Just before darkness, cold, and snow appeared last December we decided to try a new winter travel adventure. We purchased a “Great Course” called the Ancient Civilizations of North America that took us on a virtual trek across North America over a 10,000 year plus time.
The course contained 24 lectures on a CD with a paper book paralleling each class.
A Good Way to Enjoy Winter Evenings
Dr. Barnhart is the director of the Maya Exploration Center.
A few evenings a week we’d sit by our fireplace and enjoy a 30-minute lecture. Our professor was Dr. Edwin Barnhart, Director of the Maya Exploration Center. He’s also a Fellow of the Explorers Club and has traveled extensively. His knowledge of ancient cultures is extraordinary and his delivery impressive. As we watched him on our television it was as if he was speaking directly to us.
His course started with archeological terms and the first people known to cross the Bering Land Bridge and enter our continent in pursuit of mammoths and other gigantic now-extinct animals. Later lectures brought us forward in time to Native Americans along the East Coast just before Europeans arrived.
During the class, we “visited” such fascinating places as Chaco Canyon, Cahokia, Meadowcroft Rockshelter, and many others.
A Chat with Dr. Barnhart
Shortly after finishing his course, we had a delightful phone conversation with Dr. Barnhart. He lives in Austin, Texas, and was attempting to replace a water line that froze and bust in the late winter freeze that hit the Lone Star State and other southern states. Curious, we asked him a number of questions about archeology and how the Great Course we took was so effectively presented. Here were some of our questions and his responses:
- Do archeologists often have a feeling of awe when at a place where people lived hundreds or thousands of years ago? “Yes, very often.”
- We live in Iowa where ancient people often created large earthen mounds, often on high ridges above streams and rivers. Might we have mounds near our home above Indian Creek and how might we spot them? “The name Indian Creek sums it up. Yes. There might be mounds, but many may have been destroyed. Keep your eyes open. It’s important that these places be protected.
- When we mentioned that the area had been hit but a derecho’s 140 miles an hour wind that had uprooted many trees he responded, “Often artifacts are found in the root balls of uprooted trees. Look carefully at them and you might find stone tools or pieces of pottery.”
Keeping the Conversation Lively
- When we asked him about how he made his course delivery so interesting he replied, “We’ll I organized the class and its content but the technical people who did the filming for the Great Course are skilled in helping make and keep presentations interesting.” Among the aspects of the class and delivery that kept us fascinated were background murals that changed with each lecture, excellent graphics and maps, and Dr. Barnhart looking directly at us (the camera). He would also rotate about 90 degrees every ten or fifteen minutes and look at a different camera. Then he revealed a secret. Because he knew the material well and had written the script keeping a flow of conversation was easy. And, he quipped, “My notes were on a teleprompter.”
We thank Dr. Barnhart for his vast knowledge and ability to communicate it. We will take future Great Courses. They range from lifestyle topics to learning advanced calculus to European history and music. For information go to www.thegreatcourses.com.
Author note: We purchased and reviewed the Great Course on our own with no special consideration given to us.
Adria and Tom Fuller, Guest bloggers
In spite of the difficulties associated with 2020, including state mandates limiting travel and gatherings, it’s brought us both joy and wonder. Who would have guessed:
- that our family-centric wedding planned for May on the Maine coast would become an even simpler ceremony in Adria’s living room a month later, the State of Illinois allowing our minister in New Jersey to officiate over the phone. Thank you, Alexis, for a ceremony that spoke deeply to us.
- that this Mississippi River bluffs neighborhood (where both our houses are but not within sight of the River) could become as interesting and friendly as we found it to be this summer and fall.
- that watching the corn grow in a farmer’s field just down our street really was entertaining.
Nature and Community
- that for a couple of weeks, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo accompanied us for miles on neighborhood walks, out of sight, but not earshot.
- that we’d be delighted with nighttime sounds of owls, coyotes, and frogs, and daytime glimpses of a fox, spotted fawns, wild turkeys, and groundhogs right in our yards.
- that we would see the International Space Station traversing the night sky and five planets within 24 hours: Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter.
- that although our church buildings are not currently open, ZOOM services have become part of the fabric of our lives.
