Archives for category: Art

OK – I can’t be the only person who brings home a carload of souvenirs from a road trip…can I? It’s not like I can’t remember the place or person, but I do tend to forget after a time and the things I pick up along the trails of my life make me smile as I walk by them or dust them and shake up a memory from a wonderful experience. My home is packed with such memories and I’m old enough to know I’ll never be a minimalist in any way. So, here’s what I brought home from my travels through the South this past two weeks…think what you will.

First are the general, sometimes tacky, souvenirs: hats, t-shirts, magnets, lapel/hat pins and a few books, including a Cajun Little Red Riding Hood, “Petite Rouge,” because I have other Cajun children’s stories and love to read them out loud. You can’t help but sound a little Cajun…DSC_1059


I’ve collected the pins since I was in Vienna way back in the 1970s and saw a man with pins on his hat in European fashion. I used to be somewhat casual about it, but ended up with quite a few and now always look for them. I have them on a little bulletin board in my laundry room that I pass by every day.DSC_0001


The refrigerator magnets are a new deal and I have to promise to stop…DSC_0002


I just bought a hat and t-shirt in the town where my father was born because that’s all they had. I bought a ball cap in Savannah to wear out on the water and a cute painted t-shirt in Charleston because I liked the artist.

Then there’s the food category, which really can get out of hand in the South…


After all, I can’t get boiled peanuts and okra chips at home and who could pass up the Peach or Cherry cider and the Sweet Potato anything? And I wanted to see what was in red rice, so I bought a package, and then we went to Avery Island where they make Tabasco sauce and had to buy some of the new flavors. This is nothing compared to the souvenirs that didn’t make it home because they were eaten along the way…another blog. I did buy a cookbook from one restaurant to get the recipe for the best sweet potato soufflé I’ve ever eaten.

And we had to have things from the nature part of the trip, so I have seashells from the Katrina-wrecked beaches of the Gulf and puppets of animals from the National Parks we visited, Mammoth Cave and the Great Smokey Mountains.DSC_1067


Finally, there were the antiques and art I had to have. I’ve always liked to support local artists, especially when they have pieces that represent what I’ve come to love in their home. So that is why I came home with a ceramic mug and platter from potters in Fairhope, Alabama, a painting from the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans, and antique tobacco basket from Thomasville, Georgia (what am I going to do with this huge piece even though I love it and got quite a deal on it) and an antique framed book plate by a well known artist of the Charleston Renaissance period (I learned about that). Each piece of art came with a story to make it even more special.DSC_1068


Maybe because I’ve owned a gift shop and know what it’s like to have people wander in and not buy anything, maybe because I’ve worked with artists for years and want them to be appreciated, maybe it’s the things my mother taught me, but I never, NEVER come home empty handed. The end result is that my home is a warehouse for some pretty exciting travels that I love to remember. I can only hope my children will smile and laugh a bit when they have to clean this stuff out when I’m gone! I can feel their eyes rolling…

A friend once told me to watch for the “Magic Moments” when I traveled, meaning the treasures you stumble onto while you’re winding along your planned route. Here’s a little one I had near Broken Bow, OK.

Having worked in a big museum for over seven years, until I retired last fall, I’m well aware of what goes on behind the scenes of exhibitions and collections. I also have a great appreciation for the little museums that are sometimes passed by without a second thought, the ones that you never think you “have to see” while you’re in the area. Outside of Broken Bow, in southeastern Oklahoma near the Mountain Fork River, is the Gardner Mansion Museum. I saw the signs, read about it in the tourist websites, but almost missed it and that would have been a shame. What drew me in was the sign about the 2,000 year old Cypress tree on the grounds. I’ve seen lots of old houses and mansions, so I might have skipped it but for the tree.

I called first and got no answer, but saw the gate open while passing by. You can’t see the house from the highway so you go through the farm gates and up the road. When you reach the house, you see a sign to honk for help. I’m sure we had been seen because there was a truck headed our way as we parked the car.


An elderly man and a younger man, probably his grandson, got out of the truck and we paid our admission fee. This was definitely a smaller staff than the museum where I had worked.


We walked to the house…


and he unlocked the door, walking to a chair where he sat down on the glassed in porch. There was a display of dinosaur bones and beautiful huge hunks of quartz. The information by each one said it was found in the area. When we started asking questions, our guide opened up and told us his history as well as shared his knowledge of the treasures we were seeing.

