Category Archives: Art

Pohjala’s Daughter

About 15 years ago, we planted two rhododendrons named Pohjola’s Daughter. They were  Finnish cultivars said to be cold hardy. They were sort of root bound, and I remember thinking that I could have done a better job freeing the roots when I planted them.  Well, I was right, since they didn’t get appreciably bigger or bloom until this May, despite my constant fertilizing and fussing.  The flowers were so pretty.  It was a long wait, though, and I thought they were aptly named when I researched the story of Pohjola’s Daughter, and how she kept suitors away by giving them impossible tasks to complete before she would marry them. The story comes from the Finnish epic The Kalevala.  Sibelius used the story for a tone poem.  According to Wikipedia:

The tone poem depicts the “steadfast, old,” white-bearded Väinämöinen who spots the beautiful “daughter of the North (Pohjola)”, seated on a rainbow, weaving a cloth of gold while he is riding a sleigh through the dusky landscape. Väinämöinen asks her to join him, but she replies that she will only leave with a man who can perform a number of challenging tasks, such as tying an egg into invisible knots and, most notably, building a boat from fragments of her distaff. Väinämöinen attempts to fulfill these tasks through his own expertise in magic; in many of the tasks he succeeds but he is eventually thwarted by evil spirits when attempting to build the boat and injures himself with an axe. He gives up, abandons the tasks and continues on his journey alone.

I find  our translation of The Kalevala pretty tedious to read, and I think I need to find a new one, since the stories are so interesting. I also find it interesting when life imitates art the way our rhododendrons did.

What is your favorite epic poem or story to read?  When have you seen life imitate art?

Literary Bust

As I was reading this morning (Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith [aka JK Rowlings]), the narrator casually mentions watching a show about art and the camera pans the room, to include a bust of Beethoven.  There is a smidge of discussion about how the protagonist looks a bit like Beethoven and then the story moves on.

But as the story continued, I was distracted by the thought of the Beethoven bust. Hadn’t a bust of Beethoven just been a book I finished last week?  And wasn’t there a bust of Beethoven in a book I read a couple of months ago.  Time to backtrack in my reading history.

There was indeed a bust of Beethoven in Transcription by Kate Atkinson.  It was included in a description of a room and then later was used by a Nazi sympathizer to try to escape from the MI5 agents who had uncovered her treachery.

The previous literary bust turned out to be Baudelaire, not Beethoven, in The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.  In that book, the Nazi (yeah, I know you ‘ve all heard me say I’m sick of WWII books, but apparently not that sick) uses a bust of Baudelaire to break the fingers of the young spy.  Gruesome.

I have no idea what this means to the larger world, that busts of Beethoven and Baudelaire have shown up repeatedly in my reading the last few months, but it’s fascinating to me.

Pick a bust for your living room… any composer, artist, writer or super hero. Living or dead.  Who is it?

The Family Escutcheon

Today’s Post comes from Occasional Caroline.

My nephew turned 40 over the weekend. He has had challenges throughout many of those years, including struggling with addictions. He has been sober for a number of years and is doing well now, but is ever vigilant not to slip back down that slippery slope. Forty is a milestone and he invited family and friends to a gathering to help him usher in the new decade. The invitation and his situation, brought to mind an episode and an item from the family canon that I thought would be meaningful to him and support both his sobriety and his interest in family history. My problem was that the story really started in the late 1800s and the chain of custody of the actual facts has more missing links than the other kind. Here is the story I was able to cobble together from the collective memories of my mother, brother, sister and me, and present to my nephew:

We thought that you were the perfect person to hand down this family heirloom and story to. Although the people who could give us the most accurate information are no longer available to confirm or refute these “facts”, here is what might have happened that we have pieced together from the memories of those of us were around for parts of this saga. Total historical accuracy is not what you’ll read here, this is the new truth from the 21st century onward…

Long, long ago, when your great grandma, was a young girl, a man in the family (quite possibly her father, but maybe not) regularly drank more than was prudent. Each day (or possibly more or, less often) he would send one of his 3 sons, (if indeed it was Grandma’s father) to a neighborhood bar to have this brown pitcher filled with beer, and returned to quench his thirst. Grandma developed a loathing for what excessive drink could do to a man.

At some point, when he was old enough to know better (in his 40s), her son, your dad’s, aunt’s,  and my father, did one of 2 things. Or, more probably, he did both and one was the straw that broke the camel’s (Grandma’s) back.

Scenario One: He drank too much at his favorite bar, headed home, driving drunk on back roads, and was pulled over by the police and given either a DUI ticket or a warning. Somehow Grandma found out about it (back then all legal infractions were published in the local newspapers, so she may have read it, if indeed he got the ticket). In any case Grandma knew and she was furious with him.

Scenario Two: He arrived at a family gathering in a state of intoxication, which his mother quickly recognized, and she was furious with him.

