Indiana Dunes: America’s Newest National Park

This gallery contains 14 photos.

Originally posted on Openlands:
On February 15, 2019, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was upgraded to a National Park, the country’s 61st. The greater Chicago region now has a National Park. Members of the Indiana and Illinois conservation communities have worked…

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Good Garden People: Also Good for Business!

It has happened to anyone who participates in any group that goes out to eat even once.  The bill comes, is passed around for review, money is collected – and a discussion ensues over who owes how much more for what, or hard feeling are hidden over the one(s) who didn’t pay quite enough.  Usually the larger the group, the more the bill falls short, and the longer it takes to straighten out.

One season, Kilbourn Organic Greenhouse’s volunteers took a series of field trips to interesting gardens, architectural sites and related environs.  I knew the others – slightly – but in the spirit of camaraderie, I offered to drive as many as would fit in our Suburban to that week’s feature, a big Wisconsin nursery almost two hours away.

The drive was uneventful, with people chatting and sharing garden tips.  After an informative tour, there was room for each person to stash a flat of plants in the car’s
“way-back”.  The final stop was lunch at a nearby pizza place.

The moment of truth came; the tension is the air was palatable, because the gratuity wasn’t included.  Would the waitress get the short end of the stick?  Of fourteen people, who would pretend she’d hardly eaten anything, and so owed next to nothing, leaving the rest to scramble for spare change?

The bill made the rounds, money appeared and was piled up.  Someone counted it.              There was too much!

A discussion ensued, but in an atmosphere of joviality: we were good souls.  Each woman got a dollar or so back and the waitress got a big tip.  The huge sigh of relief I breathed was heard only by myself.  I would go out again anytime with this bunch!

As I reflect on that day and those people, it seems likely that — just as good garden souls putting nutrients on a bed say to it “A little extra compost may help, and anyway, it won’t hurt,” so, too, the garden group said “Oh, well, dear, a little extra money from me might help, and won’t hurt in any event.”

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To Gawk, or to Render Aid?

Once upon a time, the New Yorker magazine asked, What was everyone else on the platform (where a man from Queens was pushed over the edge then struck by a train) doing?  Later in the piece they mentioned Wesley Autrey, who saved a man having a seizure from being mowed down by another train.  While the editorial was mainly to call attention to spectators, who mostly used to “stand and gawk…Now, apparently, we point and shoot,” they missed something crucial.
Autrey was a Navy veteran. All branches of the service demand extensive training in how to overcome the feeling that one is fearful for one’s safety and frozen in shock, and what actions to take instead. While I have not had the Navy’s training, in thirty-plus years with the Chicago Police Department I have been in my share of hair-raising scrapes and learned one crucial point: people who can be effective heroes learn to go toward trouble with an instinct to right it.
British Girl Guides and others daily beat back fear and struggled in myriad ways through World War II. I always sought to prepare my Girl Scouts for trouble, beginning with First Aid and teambuilding.  
For good or ill, not everyone has been trained to fight, or how to react appropriately, and not everyone can overcome the flight-or-freeze impulse. Let’s note this is not the same as those safe in their snug apartments, who, on hearing Kitty Genovese scream, did not even summon help. An onrushing train will put even the most stout heart in fear of mortal peril; watching in horror in that case was likely a healthy, instinctive safety mechanism.

Those who have grown accustomed to pointing their cameras and clicking pictures extensively have, regrettably, given themselves a new impulse. Doubtless many New Yorkers were following that very thoughtlessness on that sad day on the subway.  Running to the scene of the tragedy and taking pictures rather than offering assistance is always inexcusable; it demonstrates how badly they need basic training of the kind offered by the Scouts, the Red Cross, and related groups.
Let those prone to gawk put away their devices and sign up post haste.
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Life & Virtue: Old & New

Animals die

Kinsmen die

All things we know must die

This alone can never die

The good name of a person.

(ascribed to Odin)

Manafort lied

Cohen lied

Trump as we know also lied

This alone can never lie

Robert Mueller


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Why are you buying dolls again?

He was born first, with nine more following in fairly steady succession. there were supposed to be three more, but when his mother was pregnant with the twins she got mugged for the one dollar she was taking to the store to buy milk with. From the attack they were born alive in the Chicago snow then died of exposure. Before that her own mother-in-law spitefully flung open a heavy door and the massive iron handle struck her in the abdomen and she miscarried that singleton.

The four sisters of course all played with dolls.

An abuelita as the years passed, his mother, when asked what she wanted for her birthday, answered “A doll.” She and her birth family were always so poor that as a child she could never have a doll. Her son got her a doll.

As a youngster and as a teen he would get mad at his sisters and rip the heads off their dolls, the girls crying bitterly. To two or three of them, now they are all adults, he has abashedly offered his apologies.