The Gardner Mansion was the home of Jefferson Gardner, a much beloved chief of the Choctaw Nation. He had built his home on this site in 1881, completing it in 1884, on this site that was part of the Trail of Tears for his nation. In 1922, the Stiles family had purchased the property and have maintained and preserved it for three generations. We were visiting with Mr. Stiles himself, the current curator of this museum. He told us stories of the Choctaw and of the dinosaur bones he had found as a child on the property. One had been found just recently. He explained to me how you get the quartz out of the ground, showing off a piece about a foot or more across that a long time friend had found and given him right before he died.

After a bit, I guess we passed muster, so we were taken into the main house. I’m not sure if you get past the porch if he doesn’t trust you. He unlocked the door and we entered the main areas where there were more artifacts to see. In the kitchen, I found lots of old utensils and dishes of the era. In the living room, he showed us a model of the house and photos of Chief Gardner and others, telling stories of the indians as we looked around. Here’s Mr. Stiles showing us some items, including the hand-carved staircase and other Choctaw craftsmanship used in the home…


Once again, I guess we asked the right questions, because we were taken upstairs. There was a treasure trove of indian artifacts including ancient tools, arrowheads, and natural items from the land. I stupidly didn’t see the signs in front of me saying no pictures, so I took a few. Later, I apologized to him, but he said it was ok. He didn’t want too many getting out because the items are quite valuable. Not like he has a security force there, so I understood and won’t pass those along. Here’s some of the hornet nests he’s collected during his life (he’s been on the property since he was 5)…


He showed us some ancient tools he’d recently found. The cows kick up the ground and these kinds of antiquities rise to the surface. Really a remarkable collection.

After we left the house, we drove to see the 2,000 year old Cypress. He showed us a picture of it with a man dwarfed by the trunk, much like the Sequoias in California. Unfortunately, the tree had fallen last year. Trees die, as Mr. Stiles said. We went to see it anyway, although it turned out there wasn’t much left. Nature was reclaiming its own.


The area had other large Cypress and you could picture the Choctaw trudging through the land, searching for the place where they could stop and live their lives in peace. Very ethereal back in the woods, along the water.


On the way back to the house, we stopped to snap a picture of the cemetery. Mr. Stiles and his grandson had chores to do, so we didn’t want to keep them. Wouldn’t you love to know the stories of those buried here?


DSC_0239 - Version 2

If you’re ever in this remote area, stop and visit the Stiles family. Or find another magic moment along the way, wherever you’re traveling. It makes your trip so much richer…

Scan 23

Last year I finally got to Okemah, OK, home of Woody Guthrie in his youth and site of the annual Woody Guthrie Festival. Last year was his 100th birthday celebration. It’s going on right now, this weekend, for his 101st! Somehow, I know he would like the way they do it up in Okemah!

Okemah would probably be lost without their native son, whom they didn’t talk about for years because of his controversial ties to the Communist Party. Time heals and history becomes more clear and now they’re so proud of Woody and his roots. Rightfully so.

When you get out of your car on the Main Street, you can find someplace with a map…at least during the festival you can. You’ll want to see the park with the statue of Woody, probably life size. He wasn’t very big.


During the festival there are concerts throughout the day at the old Crystal Theatre that has been restored. Not very cool, so bring a fan…



Last year I listened to Ronny Cox, movie star, musician, and watched him visit with fans as he sold his CDs on the hot street after he played.


The old Main Street was open for the visitors who came from all over, many fans of folk festivals who travel from one to the other. You can see concerts in the theater and in the bar a couple of blocks down…


Last year, I saw Carolyn Hester, one of my favorites from my 60s love of folk singers. She is a little less now, but there were traces of her beautiful voice and I was able to get a CD of the album that had been my favorite back in college. Way back…


There were lectures from experts on Woody Guthrie and time to visit with his sister, who was a delight and had just written a book. Everything was pretty down home and friendly.


Then I toured Okemah. The Main Street and a bar that hasn’t changed, screen door still swinging…


A mural proclaiming the town’s claim to fame these days…


Old houses tucked into the neighborhoods, showing days past…


And the site where they are raising money to rebuild the Guthrie’s original home…


The unique water towers are also a source of pride and a move is on to restore them…or at least not let them be destroyed…who else has Hot, Cold and Woody Guthrie towers?



