Journal Writing Helps Recall Events

What did I do yesterday morning? Did I make it to that meeting last Monday? Darn.  I can’t remember. I’m forgetful. Fortunately, my journal writing isn’t.

18,250 days

Every day since April 1973 I’ve written a simple journal entry on small format lined binder paper. Haven’t missed a single day. Entries aren’t great writing and are rarely emotional. It’s not a diary. On some days I write only a few lines, while I might fill a page on more happening days.

My journal records about 18,250 days of my life. Combined notebooks take up about three feet of shelf space.

Uses of Journaling

Man reaches for journals on shelf


Useful? Yup. When did we go to Yellowstone National Park?  I remembered the month and year but not the dates. In minutes I found those dates in my notebook and learned what we did each day. What did we do on Christmas Eve 18 years ago?  My journal reminds me.

My notes are simple, short, and often skip perfect grammar, but they are meant to bring every day into clear memory………so each journal entry records something distinctive about that day. Here’s a simple entry:

Monday, January 16, 2023: Weirdly warm with temperature in the 50s. Made new plywood shelves for my tool cabinet. Payton (a neighbor kid) was visiting when sirens blew warning of a potential tornado. We sheltered in the basement. No tornado here but one hit near Williamsburg, the first January tornado in Iowa since 1967.

Like Brushing Teeth

I’ve been journaling for so long it is as routine as brushing my teeth. Blank journal paper goes with me on trips, and I’ve even scribbled entries by lantern light at campgrounds.

My memory lapses.  My journal never does.

What are Ways YOU Remember?

People have other ways to remember or “journal.”  Share some and we can post on Winding Pathways

Who Gets Tattoos and Why?

Tattoos to You

Recently we have noted people’s tattoos. How fun and meaningful they are. That has not always been the case. Throughout cultures, in eras past, tattoos have been both shunned and venerated. Dating from 5,000 years ago, in Japanese cultures, tatts identified gangs and slaves. Similar to today in different regions of the world.

On the other hand, ancient Egyptian themes centered on fertility and protection in childbirth, the arts and dance.

European Influence

The Picts and Celts of Scotland and Ireland sported fierce body art that duly impressed the Roman soldiers who admired the virile images and feared the fierce warriors.

Europe’s relation with tattoos has been influenced by the several other cultures that invaded over centuries. Again, its fortunes rose and fell as cultures adopted for signs of wealth or as ways to identify slaves. The sordid history of tattoos associated with Nazis soured Americans on tattoos until more recent years.  Today, people of all ages and social statuses sport tattoos. Most have special meaning to the person displaying them.

Here are a few we’ve chatted with people about.

Kate started the quest for stories at the recent Outdoor Writers Association of America conference at Gulf Shores, Alabama. When she travels she researches tattoo artists in the cities and countries she plans to visit, scans their electronic portfolios, checks their credentials, and connects with them. From standard to fine lines, and from nature to sayings by loved ones, each tells stories important to her and is a memento of trips.

Nature themes are popular. The phoenix theme rising again and a nod to the tattoo owner’s children and the magpie is often interpreted as a sign of good luck.

Egyptian themes have resonated with librarians and “mermaids!” Harthor, the Goddess of fertility, love, and protection in birth & parenting; the “good luck” scarab beetle; and cats, are always venerated in Egyptian mythology.

Triangles connect family, Buttercup, of the Powerpuff Girls, the animated TV series from the 1990s inspires humor and superpowers. The State of Kansas motto shines brightly on this man’s arm.

Sailors popularized tattoos in the 1700s when returning from long voyages, especially from the Pacific Islands, sporting elaborate tatts. Of course, soon, royalty had to follow. Purportedly even Winston Churchill and his mother had tattoos.

The popularity of tattoos is on the rise with personalized images and sayings in full display.


Following The Frog Statue Through the Seasons

At the foot of East Post Road SE, just by Indian Creek is the frog statue that dons varied outfits each season and for many events.  Take a look through the years. And visit our website for amphibian blogs.

The frog is serious about keeping healthy and helping after storms.


Further into the year:

Middle of the Year is graduation, summer fun, and the Fourth of July with a loyal “Vandal” from Idaho!


Always a civic Duty Calls.

We are “hopping” to add more photos as we walk by the ever-current and exciting Frog Statue. To learn about real frogs of Iowa visit the website link.






Ancient people accomplished what seems impossible.  How did they do it?

We recently toured the Earthmoving Legacy Center near Elkader, Iowa. On display were diesel and gasoline-powered machines able to move massive quantities of dirt for today’s needs.  (Moving Heaven and Earth)

A month later we stood in a field near Chillicothe, Ohio, gazing at an enormous earth mound. The next day we visited other nearby sites with earthen walls, circles, and squares. All were separated by many miles and were large – some spanning hundreds of feet long and dozens of stories high. All were made around 2000 years ago by people of the Hopewell Culture. We learned that the squares are identical and fit inside the large circles.  Somehow, they did this hard work without machines. No metal shovels. Not even wheelbarrows. How did they do it?

Can a Principle of Geology Lend Insights?

Visitors regard tall Mounds.

Recreated Earthworks

Hopewell, like visits to Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa and Cahokia in Illinois, stimulates more questions than answers. Perhaps a tenet of Geology can guide us.  The Present is the Key to the Past. So, let’s consider. Why do we build structures? How do we move earth today? What do people who build need to sustain them while they build? (Food, shelter, clothing) Who provides this? Where do we get our goods? Perhaps these questions can provide insight into the past.