Whatever the infraction/(s) was/were, at some point, still furious, his mother presented the family symbol of excessive drink, the brown beer pitcher, to her son as a stern reminder of her fury and disapproval of his lack of sobriety. It was also, of course a loving reminder of her parental devotion, and concern for his welfare. We are all quite certain that his mother never, ever saw him drunk again (which is not to say that he was never drunk again, just not in her presence).

So, with pride and recognition of your years of sobriety, and to commemorate your fortieth birthday, we present you with that same little brown jug, which is now the family symbol of keeping the plug in the jug.

You have become the keeper of the story and the jug, and you may use, alter, enhance, embellish, retell, hide, proclaim, ignore, or do anything else with them you wish.

Author’s note: I have thoroughly examined the pitcher for any identifying marks and found nothing etched, stamped or printed anywhere on it to help identify where or when it began. It is fairly small, about 7 inches high. Notice that the handle appears to be a greyhound. What’s up with that? In any case, if the back story is at all accurate, we assume that the pitcher is at least as old as my grandmother would be; she was born in 1890, so nearly 130 years, but it could be older.

 

What’s in your family canon? How has  your family embellished family “history”? 

You Call That Art?

We went to The Broad Museum in Los Angeles in May. It is a museum of contemporary art with works by  Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol, among others.  Admission is free, and the place was packed with citizens of all ages. They had a special exhibition called “Soul of a Nation, Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983” curated by the Tate Modern out of London, that Husband went to. He said it was interesting but hard to describe.

Daughter and I viewed the general collection.  It was fun to tell her about Warhol and show her the paintings of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe, and the soup cans. The Lichtenstein comic-inspired paintings were far bigger than I ever imagined they would be and were pretty amazing to finally see in person.  She liked all of it, but neither of us quite understood what we were looking at. It is all significant, but I don’t know the reason why. I really don’t know the meaning of the big blue Dachshund made out of plastic or the enormous dining room table and chairs.

What are your experiences with modern art? What are your favorite art works?

I Wish I Could Be Sadder About It…..

Thanks to YA’s boyfriend being sick, I had a near-perfect week!

Based on the minimal information YA was sharing (or was given most probably), Boyfriend had strep but waited until late Saturday to go to the MinuteClinic and was in no mood for company or companionship the entire weekend. And this is the first Saturday of YA’s summer work schedule, which means her Saturday morning is clear.  She was up early and rarin’ to go!

We made a quick stop at the library, a stop at the hardware store (where there was a dog to pet), time at the gym, some shopping at the co-op. While we were shopping she decided she wanted to make a particular recipe so we bought her ingredients as well.  She said she wanted to do cooking first before yardwork, so we spent a nice hour in the kitchen.  I made corn chowder in my instant pot and a fried halloumi salad; she made a black bean, corn, mango salsa in lettuce cups.  Then yardwork – some together but some separate – me in the front, her in the back.  She even made a little fire in the fire pit which we enjoyed for a bit.  Then we walked up to dinner at The Malt Shop, during which she actually put her phone away.

Then on Sunday, she did some homework while I had time in my studio, then we spent a few hours doing the Open Streets on Lyndale festival. She suggested we walk instead of bike so we could pet dogs more easily.  This was a great suggestion – we lost count of how many dogs we had petted around the 50 mark!  Mini donuts, animal petting zoo, shave ice and some of the prettiest dark purple miniature irises I’ve ever seen.  She had more homework so I spent a little more time in my studio.

Really the only semi-rough patch in the whole weekend was when I had to not be negative when she died her hair purple on Saturday night! And even then, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had imagined it would be.

When was the last time you benefited from someone else’s bad times?

 

 

Decade on the Trail – Pictorial

Today’s post is Part Two from Barbara in Rivertown

Today we have a pictorial history to go with Tuesday’s written one. Thanks to all baboons who sent me photos – I’ve used only those that have two or more baboons in them.

I think this is the earliest one in my collection – taken with Dale Connelly at the MPR booth at the State Fair (in 2009? 2010?) Not all in it became baboons, but I do see Sherrilee, Beth-Anne, and Linda in the middle row, and Jim and thigh (that guy in the hat) in the back.
The above is a smaller group in the Seed Art room, maybe 2011
Below was taken at our first meeting, at a picnic table in Wabun Park, by Minnehaha Falls in S. Mpls. BiR, Jacque, and Anna in the background. Also present were Sherrilee, Linda, and Steve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know whose idea it was to start going to museums – the first one I attended was, I think, the Russian Art Museum in S. Mpls – Anna, tim, Joanne, BiR, VS
Then there was the Swedish Museum circa 2012… extra points if you can remember what the exhibit was. VS, tim, Linda, Lisa, BiR, PJ
There have been gardening adventures – at PJ’s yard.  The group shows Bill, Robin, Lisa, Krista, PJ in back; ljb (Edith), BiR, Linda, VS

 

…. and in PJ’s kitchen, where Lisa modeled her prom dress
At Steve’s – well, at Steve’s we took down a tree limb in the back yard of his darling bungalow.
Chain Saw Gan – madislandgirl and S&H(son & heir), Lisa, tim, YA (VS’ young adult), Bill, Robin, BiR, Linda, Michael, and Ben!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had Steve’s surprise birthday party, also at Wabun Park – tim managed to get him there after some ball game, I think. VS, Steve, tim
There have been several trips to Rock Bend Folk Festival. Here’s City Mouse, with the Morning Show’s producer Mike Pengra on the drums.
It’s a dirty job but somebody’s gotta do it… And admission is still FREE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda, BiR, Krista, and I think Holly, at Rock Bend – not sure which year…?

