him I really did not think I was up to it.  And, of course, by Tuesday I was in the hospital and glad I had declined the invitation.  But I remembered all the fun times Shirley and I had:  Sunday afternoon play dates or swimming at the creek west of town where we used to persuade a parent to take us, high school double dating, and perhaps, best of all, the long long talks on the rare nights she got the family car and we would discuss the world and all the people in it but mostly talk about ourselves—what we believed, what our plans were, and what we wanted out of life. 
 
Shirley had already survived two bouts of lung cancer (despite never smoking), lost her husband a few years back,  and because of medical carelessness, had lost her eye sight.  So I could not grieve for her.  She had lived well, accomplished what she was supposed to in life,  and is now in a better place   But I grieved some for myself that we would not have that final visit or even a recent letter I meant to write that her daughter could have read to her. 
 
Jim and I talked during last week, and on Friday  when I meant to call him to wish him a happy 86th birthday, I was thwarted again.  Since he and Vivian have busy lives that include four or five shots a day for her diabetes, and Jim also likes to sleep in, I was waiting until after lunch to see how his most recent doctor appointment had gone.  At the noon table, however, the phone rang and the name flashed up that it was a call from Jim, so I answered by singing “Happy Birthday” to him.  It was Vivian phoning to tell me Jim was in the hospital, had had a stint repaired or something of that nature that morning and would need another on Monday.  (He had four stints put in last autumn when he ended up in the hospital for a week or so instead of being able to give his granddaughter away at her wedding as he had rehearsed.)  Since that Friday phone call, I’ve been told he had a “mild heart attack.”  Whatever that means.  Needless to say, I am anxious about the procedure planned for in the morning.
 
This morning we learned that our beloved sister-in-law Ginger had once again woke with seizures, not too unusual for the last 13 years since she had a stroke that took away her short term memory.   She remained well dressed and attractive and could pass at social events as healthy or at least until recent years. If she talked about the past, she did well. But if she asked you a question about recent events, she would immediately forget your answer and ask again.  (I answered the same question once eleven times within an hour, and I knew she would ask again the next time I saw her.) Gerald’s brother Garry kept a wonderful care giver with her because of her need for help with medicine and meals and her intense anxiety about where he was after he took her into town each morning for breakfast before he began his day’s work on the farm. But the seizures and strokes eventually took their toll and she was often in the hospital.  
 
A couple of months ago, once more the ambulance took her to the hospital, and this time she did not get well enough to return home.  Much to her family’s discomfort, there were needs that could only be met  at a nursing home, but they banded together to be sure that during most of her waking hours, she had one of them there when her regular day caretaker was not present.  They cheered for her when she was finally able to stand, and the goal was for her to become sufficiently proficient with a walker to go back to her home. Our niece Vicki Sue grieved that her mother did not show many smiles although she sat through many funny movies with her mother.  Ginger’s sister Lillian, who lost her husband after a long illness during this time, came from Missouri to visit Ginger at the nursing home. Vicki was ecstatic because her mother responded with smiles and laughter during her precious sister’s visit.
 
However by the end of last week, Ginger was deteriorating. This morning Ginger was awake at 4 o’clock with yet another round of seizures, and the word went out to the family that she was taken to the Cape Girardeau hospital and life support might need to be removed if a MRI showed no brain activity.  When we checked into the lobby and Gerald spoke Ginger’s name, the receptionist there told Gerald, “Oh she has the sweetest husband.”
 
Soon we were up in the ICU waiting room with a large circle of family members including Lillian to be with Garry and Vicki and her brother Kerry as they faced the responsibility of doing what the doctor was advising and what Ginger had said she wanted back when she was still able to make such decisions. Two by two we were going in with Garry to say goodbye to someone who did not look like anyone we used to know and could not respond. Eyes were closed, and occasional grimaces indicated some discomfort with the equipment all over her face.  Garry, who has stood tall and firm for over thirteen years, was breaking up knowing what his answer must be for the doctor. The breathing tube was taken off, and Ginger continued breathing on her own.
 