- that we could play Pickleball on a circular driveway.
- that Chinese checkers could be so entertaining, especially when a sleepy opponent starts moving pieces backward.
- that although he may deny it, he likes chocolate and ice cream just as much as she does.
- that she CAN SHARE chocolate and ice cream. (Note anything chocolate and/or ice cream/frozen yogurt is almost sacred to her! So sharing is quite the accomplishment!)
- that she learned from him that Skippy peanut butter is its own daily food group.
- And that after six months of marriage, he still makes her laugh every day.
We hope you too discover treasures of hidden delights in these challenging days—enough to abundantly water the new year with promise, advancement, and fruition.
A song to accompany our walks.
Bringing Light to the day.
The cheery call of Cardinals adds joy.
Daily walks yielded unexpected pleasures.
Guest Bloggers Share Their Memories of Past Autumns
We invited readers to share their fall traditions and memories with Winding Pathways to help us through the 2020 Autumn and Holiday/Holy Days season.
Flowers For Fall
Chrysanthemums bring joy.
JH- “Every year I tend lovingly to a patch of chrysanthemums that I planted many moons ago in my vegetable garden. It has a place of importance along with my four lilies in this particular raised bed. This plant sprouts in spring and gradually makes
its way skyward until the September coolness brings teeny tiny buds which become a single petaled soft orange sherbert color. I always leave the seed stalks during the winter because I know that birds love the seeds. A sense of peace and joy washes over me as this patch sallies forth in the fall. The bees and butterflies love it as well.
Soon the cold of winter will send it into its deep sleep to wait for another year of gorgeous blossoms.”
SF- “Many T-givings we spent at Grammy’s. Everyone sat around the table, Gram at one end, Grandpa at the other. Gram served up the potatoes and veggies, she then passed the plates along down the line to Grampa who put the meat on then it was passed down the other side. Each of us, uncles and aunts, got our meals. Gram always loaded our plates which was always too much for us kids. One year Gram said something to us that she was tired of us not eating all our food and she was tired of throwing away good food. Mum stood up and told her we served ourselves at home and we’re expected to eat what we were given. At subsequent T-givings Gram would ask us how much we wanted and then ate what she gave us. After Grammy passed away usually Aunt Bunny and Uncle Joe came for T-giving at our house on Tibbetts Hill. Uncle Joe was always fun.” Editor’s note: The family later hosted extended family Thanksgivings at their New Hampshire homestead.
Loving the Amanas
Special time with Pops.
KT – “I miss going to the Amana’s with my father. He has passed and while he hated the changing of the seasons to cold weather, he loved eating and visiting the Amanas with his grandchildren. We always started with breakfast at the Colony Inn. For the best thin pancakes and sorghum, along with fresh fried potatoes, eggs, and English muffin toast with homemade strawberry jam. Then we had to head to the General Store for candy purchases usually Swedish fish, Rock Candy, and Red Licorice. If we had visitors with us we would tour the Woolen Mills and the Furniture Store and of course the Christmas Store with the most beautiful decorations.
“The Amanas is the closest thing we have to a fun Oktoberfest setting and environment. Such a great little historic village with many family memories for me!” Editor’s note: The girls are grown now. One lives in Nashville and the other attends Luther College.
The Mississippi River stretches from Minnesota to the Gulf Coast.
S&MN – “Each fall, we would invite a couple of language teaching assistants, recently arrived in Minnesota from France to a ride down the Mississippi River to view the changing colors of the leaves. Conversation on the ride to Wisconsin gave us a chance to learn more about each of them and their first impressions of their stay in the US. We would follow the Mississippi River down the Wisconsin side to Stockholm, Wisconsin, where we would lunch at a small cafe, visit the Amish quilt shop, gift shops, and antique stores. This included touring a small museum of the original post office.
We would stop at the scenic Maiden Rock overlook and Lake Pepin. Did you know that Water Skis were invented there? We’d take in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Pepin, Wisconsin, and visit the replica of the Little House in the Big Woods. We shared stories and explained about the Little House book and movie series as we could. We loved making connections to life in France during the same time period of the 1870s and learning which facts were most interesting to the young interns who had read the book series in France. Thirty years ago, the language assistants would have been fans of the TV series by the same name La Petite Maison Sur La Prairie. It was a popular series on television in France. In recent years, the students would have been given details learned on the show by their mothers who had loved the show as children.
