I chose the turtles of the Phelps Fountain in the Lyndale Park Rose Gardens as my subject for the weekly photo challenge From Every Angle. A cherished Minneapolis institution since 1908, the rose garden on the southeastern shore of Lake Harriet is the second oldest public rose garden in the United States. But the turtle fountain was not always there.
Meanwhile, in downtown Minneapolis, the 1915 Edmund J. Phelps Fountain, with its bronze turtles, sat at the center of the Gateway Park’s Beaux Arts Pavilion. During the Great Depression, the park became a gathering place for the unemployed, homeless and transients moving through the area looking for work. Eventually, the city drained the water from the basin of the turtle fountain to keep men from bathing in and drinking from it. Turns out that the turtles in my neighborhood park’s fountain were mute witnesses to dire poverty and suffering.
The turtle fountain was spared when Gateway Park was demolished. In the early 1960s, a Perennial Garden was added just east of the rose garden. The fountain was relocated in 1963 from downtown Minneapolis to the east end of this garden.
The turtle fountain, a familiar neighborhood icon, is different when seen from every (historic) angle.
See more responses to the Weekly Photo Challenge here.
Recently, our family took a daytrip down to visit some friends who live near the town of Nerstrand, MN about an hour outside of the Twin Cities. When I first moved to Minnesota, I was struck by the fact that people here always give you directions in north, south, east or west – as in “Go two blocks north and then turn west”. I had never before used the cardinal directions as a point of reference, so this was confusing to me at first. But I soon discovered that it makes sense in a Plains state where you can actually see the horizon. It becomes only natural to use the horizon and the sun’s relation to it as a frame of reference, a way of understanding the natural order of the world. When I took this picture, for example, I knew that I was facing north because it was afternoon and the sun was clearly in the west.
We happened to visit the country on a glorious fall day. The kids rode the horses (and pony) through the fields and down the road to an old graveyard that is populated by German and Norwegian immigrants to the area who settled here beginning in the 1850s. Some of the gravestones were so old that the carved names and dates had been all but erased by the elements. Others were propped against a birch tree. Having lost all connection to the graves that they once marked, they now appeared to gaze out beyond trees and fields and farms to whatever lies beyond the horizon.
It reminded me of the melancholy, nostalgic-sounding song Beyond The Horizon by Minnesota’s own Bob Dylan.
I’ve been a bike commuter on and off for twenty years. But it wasn’t until I began posting about it on Facebook recently that I began to realize that maybe biking is more for me than just transportation to and from work. I know that bike commuting impacts my daily life (I’m definitely grumpier when I have to drive), but is it possible that the simple act of riding a bike has also influenced me in other ways?
I started bike commuting back when I was in graduate school in the Boston area, motivated partly by the fact that I had no money and partly because driving, parking and everything associated with cars is a PAIN in that city. I biked to law school a lot, but I took a break during the long years of managing babies and daycare pick-up for young children. Although I don’t consider myself a serious cyclist, I have returned to steady bike commuting now that my children are older.
I have to admit that, living in Minneapolis – America’s most bike-friendly city, I have it easy as a bike commuter. It is only a 4 mile commute to my office downtown, with most of the ride in a dedicated bike lane (thanks to the 2008 economic stimulus package for cities). We even have a shower in our office building. While I don’t ride in the ice and snow of the Minnesota winters, I do bike commute almost every day from late March until early December.
October 10, 2012: The financials are in! By bike commuting for 5 months, I saved more than $700 in gas and parking. (There’s probably a way to calculate the calories burned, too but that’s too complicated for me.)
Upon reviewing and reflecting upon my Facebook posts, however, I think I can identify some other benefits of bike commuting that are a little more intangible.
I have learned to be a little more organized. Bike commuting require some planning. I have a stash of work clothes in my office and a collection of shoes under my desk. Shopping when you have to transport things in your bike panniers really forces you to plan ahead. Many a time, I have felt like a Parisian, peddling home with a baguette in my bike pannier. Other times I have kind of pushed the limits…
July 17, 2012: I’m getting to be an expert bike commuter. Tonight I rode home with two bottles of wine and a litterbox in my pannier.
