From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Sunshine and Shadow

At the VA Medical Center in Nashville


I spent a day at the VA Medical Center in Nashville with Dennis, earlier this week. In the late 1960s, he injured his hand while working on a Navy aircraft carrier flight deck. Now the injury is affecting his ability to grip with that hand, so he had a morning appointment related to that. Then he had a 3-hour wait for an unrelated appointment in the afternoon.

While Dennis was at his first appointment, I waited for him in a lobby on the third floor that overlooks a courtyard. The last time I spent time looking through that window, workers were laying the walkway. It was interesting to see the finished project. One thing bothered me, though -- a red piece of garbage on the rocks.

The courtyard, seen through a third floor window

When we went back to the first floor, I walked outside, crunched my way across the rocks, picked up that piece of trash, and put it in a garbage can. It was a jagged piece of red plastic with a few small white words on one side. I decided it was part of a broken sign. Maybe it blew off one of the surrounding rooftops.

In the background, the window where I took the first picture.

Every plant in the courtyard makes a statement. The flower planters had not seen any attention this spring. A scraggly pansy was growing in the corner of one planter. In another, a single tulip was almost ready to bloom. Why not plant ivy in the flower boxes if they aren't going to be kept full of flowers?

Unexpected visual treat
The designer planned for people to experience the courtyard by seeing it from windows, as well as by visiting it. From all levels, the simple structure of the courtyard and the contrasts of light within it are interesting, but soothing.

I didn't spent my entire day analyzing this courtyard, even though it may sound like it. After I got that piece of red plastic trash picked up, I spent the rest of the afternoon in 19th century South Dakota with Norwegian settlers -- Giants in the Earth by O. E. Rölvaag. After we finally got home, I sat down and finished the book.

In Giants in the Earth, there are great dreams, mighty labors, well-earned victories, crippling fears, terrible loneliness, and heartbreaking losses. Several days later, I am still mulling over what I read.

3 comments:

Collagemama said...

I like the unexpected visual treat!

Robert said...

Giants in the Earth, a wonderful book to discover realities of pioneer life on the Midwestern plains. The settlers' dreams, victories, and defeats can break a heart. But I never managed to finish either of the books that followed, Peder Victorious and Their Fathers' God. Perhaps I just like the story about Per Hansa and his discovery of America.

These books are very hard to find these days, even in public libraries. I guess they're much too old-fashioned, too hard to read for Twitter readers.

Genevieve said...

Peder Victorious is available on Abebooks. I didn't check on the third book.

I read a review of Peder Victorious that said it lacks the clear voice/viewpoint of Giants in the Earth. Maybe it's that muddiness that makes it hard to read.

Five out of six reviews on Google Books agree with you.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.