There have been a number of events that didn’t get photographed: PJ organized a Guthrie outing for, was it? H.M.S. Pinafore? There have been game nights at tim’s, a painting party at Steve’s before he moved, Pi Day at Sherrilee’s.

But we do have one of a Solstice Parties at Sherrilee’s – Steve, Linda, tim
A few made a weekend trip to Steve’s cabin, up by Cornucopia, WI: Linda, Steve, tim, Krista, Jacque

 

 

 

 

 

 

and a few went south to Donna’s cabin at Spirit Lake, IA – but no photo!

North Dakota Renee made it to a BBC at tim’s when she was in town, of which we have no photo. But Steve provided one of her and husband Chris, taken when they were visiting near Steve’s place in Portland.

There have also been sad times… not only the ending of The Late Great Morning Show, but also the memorial after

Jim Ed Poole’s (aka Tom Keith) death in 2011. This proves that you can get baboons to smile for anything: TGith?, PJ, tim, Joanne, Anna, mig’s S&H in back; Linda, VS, madislandgirl.
A quick meet-up of Barbara and Joanne of Big Lake after the 100-Mile Garage Sale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I didn’t have my camera back in April when I met another baboon Linda at baboon Chris’ book signing at the lovely Fair Trade Books in Red Wing. But here’s a photo taken at another of Chris’ signings:
And here is from Chris’ FIRST book signing!

And we even had a congratulations gathering when Beth Ann won the Kemps State Fair Ice Cream contest

No baboons in this shot, but here are the fixins!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s been your favorite Baboon gathering or outing? What/who got left out here? (I’m sure I’ve left out some baboons…)

What field trip shall we do next??

A Decade on the Trail

This is Part 1 of a two part trip down memory lane from Barbara in River Town.

We’ve been blogging here for (are you ready?) 10 years. For anyone new to the Trail, this group started when we were still listening to a beloved (Minnesota Public Radio) Morning Show that aired from 6 – 9 a.m. in the 80s, 90s and aughts (2000s). It was an eclectic music extravaganza peppered with cleaver (see Glossary above) ads, zany characters and radio plays put together by Dale Connelly (a master of parody and verse) and Jim Ed Pool (aka Tom Keith, the super sound effects guy for Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion). When Jim Ed retired at end of 2008, Dale stayed on, and the program morphed into an online streaming station called Radio Heartland https://www.thecurrent.org/heartland/ . Dale also created a blog in early 2009 called the Trial Balloon, in which he’d write an introductory piece about anything under the sun, talk about it on the radio, and ask a question at the end to get an online conversation going.

Dale, our Alpha Baboon, hung in there posting 6 days a week for most of the next 5 years. By the time he decided it was time for a sabbatical, he had written 1,166 of the 1,397 posts (231 of them being guest posts provided by the Baboon Congress when he was away). Here is his June 3, 2015 entry:   https://trailbaboon.com/2015/06/03/five-year-plan/  at the end of that phase.

The Baboons rose to the challenge, and kept the blog going with a wide-ranging collection of guest posts for the next 18 months or so, with Dale chiming in from time to time with a post. In early 2017, Dale “cut the umbilical cord”, and we got our own url: www.trailbaboon.com/ , with Verily Sherrilee and Renee in North Dakota taking the reins of the blog, on alternating months. (This statement doesn’t begin to cover the work and commitment involved – I don’t even know how to describe it – and how grateful we are that they’ve taken this on.) Other baboons provide guest posts that we send to them by email (though not as often as we should).

At some point early on, we started also gathering in the space-and-time realm… I believe the first book club meeting was in June of 2010. (Go to above left under Blogroll: Blevens’ Book Club – there are even minutes to the first meetings!) And we started doing “field trips” – anyone know what year the Russian Art Museum trip was?

Over the years various baboons have come and gone, and occasionally come back – life happens, and some months or years work better for blogging than others. A core group of us are still here, several of whom have been posting and commenting almost from the beginning. Old-timers check in occasionally, and we love it when they do. We’ve found we just enjoy connecting most mornings (and sometimes late in the evening) in this mysterious place in cyberspace, to exchange thoughts, experiences, recipes, songs, book/movie recommendations, health info, travel or garden tips, musings on the English language…

What’s the strangest group you’ve ever hung out with? (…besides this one)