In the evening, there are concerts in the Pastures of Plenty and RVs, campers, tents hold the faithful and the fans who wait for the cool of the night to listen to those glorious sounds. It’s a bit, a big one, of Americana that will surely touch your heart with its simplicity and its love for the messages Woody left us.

I headed home, stopping to watch a typical Oklahoma cloud forming on a hot July day, rising into the sky. This Land is Our Land.


I recommend you visit the festival, if not this year then some year, and then drive over to Tulsa to tour the Woody Guthrie Center and walk through the Guthrie Green. You’re sure to run across a musician or two or three, some young, some old, that will make you tap your feet and smile. I think Woody would like it all…

It’s been 49 years since I first saw Paul. I was a freshman in college and he and his friends in the band with the funny name, The Beatles, were on Ed Sullivan and we watched him on a small television hanging out the window of our dorm to get reception from Oklahoma City to Stillwater. He was the cute one, the one who has always looked so young. Their hair was longer than the preppy boys we knew and even longer than the real cowboys studying at Oklahoma State University. We loved them. We wanted to hold their hand, yes we did.

I love music – can’t sing at all but love to anyway. At that time in my life, I was equally divided between my love of folk music – Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan Baez, The Kingston Trio – and rock & roll. The Beatles came right after President Kennedy was assassinated, warping the innocent world we had lived in. They were fun, irreverent, witty, and talented beyond belief, a welcome respite from contemplating the horrors of the new real world. Their songs and the beat locked into our hearts. Love, love me do.

After college, The Beatles and I moved on. I started having kids and being a kind of grown-up. I still listened to their music, but it got lost in Sesame Street and Burl Ives sings for children. They married and had kids, too. We all went on with our lives, but they were always there. They were such a part of our times, our culture and we lived every dramatic event with them, watching their music evolve just as all our lives did. They broke up just as the first of our friends were getting divorced. Their drama was our drama on public stages. The Beatles were the background of our lives, our youth continuing as we got older.

Paul married Linda and lived and loved, just as many of us did. She got cancer, just as many of our friends did. She died exactly a month to the day after my husband died of cancer. Katie Couric’s husband died around then too…we all had the same sad bond. Life goes on and we all went with it.

Earlier this year, I happened on a PBS special, “Kisses on the Bottom,” with Paul McCartney in the old Capitol studio singing an intimate concert of the old standards that his parents, my parents too, had listened to and included one new song, “My Valentine,” that he wrote for his new wife. It was such a wonderful concert, showing the man at his best and most gracious with other great musicians. His generosity to other performers, his love of the music, his humor all showed in this wonderful hour. He sang my mother’s favorite song, “Always,” and touched my heart. I downloaded the album immediately and saved the program.

When the announcement was made that Paul was coming to Tulsa, I grabbed a friend, one I’ve known since we were 9, and got tickets. A splurge – they’re not cheap – but a kind of bucket list thing. We were going to see Paul, one of The Beatles, in person!

Last night was the concert. It was amazing, he was amazing. How many millions did it cost to design and create the incredible staging? Lights, video, photos, sound, a crew of hundreds. It took a long time to get in, we got a t-shirt because you had to do it, didn’t you? When he finally took the stage, it was instant rapport with the audience. He took a minute to drink it all in. The show was incredible…the music, the fun! I took pictures with my phone, fuzzy but proof that I was there, memories of the evening.


