This is the school house in which I spent 12 years learning my ABCs. The photo shows about 2/3s of the original building and off to the right is the attached gynmasium that was added when I was in the 6th grade. The place is Versailles, Indiana, a very small town with four buildings of note. One is on the square in the middle of town -- a limestone courthouse. Versailles is the county seat of Ripley County-- one of those dignified towns that build a courthouse to impress (although by any other standards it would be a small courthouse) set it on a grassy, well tree-ed square in the middle of town with the majority of the businesses around the square.
The other three buildings of note are at the west side on the same street with the school at the end of the street. The others are a very modest library and a Methodist church. All three are faced with white ceramic brick. All three exist because of a donation by the town's one self-made millionaire whose last name was Tyson. He was a founding partner of the Wallgren Drug Store chain. He's been gone a long time. (Personally, I'm very happen he had nothing to do with chickens.)
As a matter of fact, I've been gone a long time too. But I am on my way back tomorrow for a 6oth high school class reunion. There is a new school on the south side of town, and this building is now an assisted living facility. My class was the largest ever to graduate from this school, all 56 of us -- and that was a great jump in numbers from previous years because a one-room school in the wide-space-in-the-road town, Elrod, was closed and the students sent to Versailles. In the 5th grade our class swelled by a ten (if I remember correctly). Five-yaer reunions have been held for, I think, the past three decades. I've attended some of them. I was last here for the 50th reunion.
Of course there are not many of us left, if I count correctly, 16. I think ten will be at the reunion. We are aware this is a fragile time and fewer, probably, will be around in five years. So we will go to the general reunion dinner on Saturday night with other classes celebrating 5-year annivesaries, but we will gather for dinner Friday night and for brunch Sunday morning - to accommodate those who can do only two days. I think most of the survivors are relatively nearby but one woman lives near Houston and one man, the last I heard, lives most of the year in Arizona, another in Pennsyvania and here I am on Cape Cod.
I was talking with my poetry class yesterday and mentioned the trip. I do not talk about my age much although everyone knows we are all retirees. I flatter myself thinking people don't know how much over 70 I am, so when asked "which year?" I had a vanity-moment --but not a long one. I admitted it is the 60th and did not have to look hard to see that the math was obvious. Well, I started this blog with it's name to make myself accept the aging process. This weekend is certainly going to be an experience about all the years gone by.
The "shell tree" at the end of the spit of land that is Long Beach where I walk has changed with the years. When I moved to Cape Cod eight years ago, this tree was alive. It had green leaves, it stood up about three feet on a dune back from the edge of the water. There were other trees. Over these years the sand has been pulled back into the sea, probably distributed elsewhere. The tree died and people began to put broken welk shells on the branches (myself among them).
Many limbs have disappeared -- I did not realize how very many when I visited the tree this morning --the first time since last summer I've walked the mile out to the very end of Long Beach to visit the tree. The upper photo is one I took this morning, it looks very sparse. I'm sure more shells will be added to it as summer progresses, many fall off in winter's storms. But the limbs are fewer, less twiggy.
The lower photo was last summer. the shells are dense and the sand wears a necklace of horseshoe crab shells (molted ones). I'm glad the tree is still there. Actually two years ago the sand was much lower exposing roots. But it's being piled up more, now, around the trunk. The roots are not gathering water and nutrition but they are holding the tree in place against the storms.
This last picture is from six or seven years ago, near the shell tree while there were still several shrubby trees at the end of Long Beach. The tree with the scraps of cloth on it had died during the winter, but one behind it had sprouted new leaves. Neither are there any more. The scraps of cloth are scraps of a set of Tibetan prayer flags from a set of a few dozen I bought in Lhasa. I had put them on a cairn that was annually built at the very end of the beach. They blew away and utterly disappeared in the autumn. When I went back in the spring, the wind had returned them to the end of the beach, tangled, what seemed to me inextricably among the twigs of the dead bush.
I consider the shells, on the dead tree, the horseshoe crab shells arranged on the sand and the wind's caprices with my prayer flags, all a part of the natural wonder I witness year after year in this tiny bit of Cape Cod that feels "mine" even though it is public property.
This amazing movie was made in 2002; I saw it way back then and saw it again yesterday. Made in a Inuit village (area) in Canada with an entirely Inuit cast and mostly crew; this almost-three-hour movie tells an ancient legend updated to modern time (such as they are in that Arctic area where people live as they've lived hundreds or thousands of years.
It is a story of three bad (selfish, murderous) members of the group, and how everyone survives (except the murdered man) and how they are finally expelled so the others can live as before. The women are as strong as the men although the society is divided between the men who hunt and the women who prepare food and the skins of animals for clothing. At the base of the story is the ancient story of two brothers and one woman. In the midst of the tale is the utterly unforgettable scene everyone who sees this movie finds unforgettable.
When the evil ones ambush two men sleeping in a summer tent, one is murdered and the other, Atanarjurat (the fast runner of the title) flees, naked across the ice and the melted snow puddles with the three in pursuit. He manages to outrun them, collapses eventually and is saved by a small family who are gathering bird eggs. He stays with them (his feet are badly cut up) for a season it seems and then returns to right the situation.
Much about this movie is ethnographic, we see an igloo being built, we hear songs and see a native dance with various people taking part while the group sings to the rhythm of a single drum. The showing of the film to a small group who take the usual documentary film class was the suggestion of a member of the group who has had a particular interest in the Inuit, knows their history and collected carvings and prints made by the group in Cape Dorset in the Canadian province now called Nunavut (I think that's the spelling). The CD was available through the Massachusetts library system and I assume it is available to those who might want to watch it.
I looked up yesterday an there they were: Mama, Papa and the fuzzy septuplets. The day before I saw five adults on the lawn, today not a single goose. But yesterday's visitation was delightful. When they decided to leave they lined up neatly, Mama (maybe it was Papa) in front, the family all in a row and Papa (or maybe Mama) bringing up the rear. They are totally unfazed by cars, they cross the relatively busy street with total confidence and, so far, they have been unharmed. Just beyond the commercial buildings across the road is a kettle pond (of which there are many, many, many on Cape Cod). I believe the nest is somewhere over there. Probably the population on the yard will be much enlarged in a few weeks.
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!