Conversations on the way back to the Twin Cities would be filled with questions that were often spurred by what we saw and that most usually unanswered. These conversations provided us with opportunities for conversation topics in the months that followed as many were inspired to read the series in English during their stay after the visit.”
Saint Paul Intercultural Institute
New Adventures for a New Englander
– “The first autumn after we moved to Wisconsin from New Hampshire I had a wonderful introduction to the fall bird and waterfowl migration. I had never experienced anything like it. Horicon Marsh
is huge! Part of it is federal lands and part is state lands. I was not sure what to expect when it was suggested that we join my husband’s parents for a Sunday outing. I was totally amazed and awed at the sheer numbers of birds that were flying, landing, and swimming in the water. A busy main state highway that runs across the top area of the marsh. Lots and lots of cars were parked on the edges of the road with families, watching out for traffic. People were wandering about taking in the sights.
When our daughters were young, we made sure that they also had the opportunity to see this mighty spectacle. I still enjoy going across that state highway and exploring the area. A recent addition is a park-like area with a paved one-way auto road with pull-outs and informational signage. Trails to hike and a boardwalk that has a gazebo with scopes get visitors out into the marsh for better viewing. There are also various dykes and dirt roads to boat landings to explore. After the autumn rush of migration, it is still a fun place to visit, and so far no matter when we visit, I have never been disappointed. It seems like we are always able to find some wildlife and sometimes get great photos of birds we don’t see on a regular basis.”
SBF – “When I bought a house in FL her son told me that the lady who had lived there before had loved her house and property very much. After I moved in with my friend, Jinx, on several nights I awoke to the TV sounds in the family room so I would go turn it off. This went on for 3-4 nights. Finally, on the fifth night I turned it off once more, but I stood by it and spoke to the previous owner. I told her I loved the house and lovely plants around it, a ginger bush, a beautiful poinsettia bush, and a pretty plant on the backyard fence. Then I promised I would try to care for them as best as I could. “But please,” I asked, “could you not turn on the TV after we go to bed at night as I had to get up to go to work 5 days a week.”
The TV never went on at night after that!”
Thanks for sharing autumn stories!
Joye Winey, Guest Blogger
I was working in my yard one day when a car pulled into my driveway. The driver rolled down her window and said “You’re that lady who walks !!”
And, I have always been. Walking has been my go-to exercise and meditation since I can remember. Today as an Octogenarian with asthma, an iffy knee, and bone issues, I walk daily, for one hour. It is a very rare day that I miss. I plan my day around my walk. I walk any time of the day that works for me, early morning or early evening when I have other obligations. I need light and fresh air so I walk outside — in the rain, the snow, below zero and 90 degrees. I walk inside when there is ice.
I dress for the weather. My full-length raspberry down coat stands out against the snow. I love having my nose and cheeks cold and on hot days, I take the best shower after. I hang on to my straw hat in the wind.
I am fortunate to live where traffic is light, near a small manmade lake. I walk in the same area but take different routes.
I note the trees flowering in the spring, different ones turning autumn orange; the farmers planting or harvesting; turtles sunning on the rocks, and eagles flying over. I delight in the blue heron on the bank; a mink or muskrat swimming by; geese honking or ducklings trying to keep up with Mom. Rushing water over the spillway after heavy rain and sunrises and sunsets elicit a” Wow!” each time I experience them. Clouds or brilliant blue skies and lately, roofers doing their acrobatic dance in silhouette on someone’s new roof at dusk capture my attention.
These are some of the things that catch my eyes and ears as I walk. I have found coins sometimes. Once a tiny dinosaur for my grandson. And lately, a collection of roofing nails that I pick up so my neighbors’ tires won’t. Each day brings new surprises. I always return home refreshed and energized for the next task. I sleep well and have managed to keep mostly positive during this unsettling year. When deep ice comes, I no longer walk outside. In past years I have done that walking at a local medical facility. I don’t know if they will allow me to do that this year. If not, I will find somewhere else.
