Today we packed out of Miles City, MT and drove toward Cody, WY. We decided to make a straight shot and arrive before the end of the day. As we traveled, the sky grew darker and the clouds thicker. It was an ominous sight! Stopping in Billings for gas we encountered Cowboy Randy who showed us how to use our phone to pick up the weather channel so we could watch for tornado warnings.
We knew his name was Cowboy Randy because we had both ordered sandwiches at the Arby’s in the Quick Stop and he saw our ticket on the counter with the name “Randy” on it. “Is your name Randy?” he asked my husband. “Yes,” he replied. The gentleman, dressed in jeans, cowboy boots and hat, with a plaid Western shirt and a huge belt buckle to match, exclaimed in a soft toned twang that he thought that was coincidental! He shared that HIS middle name was “Randy.” He went on to explain that his first name was “Cowboy,” but his middle name was “Randy.” I guess he’d never met anyone named Randy before! Funny how grace appears in even the most unlikely places – like the Quick Stop along I-90 in Billings, MT. He was so concerned that we should not be driving into the severe weather.
And, sure enough, before we got out the door with our sandwiches in hand, it started to pour! We waited in the quick stop for several minutes as Cowboy Randy’s phone indicated that the weather was moving at a fast rate to the north and east.
We waited several minutes, said our thanks to Cowboy Randy, and then made a mad dash and settled back into the car to continue our journey south and west. And we soon were driving into the sun with snow-capped mountains rising in front of us.
We arrived in Cody, WY in the early afternoon and decided to just stop and rest, both of us feeling a little road weary.
It has become increasingly difficult to keep this up each evening, so as you can see, I haven’t. But here we are at day Thirty-one and tonight we are resting in Dickinson, North Dakota.
It has been an amazing journey, though, with grace beyond grace to be found at every turn, on every river, under every tree, beside every rock, in every restaurant, at every National Historic Site, and with each reunion of friends.
I am keeping notes, and may go back and fill in on the intervening days, but suffice it to say we are enjoying every minute and are continually marveling at the beauty of all creation. I pray you can also see and experience such grace in your days!
For now, just a few pictures from today of the prairie and the rocks of North Dakota. Keep in mind that the first two and the last two were taken within sixty miles of each other. Amazing!!!
A quick breakfast at the hotel and we were on the road. Keeping us entertained along the way is Robert Ludlum’s Scorpio Illusion on audio, read by none other than Robert Lansing. Needless to say, it is a fun addition to the landscape and the beautiful views
Our first stop was Seneca Falls where there is a National Park dedicated to the Woman’s Suffrage Movement. The information was superbly displayed and the film tugged at my emotions! There are still so many ways that women are not yet fully equal in our society even in the Twenty-First Century.
We made a quick stop in Buffalo, NY to see the site where Teddy Roosevelt was inaugurated and then, along the route to the Peace Bridge into Canada, I saw another point of interest. Stopped at a red light, I noticed Holy Angels Parish, where the Oblates of Mary Immaculate had established a church in the 1800’s. If I remember correctly, I believe that was where a dear friend was stationed early in his priestly career.
Finding our way to our hotel in Niagara Falls, Canada, we quickly unloaded and then walked down to the falls in the late afternoon sunlight. Although cold, it was extraordinary! So much natural beauty and such a force of nature! After walking a couple of miles, stopping for pictures at every new angle, we rested and refueled with hamburgers at a lovely restaurant overlooking the falls. The waitress was so friendly and offered to take our picture.
Walking back to the hotel we both remarked how fortunate we are to have this time; to be in this place; and to have each other! All grace!
We left our lovely retreat in Massachusetts and made our way West through the scenic countryside of up-state New York. We had to stop in Rome, NY where there is a National Park on the site of the Revolutionary War Fort Stanwix. After traveling back in time and exploring the fort, we picnicked in the car and turned our nose North to visit Sandy Creek, NY and see if we could find more ancestral sites. Some generations of Underhill’s moved to Sandy Creek and then to Ellisburg – which we had to visit as well. Both were small quaint towns of attractive character. My ancestors picked beautiful places to settle! Wanting to see Lake Ontario, we make a side trip to a state park where it was wildly windy and threatened to storm, so I took a couple of quick pictures and we traveled on.
By late afternoon we arrived in Syracuse, NY where I had lived when I was in the 6th grade. Talk about a travel back in time! We found the house on Livingston St., and the small mini grocery on Westcott Ave. where I used to walk to for milk. We found the school I attended and the church where we worshiped. Just being in the neighborhood, I remembered Thornden Park where I used to play with neighborhood friends and where we went swimming on hot days – all still there, mostly unchanged.
Dinner was a feast of familiar ethnic fare – German food – and it was excellent! For a wonderful bonus, I got a call from each of my four sons and then I called my own mother to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. All in all, a beautiful and grace-filled day.
Blessed rain again today! So, that meant sitting on the deck and reading, doing a little writing, and planning the route for the future as we leave this spot tomorrow. Today also included some packing and repacking. We have to make sure everything will fit into our little Prius again. It’s a little like one of those puzzles that once you take it apart it is nearly impossible to put back together again! So, we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see if we are successful.
Reveling in the lovely sun pouring through our bedroom window, we spent Friday morning sleeping in. When we got ourselves moving, we trekked into Pittsfield, MA to find the home of Herman Melville and the spot where he wrote Moby Dick. All we could do was admire the huge house that he built for his family and the lovely surrounding farm as the house was being restored and was not open to visitors.
So, we drove back down to Stockbridge and found the Museum dedicated to one of Stockbridge’s most famous residents – Norman Rockwell. If asked, it would not be a hard push to say that Norman Rockwell is my favorite artist. While he didn’t think of himself as an artist, but an illustrator, it is clear that he gave the American people a huge gift through his enormous talent and prolific art.