Here are my thoughts…

*Paul McCartney still looks like a kid. Granted, he looked older by the end of that incredible almost three hour show after never leaving the stage for over two hours and then returning for two long encores, but he looks terrific for 70.
*He still seems to genuinely appreciate what has happened to him, is still a little bit amused and honored by it. This doesn’t come off as fake at all. He is very personable.
*Paul is a fabulous musician, not to mention songwriter. Paul’s music is classic. He plays piano, lots of guitars, ukelele and plays them well.
*This is what rock & roll is all about. He is great, a real rock & roller – he can scream with the best of them. Woo!
*He appreciates his audience and never quits thanking them, acknowledging them. This is a sign of an accomplished pro who knows what it’s all about.
*The songs of our youth are locked in our brains and hearts. You may not have heard them for decades and all the words come back and you sing along. I can’t remember much of what I hear today – some is great, some just doesn’t stay with me.
*The concert was not just old people, but all ages. What fun to share with your kids and grandkids or with your parents and grandparents.
*Paul sang for his new wife, “My Valentine,” sang a song he wrote for Linda, sang for John and George. I was touched when he turned to look at photos of George while singing. He didn’t have to do that, but seemed to want to see his old friend, to remember.
*This concert was not an old man doing the music that made him famous. This was a concert that seemed new and fresh even with old songs. Music for the ages.
*You’re never too old to rock, apparent by the legions of white haired fans rocking the music. Cool! Still got some moves left…
*I had the feeling I was in the presence of greatness. He IS a legend after all.

So, after the pyrotechnics during “Live & Let Die,” the thrill of the crowd singing “Hey Jude” at the end before the two encores, we left the concert after 11:30 and headed home.

Thank you, Paul. You are just so dang cute! Maybe cuter than when we met when I was 18. 49 years ago.

This was my second trip to Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. The first was in the fall and I promised myself to come back in the spring. If you are in the area ever, go there for a spectacular collection of American art and for the beautiful 3.5 miles of trails. I don’t need to say much about it…I’ll share some pictures.

First, there’s the art. I fell in love with this glass sculpture as I walked by…


There are so many treasures there. I love this little painting, “Haystacks,” by Martin Johnson Heade…


And this Mary Cassett…


And “Sun at the Wall” by Hans Hoffman…


So much American history through art…

I wanted to be at Crystal Bridges when the dogwoods and redbuds were still blooming. I was afraid I was too late, but it was a perfect day. It was sunny and then cloudy, but a beautiful day.





There were flowers blooming…




My time on the trails was shorter than I wanted, but you can see how refreshing it is to be even a few steps into this calming, ethereal, blessing of nature…





They even let you frame nature for your own work of art…



A beautiful place, a treasure for all America to see. Always free to the public, thanks to Alice Walton and the WalMart Foundation…



Next time, I promise to go back when I have the time to wander through all 3.5 miles of trails. And, visit the art along the way…

When I was growing up, my parents subscribed to lots of magazines, and I read all of them through and through. Many are gone today, but there was Look, Life, Readers Digest, Ladies Home Journal, Newsweek, McCall’s, men’s magazines, women’s magazines, kids’s magazines like Highlights for Children. One of our favorites was the Saturday Evening Post. The Norman Rockwell covers were something to look forward to, knowing they would be something we studied carefully for all the clever details. We were used to his work as an illustrator for ads for Colgate, Kellogg’s, and other companies, instantly recognizable.

In 1999, my son and I took a day trip to Mark Twain’s hometown, Hannibal, Missouri. We were fortunate to arrive during an exhibition of the original paintings for Norman Rockwell’s illustrations for Tom Sawyer. I remember they were large paintings and so much richer than the flat pictures we were so familiar with in our day to day life. They were amazing works and their beauty stayed with me.


Yesterday, I went to see the Norman Rockwell exhibition of over 50 of his paintings and 300+ of his Saturday Evening Post covers at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AR. I’ve not a professional art critic, even though I studied art history in college and worked in an art museum for over 7 years, but I do know that Norman Rockwell is a great artist. As is typical for artists in their own era, his work was scoffed at in art circles as too sentimental, too idealistic, although I don’t see what’s wrong with that myself. There are many great artists who included humor and sentiment in their works throughout the ages. An artist in his own time, alas…

The gallery was packed yesterday, mostly with older people (and I have to include myself in that group, shockingly), but it was a Monday. I watched their faces as they listened to the audio guides, studied the paintings. There were tender smiles, chuckles, pensive thinking. The main thing is that everyone was relating to the paintings. What more can art do?

Here are some of my favorites and the reasons why…

This one just made me laugh. It was Rockwell’s take on the recent idea that small towns should use speed traps to raise revenue…


This one also made me laugh and smile and study the details…the grandmother in the back who never changed expressions, the tired parents, the kids in various stages. Who can’t make up a story with these images?