History is Written by the “Victors”

In our 1950s and 1960s school classes, we learned that European explorers and early settlers discovered scattered bands of Native Americans making a primitive living hunting, gathering, and gardening. No mention was made of our continent’s once vast population of sophisticated, technologically-advanced, and organized Native Americans who built magnificent structures and had an extensive trade system. Some of us did learn about the impressive Mayan and Aztec cultures in Mesoamerica.

Amazing Commerce

Pipestone artifacts

Pipestone was traded far and wide.

Little did we learn about the varied North American indigenous cultures that were far superior than originally believed. For example, Hopewell people made tools of obsidian that originated at Yellowstone, created jewelry of copper from the upper Great Lakes region, and used shells from the Gulf of Mexico. They somehow got these distantly sourced goods without airplanes, trucks, or Amazon Prime! Somehow goods moved across thousands of miles before horses and even wheels were available.

Sources of Information

Archeologists have solved some riddles about how ancient people did things, but many mysteries remain. Puzzling and fascinating. We have had published a number of pieces on ancients including the desert Southwest, to Pipestone in Minnesota, to Mounds along the Mississippi from Effigy to Cahokia.

Together, let us learn more about the rich heritage that is both before, beneath us, and behind us. A good source of information is The Great Courses offerings by Dr. Edwin BarnhartAncient Civilizations of North America, and Dr. Daniel CobbNative Peoples of North America.

Sitting – a Rewarding Outdoor Experience

Sitting: it’s a rewarding outdoor activity. How can that be when everyone knows that being outdoors means movement? Hiking, cycling, skiing, canoeing, and swimming all get the heart beating and muscles working.


We love all these activities but recently were reminded that sitting quietly is a fascinating and productive way to spend time outdoors. On a gorgeous May morning, we stopped at the road’s end in Iowa’s Brush Creek Canyon Nature Preserve. A narrow informal path lured us past a rock outcropping high above a gurgling brook.

We carried the sling chairs and binoculars that we keep in the car down a narrow informal footpath. Just a hundred yards later we found a level spot with a perfect view downward through trees to the water.

Sit we did. Enmeshed in secluded quiet we sat so still that warblers and vireos flitted among the trees. Even a hummingbird buzzed in front of us. A fly settled on Rich’s pants, explored a bit, and then went on its way.

Active outdoor activities are good for the body and mind, but sometimes sitting is the best way to notice our world and its inhabitants. When we scurry down a trail, wildlife hides or flees. When we sit and become part of the landscape, wildlife ignores the human presence and goes about its business.


Moon through trees

Tree branches help you watch the moon move across the sky.

Here’s our favorite sitting exercise that can be done almost anywhere. As a full moon rises, position a comfortable chair with tree branches or even overhead wires between it and the moon. Sit very still. Using branches or the wire as a reference it’s possible to watch the moon move.




Oh, Brush Creek Canyon. We recommend it as one of Iowa’s wildest natural gems.  It’s just north of Arlington in Fayette County. Go outside. Have fun.

Look Up! Look Down! Shhhh, Listen!

A Season of Variables

After a drab March “look up, look down, listen” season is here. It’s exciting and frustrating. Always something to see and hear and things we miss, too.

What is look up, look down, listen?  Well, when we walk in woods and prairies, we’re always attuned to nature’s beauty and curiosities. In the Northern Hemisphere April and May force challenges and delights, as the earth turns toward the sun. Its warmth stimulates new life while welcoming arrivals from down south.

Here in Iowa, like much of the United States, bird migration rises through April and peaks in early May. Woods, wetlands, and prairies are filled with bird species we haven’t seen since last year.

Look Up!

“Look up,” Marion remarked on one April walk last year. She spotted the first Rose Breasted Grosbeak of the season. He was perched on a thin branch high in a sycamore tree. As we walked along, we kept looking up to spot other new arrivals. They added color and song to those of cardinals, chickadees, and woodpeckers who are our neighbors all year.

Look Down!

After admiring the Grosbeak and moving on, I said, “look down.” We had been paying so much attention to birds up in the trees that we almost trampled a Dutchman’s Breeches, a delicate white wildflower with petals shaped like old-time Dutch pants. Looking down revealed spring beauties, Mayapples, hepatica, and anemones. Some were not quite in bloom and a few had gone by, but most were in their spring glory.

Shhhh! Listen

Passing a low wetland, we both paused to hear the songs of the chorus frogs and peepers that greet listeners each spring between the vernal equinox and Easter.

So, what do we do on a spring walk? Look up or down or listen? All of these. It is the best time of year to enjoy beauty clinging to the soil, singing from treetops, and chorusing from ephemeral pools.

Make Nature ID easier with Apps

Spotting birds hiding invisibly in tangles of branches and vines is challenging. What’s in that thicket singing? Thanks to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, we turn on our Merlin app, point the phone where the songs originate, and learn who’s singing. Merlin is easy to download from the app store. Sometimes we are lucky and watch migratory birds close at hand.  

Some people even lure birds in with treats that are eagerly consumed by arriving birds.

Wildflowers cannot hide but can be confusing. We sometimes use an app called SEEK to identify ones that are mysterious to us. SEEK is also easy to download from the app store and can also help identify trees, weeds, and other living things.

Look up, look down, listen! season may be the very best time to be outside. We love it.