But walk I will. And lastly, I walk because, blessedly, I can.
Light refracting off clouds.
I take a different route each day.
I pause to watch the herons.
Thick smoke obscures the sun.
Sunsets always elicit at “Wow!” from Joye.
We settle into fall and sometimes like to just browse past stories. Here are some links to more recent Gazette features and natures notes.
Explore Iowa’s National Parks. August 2020
Take Advantage of Iowa’s County Gems July 2020
Why RV Life Isn’t for These Senior Tent Campers. July 2020
Bear Sightings in Iowa Getting More Common. June 2020
Take a Walk on the Wilder Side April 2020
Derecho Stories: Get Outside and Walk But Stay Safe September 2020, Rebirth Amid the Rubble September 2020
Overlook from Effigy Mounds
A near, fun place to walk and climb is Waldo’s rock.
Sunrise on a changed landscape
We have adjusted to getting older by using a larger tent and cots.
Herbert Hoover was Iowa’s only president.
Bear sightings are more common in Iowa.
Guest Bloggers Reply
Readers offered their activities in The Great Pause. Most were home-centered with some careful forays into society. And, of course, connecting with self and nature.
SA: My mother was in a nursing home in Bettendorf. Visitors were prohibited but I was able to wave to her and blow kisses through a glass door. After 3 weeks of isolation from family, she passed away on March 31. We could not have a proper funeral due to the virus. It was not how I imagined her life would end. My husband still had to go to work every day so my days were spent in solitary isolation.
Gardening Offers Solace
Looking out at the world.
Once the weather warmed up, I spent hours in the garden and puttering in the flower beds. I cleaned out my garden shed and found an old birdhouse one of the boys had built-in Cub Scouts 20 years ago, I painted it and hung it in our ash tree. A wren immediately investigated.
I had twice-weekly Zoom meetings for an organization I belong to. I acquired the Audible version of Stephen King’s unabridged book “The Stand”–which I read back in the late 70s–but at 1,000 pages, I chose to listen to it instead. (That took 45 hours.) Listening to it while I cooked, cleaned house, and drove around was entertaining and frightening, considering the subject matter.
Connecting with Nature
Leisure in the pasture.
Steve and I walked outside every day, hiked the Amana Nature Trail, Pleasant Creek Park, FW Kent Park, and others. On one cold, overcast day, we climbed into the car and drove backcountry gravel roads in the area east of Solon, with no idea where they led or where we would end up. We were rewarded with beautiful pastoral landscapes, green pastures dotted with peeks of sunshine between dark clouds, and a delightful trio of baby goats scampering in a pen next to the road. We were able to get out of the car and interact with them for a while. Such a joy in these dark times to watch new life scamper about, trying out their legs.
“Music Speaks Louder Than Words….”
JH: Well, I’ve spent almost every day since the middle of March on return from Florida playing every single piece of music that’s been stacked in the closet for many moons. I’ve kept certain pieces aside so that I can call a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, a business person, and play and sing a song to them over the phone. Some of the music is from 1897 and much of it is from the early 1900s to the mid-1970s. It’s been a total blessing to me and everyone has been most appreciative and one friend shed a few tears because her mom and dad’s favorite song was “Cruising Down the River” which I didn’t know when I selected it.
I’ve also written numerous Corner Shot articles and sent them to the Roanoke Times. Several of my articles have been posted in the master gardener’s newsletter. I’ll keep on keeping until we can mingle and hug one another again.
Self Care & Connecting
KK: Submitted to cataract surgery and nursed eyes back to health. Put in many eye drops. Learned a new healing skill. Spend too many hours on Zoom. Wore and washed the same few clothes over and over. I practiced gratitude.
Calming through writing.
Joined a new church in another city via Zoom. Ventured out to a couple of restaurants open at 50% and ate outside. Found a Tai Chi class on the labyrinth at the park. Made finger labyrinths. Washed clothes. Did much personal growth work. Wrote someone a letter and mailed it via snail mail. Received a letter in return. Planned a retreat that may not happen this year. Cleaned out desk and found someone else’s treasure, mailed it to them. Washed clothes. Did online Yoga. Washed more clothes….