Sun 17 May 2015
We are home tonight, after a week-long road trip. We visited family while sitting along the Mississippi River watching the barges go by and the cold wind whip the river into white caps. At night, in our room, we could hear the low hum of the tug boat coming either up-or down-stream, pushing anywhere from six to fifteen barges. Some were riding high, obviously empty; others were low in the water, full of something we could only guess at.
We then followed the river north and went to a friend’s graduation from seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. We explored the Methodist church in downtown Dubuque, a magnificent structure full of Tiffany glass windows. With all the wealth made by businesses along the Mississippi in days gone by, Dubuque had a lot of money. It shows in their public buildings from that era. Their library, a Carnegie, is one of the most lovely libraries I have seen in a long time. They just don’t build them like that any more.
One our way from Dubuque back to I-80 West, we went through Scotch Grove, Iowa. There, my husband’s mother’s family used to have a world-renowned farm implement business. The son took over from the father but then after a while, the next generation was not interested. The business closed, with the warehouses stuffed with parts sold to buyers from all over the world. Scotch Grove is in danger of returning to the dust just as its hard-working and prosperous inhabits from days gone by have done. I am thrilled to have been given a large stoneware bowl from their wares years ago. I treasure it for its size, heft and history.
Traveling along Interstate 80, we listen to talking books. We heard all sixteen hours of Willa Cather’s “The Song of the Lark” and began “Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin” by Jill Lepore. Anyone who longs for this nation to return to its “Christian roots” need only engage this book. Though a preacher of the Gospel, Cotton Mather was not a great example of the love of Christ, from what I can discern. Benjamin Franklin, Jane’s brother, fathered a child out of wedlock and then moved into a common-law marriage arrangement with a different woman to cover up the deed. One can only fantasize about returning to some perceived “golden age” in this nation if you don’t know the Deist faith of Thomas Jefferson, who cut out the parts of the Bible he didn’t like and studied the lives of some of the other founding fathers, who were less than exemplary in many ways. From before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, there were scoundrels and people of integrity on both sides of the religious aisle. We seem to forget history so quickly.
In Jane Franklin’s day, many of her children died of what is now believed to be tuberculosis. Seeing Middle America, in motel breakfast rooms and even the graduation audience made me wonder if our obesity and poor eating habits will shorten the life of many adults and children alike, much as untreatable diseases did in the 18th century. Coming from a very fitness-minded area, I do wonder how the lack of care for our bodies will play itself out in the future. I came home with a renewed commitment toward healthy habits.
I also came home appreciative of the vast beauty of this nation. From its mountains, which I see daily, to its rivers, which I get to spend time on, the land is a beautiful gift from God. May it be well cared for as well.