At the end of his mother’s life there was tremendous discord: one brother had cheated her out of her house, another claimed she had appointed him medical power of attorney, and no he wouldn’t let the eldest see their mother in the hospital. The financial flim-flammer preceded her in death by a year, the oldest paying for his mass and burial. No-one would give the doll back to their sibling, the man who bought it, and it was never to be seen again.

This oldest child had a child late in life, and he bought her dolls, just as he had for the previous two from the previous wife. The last daughter was a tomboy; she did not even like dolls. After several attempts went scorned, he finally stopped buying them.  Some time later she allowed as how scared she’d been because of some horror-movie doll she had seen once on television; the young adult knowledge of what had triggered a doll-aversion did nothing to rekindle fond wishes for one.

And so he buys dolls now and then, for himself, for the Christmas tree, he claims.

I think they are atonements.


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When do we reject the media whore?

A Chicago Tribune article recently began the coverage of the aftermath of the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill temple with a focus on what the current White House occupants did.
The gunned-down Jewish victims were mentioned alter on, even though they were important to their families and communities, folks Trump had no previous experience with, interest in, or even knowledge of. He had not come to sit shiva with them; he decided to insert himself into their neighborhood without the slightest care for neighborliness. Indeed, he was asked by many of the neighbors to not come while the funerals were being held.
I would rather have read not a single word about the media-hound, but more on the dead, and of the local officials who declined to participate in his lust for all things media — but only if focused on him — how did they spend that day? These things are less visible, perhaps, but just as important. And the added security headaches for the “presidential” entourage — surely many in law enforcement there had their days off canceled, what scramble for child care and other arrangements did they have to make?
Respect is something the President demands for his own family and businesses — nobody else. He decided to pay the slaughtered and the people who truly cared about them lip service rather than pay true respect by changing his ways forever. Had he sincerely apologized and vowed to mend his ways and then done so, he might have given the majority in the world a glimmer of hope that even the worst individuals can change. Alas, he renewed his lies on Twitter, desperate to maintain his attention-grabbing ways.
The Tribune piece would have done a lot of good had it included this crucial optic: that many of the grieving human beings tried to send a message and deprive Trump of the cheers he constantly craves, silently, because they turned their backs on his motorcade and took a knee!
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Kavanaugh missed a step

In the early 1980’s, like Brett Kavanaugh, I pledged a campus Greek group. Away from classes at UICC (as it used to be called), there were parties and there was drinking. Youthful indiscretions arose, then subsided.

Sigma Phi Alpha was a small group at the big commuter school. We were pals with Tau Alpha Rho; a few of the girls had TAR boyfriends, and we often had dances together.

Before I got to be a full-fledged sister, I was a pledge. My pledge mom (barely a year older than me) became one of my best friends to this day. We all had a lot of fun, meeting up in the cafeteria, learning the Greek alphabet (more often than not, to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy), pledges fetching snacks on the spur of the moment for the sisters. During Greek Week TAR cheered for us and we them.

Before I came to that point, the newest girls, we who were pledging had to endure Hellnight. We did exercises and chanted the alphabet over and over because – as in the military – we were told to. Blindfolded, we ate what the sisters fed us. I particularly recall sardines in a disgusting mix with something like peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. We ate it because they told us to and by that point, hours from when we’d started, we felt we were starving!

At length, thirteen hours in, most of the other pledges had gotten the message. Not me – let’s run some more! Finally it got through even my thick head: I heard yet one more of the other girls say the exact same phrase as she sagged to the floor: Only one sit-up, one rep, because my pledge sisters are tired. When I was told to lead again and announced “One,” the sisters asked why just one, and I gave the same response. Not “I have had enough,” but “My pledge sisters are tired.” We hadn’t been allowed to talk to each other, but their relief was palpable: At last – she gets it too! And so, finally, we were finished. Aside from a wrenched ankle, nobody was hurt, and of course nobody got assaulted. A few of the sisters had had to leave, but those remaining took all the no-longer-pledges out to breakfast.

A few years later, when I was a police recruit, we were told to meet at a location where a few of us worked out sometimes, a repurposed warehouse, cavernous and dusty. The instructors suddenly weren’t our friends; they told us not to talk, just do as we were told. This seemed exactly like Hellnight, so I reasoned the worst they could do, since it wasn’t the military and they couldn’t touch us, would be to work us through what would normally be lunchtime. Surely the City would be loathe to pay thirty of us overtime just so the teachers could make a point. I could manage without lunch.

We went through the situations, the instructors pretending to be bad guys, distraught victims-turned-offenders, and so on: as each scenario played out, they switched without a word, just like real life. We greenhorns went with the flow, not speaking unless spoken to, and then only tersely.

After 8-1/2 hours, a normal tour of duty, we were dismissed. We went home, or in small groups to eat and decompress. Four similar days followed. We survived.

From these two seemingly disparate but similarly stressful events came the realization we were expected, in both cases, to reach, without anyone else specifically telling us what to say or do: we were to show concern and respect for others, and self-restraint.

It’s too bad Kavanaugh never got the message, and no-one should sit on any court who hasn’t.

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