Saying Grace is so sweet that you are silent with them, you want to bow your head. Then you see the details in the curtains, the clothing, the grandmother’s rear sticking through the chair, the grandfather’s cane on the floor. Another story for us to all fill in the extra lines…


My love of Santa is well known and there were some lovely Santa portraits along with all the Christmas covers of the Post. This is still one of my favorites for all of us who keep believing even knowing the evidence…


A Day in the Life of a Girl is so fun, so sweet, with elements that all females will remember. The boy version wasn’t on display, but it’s just as great…


Rosie the Riveter is part of the museum’s collection and a whimsical look at the women who worked at home during World War II. This was a bonus after the travelling exhibition.


Besides the fun, sweet portraits of America as we were at times and would always like to be, there were powerful portraits of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, and two of Rockwell’s most important works during the Civil Rights Movement. The exhibition had preliminary drawings and different drafts of his painting of 3 Civil Rights workers for a powerful, haunting, not-so-pretty picture of a moment in America’s history…


The iconic The Problem We All Live With was so beautiful in person. It was so familiar, such a powerful statement. But, the thing that struck me so strongly was the beauty of the painting, of the work itself. Norman Rockwell was a fabulous painter. His work is so real, so detailed, so skilled. The concrete wall behind the girl felt like real concrete, making me want to reach out and touch it. I didn’t of course – I know my museum manners. But, I’ve been up close to many of the world’s great paintings and these were as good as any I’ve seen. That’s to my untrained eye, but I do know what I’m looking at and it’s honest, thought-provoking, greatness.


Rockwell’s self portrait is so famous that you almost go by it, having seen it reproduced so many times. Looking at the details, I was taken with not only the cleverness, the originality, the self-deprecating humor, but also the skill. On his easel, he has small paintings, homages to some of the greatest painters, all painted beautifully. That’s not easy to do either.


I recommend that you find the closest place to see this exhibition or go to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts to see more. It’s such a treat for those of us who grew up loving him and for those just discovering his incredible legacy. I think that future critics will be kinder and hopefully, recognize his important place in art, American history, and the American heart. I understand his personal life was not always as rosy as his portraits of life, but that’s what being a human is all about. We thank him for the vision of our country that he shared to make us think, feel, smile and laugh, remember, care. There should be more geniuses with a sense of humor, shouldn’t there?…

One of my mother’s great passions was collecting antiques.  Growing up poor in the Great Depression fueled her enjoyment and appreciation of the things the rich people had, which is not to say she was a snob.  She never forgot what her life was like and helped so many people over the years, but she learned to appreciate the beauty, craftsmanship and history of beautiful pieces.  She taught me a lot when I was first married…mainly the fun of getting a bargain.  Or something that “gladdens your heart,” as she said.  Especially if that thing was a bargain to boot.  She loved estate sales, auctions, and antique stores and became friends with many of the owners.  For one thing, she loved the stories about the items, the history of the pieces.  She became quite a sophisticated buyer, bargainer and bidder through the years, ending up with some pretty gorgeous pieces.  I tended more towards English pieces and she liked the more formal French, but we were both pretty eclectic.  For her, getting the piece was part of the game.  Years later, when I had a retail store, she had a keen eye for what would sell and what was a keeper from the new items on the market.

I got my dining table, 6 chairs, and a matching buffet at an auction with her when I was about 22 years old.  I paid a whopping $150, which I had to borrow from her and pay back.  I was newly-wed and still in college and she had to store it at her house, using it for awhile, until I had a house for it.  Over the years, she often commented on how the set got prettier to her every year.  It was that bargain, I’m sure.  I’m not sure I would have even picked these items out, but they have served our family well over the past 40+ years as they served the families before us.  That was another thing she taught me – that antiques appreciate rather than depreciate.  Usually, that is.  It’s also recycling, although she didn’t mention that.



For the past two days, I worked at an estate sale. I spend more than I make, so it’s not a real job, but, it’s fun to see the things in the sale and all the people who come through.  Many observations came to mind.  First is that the majority of the people who come are about my age or older.  I’m guessing that it’s a combination of all the things that made my mother go to them.  It’s getting out of the house, running into friends, looking for bargains, seeing what you already have is worth, adding to a collection and finding a treasure you can’t live without.  There’s such a variety in an estate sale – everything in a house and based on the owner’s taste and what the family hasn’t taken out.  Dealers rush in first to scout for the really unique and see what they can come back to get at bargain prices on the last day…one dealer called himself the Buzzard because he swoops in at the end for the real bargains.