We came home and there was a message on the phone from our neighbor telling us  that her relative, who has also been our neighbor for more that 40 years, is in the hospital at Marion and the family is awaiting her death. 
 
I had not checked the news all day, and so I did long enough to determine that things are not any better internationally.   There are other sad things going on that I could have also written about, but I have shared enough that I am sure you can understand why we are not looking forward to tomorrow.   There are numerous good things also in our lives, and we are grateful.  But right now our hearts feel concern and sadness for many that we love.
 
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God, Peace and Life: The Mourners Kaddish And Icarus

 On this day seven years ago my husband Tzvi died. In previous years, on the anniversary of his death,  I used to go up to his grave  with one of his devoted students. As is the custom in Jewish religion, he read  the Mourners  Kaddish  for my husband , it was a lovely gesture.

The Kaddish is a prayer in Aramaic, it  praises God and expresses a yearning for the establishment of His kingdom on earth. The prayer is recited by a man, usually a family member, at funerals and memorial services.

I am used to the music of the Kaddish, and could almost chant it by heart. Still  since I know only few words in this ancient  language,  I have never really contemplated the meaning of  the words, until yesterday when I looked for the English translation of the prayer for the purpose of writing this post..

 The Mourners Kaddish

May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified (Amen.) in the world that He created as He willed.

 May He give reign to His kingship in your lifetimes and in your days,

and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Israel,

swiftly and soon. Now respond: Amen.

(Cong Amen. May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.)

May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.

Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled,

mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, Blessed is He

(Cong. Blessed is He) beyond any blessing and song,

praise and consolation that are uttered in the world. Now respond: Amen.

May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life

upon us and upon all Israel. Now respond: Amen.

He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace,

upon us and upon all Israel. Now respond: Amen.

 The Kaddish is mostly about the greatness of God. It mentions the fact that He created the world the way He willed. But what I find most interesting is that this significant prayer ends with a wish that peace will descend from heaven and enable life on earth. If we consider that this is a mourner prayer, it is curious that death is not mentioned only God, peace and life.

A mourner’s prayer with no dead person could be compared to a painting about the Fall of Icarus with no Icarus or his wings, as can be seen in the painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Bruegel. In that painting a ploughman is working the land, concentrating on his work, and only some smoke in the background faintly suggests that a tragedy takes place elsewhere. This painting was also the inspiration to W. H. Auden’s  poem Musee des Beaux Arts.
 

  Musee des Beaux Arts by  W. H. Auden

 About suffering they were never wrong,

The old Masters: how well they understood

Its human position: how it takes place

While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;

How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting

For the miraculous birth, there always must be

Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating

On a pond at the edge of the wood:

They never forgot

That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course

Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot

Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse

Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

 In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may

Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,

But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone

As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green

Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen

Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,

Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Like the absent death in the Mourners Kaddish, Auden points out that in Bruegel's painting everything turns away from Icarus' fall. In both cases we would rather turn our attention away from death and other tragedies as life goes on .  

 The Mourner Kaddish ends with the familiar words: "He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace,upon us and upon all Israel. Now respond: Amen." The bond between peace and life is especially meaningful  in time of war. This year I choose to say the Mourners Kaddish myself , and when I get to the last two lines I shall say the the words with special intention hoping that finally God and man would  listen and bring Peace to our area, Amen.

 

 
 b2ap3_thumbnail_icarus.jpg
 
 
 
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Latest Comments

Ken Hartke Sofia's Bakery
20 May 2018
Thanks, Rosy, -- glad you liked it.
Ken Hartke I Promise
20 May 2018
I am so looking forward to your return -- I love your writing and wish you well. From my youth I've...
Stephen Evans I Promise
20 May 2018
Sometimes when I am dealing with deep anxiety I find that work (by which I mean writing), and the f...
Rosy Cole Sofia's Bakery
20 May 2018
I just love this, Ken. As appealing to the senses as a painting. Thanks :-)

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