We spent several hours in the museum viewing his art and learning how he set up his studio and how he made several versions of the same scene, using models and people he knew as subjects, until he was happy with the results. In a film about him and his work, he himself said that he just painted pictures of everyday things and “captured the things most people missed.” It sounded a lot like finding grace to me and I immediately liked him and his work even more.
We walked the grounds of the beautiful Berkshire Mountains that Rockwell also walked and we were so grateful to have experienced such grace.
Just when we thought we were experiencing a little overload from too much sightseeing and museum hopping, it rained. What a lovely reprieve. We stayed in, did the wash, read our books and even made a special trip down to the main office to connect to the internet for a few minutes.
After all the sun and beauty of the past few weeks, we relished the cool beauty of the gentle rain. It didn’t prevent us from eating out on the deck nor from being grateful for the grace of this place and time.
We decided on a shorter excursion for the day and backtracked a bit into Springfield, MA, the capital. There we visited the National Park that was once the Springfield Armory. I had known since I was a little girl that “Springfield” and “rifle” went together, but I never knew why or how. Touring the old armory was a lesson in necessity, creativity, invention, and the hard work of thousands of people. From the 1790’s, the Springfield Armory produced rifles for American troops and the production allowed our country independence from foreign arms. At first, each rifle was individually crafted and forged. Eventually, the ingenuity of a worker led to the creation of a lathe that could guarantee the mass production of identical rifle stocks. This and other cutting edge changes were the first evidence of the industrial revolution in this country. The Springfield M1 rifle, or the “Springfield ‘03” (as my dad reverently called it – because it was first manufactured in 1903) is still considered the most accurate rife ever made. The factory was decommissioned in 1968 and now is a museum to the creativity of a young country struggling to defend itself from dangers, both near and far.
While the history was fascinating, I couldn’t help but think how far – and yet, not so far, our country has come in the past 200 years. It seems a shame that anyone would need or want a rifle for any purpose in today’s world. And I began to daydream about what the adjacent museum to the armory might look like in the future (and, hopefully, the not too far and distant future). Perhaps there could be an institute explaining the mechanics of communication, interpersonal as well as business, corporate, and global. Perhaps it could display the effects of the ingenuity of people who discovered ways to negotiate and creatively resolve conflicts and disagreements of every kind. Perhaps it’s only a dream, but it seems little to ask when we have such huge resources that are continuing to develop weapons. Can we not also afford some resources going to develop peace? What a wonderful grace that would be!
After packing a lunch we set out to travel up the Hudson River Valley to the town of Saratoga where the decisive battle of the Revolutionary War was won. The spot was extraordinarily beautiful and looked like it had been cut from a postcard. It made me appreciate all over again what a gifted artist our Creator is!
We also found the town of Victory, NY where there is a large monument dedicated to the fallen men who fought the battle with ultimate success.
Realizing we were only a hop, skip and a jump from a town in Vermont that was on our family history tour, we headed our little Prius back east and entered our 11th state since leaving D.C. – Vermont. There are not words to describe the beauty we drove past. There were winding rivers with small farms; rolling hills with the spring foliage waving in the sunshine; small quaint communities and little burgs, some with homes sporting the laundry drying on the line. The sun-soaked sky was studded with white puffy clouds and the pallet of colors was stunning. I never knew there could be so many shades of green. With memories of Bubba Gump, we launched on a list of . . . spring green; olive green; river green; yellow-green; pea green; emerald green; sea green; forest green; lime green; evergreen; and, well, you can imagine the rest. It made for a fun car game. But truly, the spring tree’s colors were a sight to behold.
We found our way into Dorset, VT which is a little town believed to have been founded by my 5th great-grandfather, Isaac Underhill. We found the marble quarry that he established and the roadside sign that gave proof to this bit of family history. We found his grave and the graves of three generations of Underhill’s in the Maple Hill cemetery in town. After stopping at a small gift shop for some maple syrup and a piece of VT marble, we made our way back south through lovely little local towns and villages to return to our base of operations in the Berkshire Mountains of MA. What grace there was in every color of every sight, at every turn, in every spot!
In the comfort of a two bedroom condo in the Berkshire Mountains in MA, we spent the entire day toasting our toes on the deck in the Spring MA sunshine. With no internet available we had to find other pleasures . . . and we did – mostly relaxing and reading.
While some of us napped, I took a walk (unfortunately, I neglected to bring my camera) down to Highway 102 and enjoyed a little babbling brook that ran into a full grown river, the Housatonic, and found St. Francis Gallery along the way. I walked farther on, but was so intrigued that on my return, I had to make a visit inside. The owner was a talkative gentleman who was so excited to entertain a visitor from Seattle! He shared that he bought the small church a year ago. It had stood empty since it closure in 2005 and now was enjoying a new life as his little art gallery. This was a tiny little church, mind you, which had to have been no more than 6 to 10 pews deep. Its new owner kept all the “aura” of the parish church as he established his little art gallery, because “art is very spiritual, too,” he assured me. Walking through the small space he introduced me, through their work, to some of the local artists. One woman, in her nineties, painted with the flare of Henri Matisse. Another man, in his nineties, painted beautiful landscapes on location! A young woman provided a wall of cartoon drawings depicting the trials of her life and relationships. And, I also admired the six stained glass windows, left from the church days, which portrayed the life and charisms of St. Francis and St. Clare. The window sills held the altar candelabra and the altar flower stands had been repurposed to hold a guest book and a beautiful sculpture. Yes, there is no doubt about it, art – any art – is very spiritual and also filled with grace.