Such a shopping spree…where else are you going to find silver services and fine crystal,


replacement parts for your kitchen items, along with cookbooks that are out of print that you want to give someone,


pressed glass for your friend who collects it,


a miniature scuttle, which we decided was used for cigars, although we didn’t really know and loved it anyway,


lovely oil paintings at bargain prices,


unusual wicker pieces,


an old stamp collection, along with books,


old family photographs (this horrifies me),


and, my favorite, an antique iron.


The iron was a source of constant conversation as we saw how it heated up with flame and then had to be picked up with a cloth or potholder wrapped around the hot, hot handle.  On top of that, I could barely lift it.  Imagine trying to plop that down on a piece of clothing and move it over the area without scorching.  Wow!  We all had a greater appreciation of our light electric steam and spray irons and for the women who had to wrestle these monsters!

The comments I heard over and over were “omigod, my house looks like this.  I need to clean things out,” followed by “I have to have that,” and “my kids don’t want any of my things.”  Having cleaned out my mother’s home, after she had cleaned out a lot of it herself, I learned what she had already taught me when she cleaned out homes for relatives and friends.  You can’t imagine how much is in there until you have to touch every item in every drawer, shelf and closet.  On the other hand, cleaning out her things taught me a lot about her and brought back many memories.  It can be a healing thing.

On the comments about our kids not wanting our things, I have a few suggestions.  My mother left us with a list of the things in her house and where and  she got them, who the artist was, and what she paid for them – the provenance, so to speak.  It was invaluable.  It didn’t mean we had to love it like she did, but it kept us from selling it as a piece of junk in a garage sale.  I was working on a list like that for my kids, but it’s tedious.  My grandson is going to help me videotape everything, with me telling the story of the item so my family will know why it meant anything to me or if it’s valuable or not.  After that, I assume they will also treasure it or send it along to a proper new home, recycling it once again.

I don’t know what the newest generations will like or want, but I love the history of my old and new things.  I’m hoping that I live long enough to pass some down to my grandkids as they launch into their adult lives, as my mother did for my children.  The history of some of these items has passed through other families and is now part of my family’s history.  Except for those many things that will end up in my estate/garage sale one of these days.  Hope someone enjoys plowing through my treasures looking for a treasure of their own.  One of these days.  I’m not ready to part with my stuff yet…

My guess is that my first acknowledgement of the Dust Bowl was seeing the painting, Mother Earth Laid Bare, by Alexandre Hogue at Philbrook when  I was very young.  It moved me.  It has always been my favorite painting at the museum, maybe because it tells a story in such a graphic image.  I am an Oklahoman, so I know about the Dust Bowl.  Sort of.  I knew Okie wasn’t a term we liked until Governor Bartlett used it as a tool to boost the state’s image.  I used to take Okie pins with me to Europe to give the people I met.  I’d read The Grapes of Wrath and seen the movie, although that story wasn’t really about the Dust Bowl itself.

A few years ago, I read Timothy Egan’s book, The Worst Hard Time, a brilliant accounting of the Dust Bowl that made me really want to understand what happened.  I’ve travelled through the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, driving through Boise City, OK and Dalhart, TX, two of the worst hit places.  I’ve been through eastern New Mexico, eastern Colorado, western Kansas and western Nebraska, seeing those great plains.  I’ve driven through the tall grass prairie to see what the land was like before the ravaging of the plains through greed and ignorance of what we can do to the land.  I watched a documentary called , Black Blizzards, which featured Tim Egan and visualized much of what he had written.  I’ve studied Woody Guthrie and his music which captured the times so brilliantly.  Ken Burn’s recent series, The Dust Bowl, incorporated all of this information and introduced me to Caroline Henderson, a college educated homesteader, who stuck it out, never gave up, and left us her letters and articles about her life.

I’ve always been interested in the women of the west.  Many of them were perfectly happy where they were, close to family and friends, but went along to share the adventures with husbands following a dream.  Some wanted adventure, some had dreams of their own, some wanted to escape lives in the east.  I think the fascination is in imagining what I would have done if I were in that place and time.  A friend of mine says she knows she never would have gotten past St. Louis.  The people who settled in the Dust Bowl area wanted their own piece of land, an independent sort who didn’t want the confines of the city and loved the wide open spaces they found.  The dreams became reality and times were good and then they went bad, really bad, for a decade.  Ten years of a combination of the Depression, drought, and floods of dust, year after year after year.

What would I have done?  Would I have left right off the bat, walked away from the home I built with my own hands, the land I’d tilled myself?  What would I do when my children were coughing up dust and there was no milk or food or crops?  What would I do when I’d waited so long that there was nowhere to go…no jobs, no money for gas to leave, nothing left to sell and nobody to buy it if there was anything.  What would I do?  Would I be stubborn, full of hope, or let it get me down?  How much courage did it take to leave?  How much courage did it take to stay?

Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done.  I guess all we can do while looking back is learn from the stories and hope that we would have the courage they had to keep on living in desperate times.  And I can be extra thankful and appreciative of all that I have today.

Sometimes I feel like getting out of the city and driving around the countryside.  I get that from my mother.  And my father.  And my husband.

Yesterday was one of those days that I couldn’t sit inside and I’d already walked and it was probably the last day of fall color with the windy & rainy weekend predicted.  All the beautiful leaves will be in piles on the ground in a few days.  So, I took off looking for the hills of color.  I sat a a stop light deciding which way to go and headed east, towards Arkansas, navigating the horrible construction on I-244 to get to Hwy 412, one of the nicest drives anywhere.  At first I thought I’d missed the color, but then I hit the hills and all the colors shining in the glorious sunshine.  Looking at the map, I realized it wasn’t that much further to Bentonville and Crystal Bridges, so I headed that way.  I’d been wanting to do this anyway.

There is something about driving on a beautiful day that clears everything out of your head and floods your brain with fresh thoughts.  That’s easier now that I’m retired and don’t have to push all the work responsibilities aside in order to enjoy what I’m seeing.  Hwy 412 meanders around hills in a leisurely way, even on the turnpike route.

I had seen the pictures of Crystal Bridges, but it still doesn’t prepare you for the first view.  It’s in a neighborhood, a lovely neighborhood built up by the WalMart influence on the community.  It doesn’t have a big entrance and you could miss it if you weren’t looking for it.  You’re in town and in the woods at the same time on this 140 acre gift to the people.  On another note, after doing fundraising for a museum for the past 7 years, it’s a dream to start out with an $800 million endowment.  Admission is free, thanks to WalMart.

I’ll summarize my views quickly with photos, but you can get details at

Coming up to the main entrance, I was stunned by the silver tree, “Yield,” shining in the sun.  Incredibly mesmerizing…

%22Yield%22 (1)


I was on the top level, so my first view of the museum was looking down and I wasn’t prepared for how beautifully it is situated in the location, down in the valley.  The building itself is a work of art that is appreciated from every angle.




Inside museum

The collection is a fabulous selection of American art from Revolutionary times through today.  I found works by many of my favorites and some new ones that I will be glad to revisit at any time.  You’re sure to love many, many pieces and find your own favorites.  Moran, Norman Rockwell, Mary Cassatt, Calder, Warhol, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Hart Benton, Bierstadt, John Singer Sargent, George Innes, Rothko, and so many others.





I loved the little reading rooms sprinkled in the galleries with stacks and shelves of books so you could sit down and read more as your curiosity made you want to learn more now!


The restaurant is lovely and bar area is beautiful and a nice place to take a rest.  The museum shop is a gem…spoken by someone who owned a gift shop and worked around a museum shop.


But, I was there to enjoy the fall day and took to the Rock Ledge Trail that wound above the museum and the lawn.  There are six trails for over 3 miles.  I didn’t get as far as I would have like because I was losing daylight to get home, but it is stunning.  I would walk there every day if I lived in the area.  You could do a different trail and see something new all the time.  I can’t wait to see it in the other seasons.  Lovely…




Cardinal in the woods


My favorite thing was the frame on the trail.  Isn’t this a simple, great idea?  I bet a million people have posed in that frame, but I love the scene itself.  You feel like you are a painter…or a real photographer…beautiful!




I didn’t get enough time for all I wanted to do, but I’ll be back many times for sure.  Thank you, Alice Walton!  What an incredible gift you have given for all to enjoy.