I definitely notice a lot more about the world around me. I think it may be the combination of the need to watch out for cars and the time to reflect, but I have become a bike seat philosopher.
April 29, 2013: I saw some interesting things on the bike ride home from work tonight: old guy strolling cheerfully down the street in his boxers and fedora; lady going for a walk with her cat in a Baby Bjorn; guy singing at the top of his lungs while driving a black Cadillac convertible, MN license ISLAM4U; guy tossing hot sopapillas out of his apartment window to delighted passers-by on the sidewalk below; lady biking with her little-dog-Toto (whatever breed that is) in a Camelbak; and a lady in a motorized wheelchair racing a lady pushing a baby in a pram, both laughing hysterically.
I guess spring brings out the crazy in all of us!
October 15, 2013: I’ve noticed that people in convertibles smile a lot more than people driving regular cars.
I feel more connected to my community. You interact with people much more when you are on a bike than when you are in a car.
October 2, 2013: On this gorgeous fall morning, the cop directing traffic near the Convention Center called out to me as I passed him, “Have a good ride, miss!”
October 3, 2013: I am chronically late, always rushing to get to the place I was supposed to be 5 minutes ago. So I had to laugh at the guy who called out to me as I passed him on his bike, “Slow down there, girlie! You’re gonna get yourself a speeding ticket!”
There are certain characters along my bike route that have become familiar to me. People that I once would have zipped by without noticing are now friendly faces. There’s a tall homeless guy who wears a gray polarfleece jacket regardless of the weather. I pass him walking near the Convention Center most mornings and he shouts a hello. I can tell by his accent that he is from West Africa. There’s a kid who goes to Whittier Elementary who I have ridden with several times for half a mile or so on his way to school. He’s saving up to buy a day-pass to Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America. There is an elderly Somali gentlemen who raises a hand to salute me every afternoon near the Horn Towers. And then there is Gandalf in Boxer Shorts, a grizzled old guy with a long flowing beard who generally strolls down Blaisdell Avenue wearing nothing but boxer shorts and dress shoes.
May 23, 2013: I spotted Gandalf in Boxer Shorts again on the bike commute home. Then, one block later, a new character – Smeagol, Tan and Extremely Cheerful!
Is it possible that bike commuting has made me into a more compassionate human being?
October 1, 2013: This morning, I stopped and helped a kid who took a wrong turn and got lost while biking to school. So I was in Good Samaritan mode, see. On the ride home, I stopped to help an old man lying face down on the sidewalk. Imagine my surprise when it turned out he was just taking a little rest between sets of push-ups.
Nope, I guess not.
October 11, 2013: If I were a”Spiritual Healer” (which admittedly, I am not), I do not think I would choose to solicit customers by standing in front of the White Castle on Lake Street and darting out to the the bike lane when the light is red. Also, I would be a little less judgmental when the bikers refuse to take my “Spiritual Healer” card. And I would definitely not say to them, “Ohhh-kaaaay. Your loss!”
Of course, bike commuting is not all smiles and sunshine.
October 3, 2013: On this misty morning, the whole city smells like wet dog.
October 7, 2013: This morning, I rode over a banana peel in the road and almost fell off my bike. Much funnier in the cartoons than in real life.
October 8, 2013: Strong winds on the ride home tonight. Once or twice, I was standing up and peddling as hard as I could but literally going nowhere. I felt like I was in the cyclone scene from the Wizard of Oz. (Cue the Wicked Witch of the West theme song!)
October 10, 2013: I was biking home from a lovely event on a perfect fall evening under a canopy of majestic elms, gloriously ablaze with color … when a bird pooped on my shoulder.
Stay tuned! More Chronicles of a Bike Commuter to come!
Rosemaling, the decorative folk painting of Norway, began in the low-land areas of eastern Norway about 1750. Persons who rosemaled for their livelihood would not have been land owners but poor, city dwellers. After being trained within a “guild” they would travel from county to county painting churches and/or the homes of the wealthy for a commission of either money or merely room and board. Thus rosemaling was carried over the mountains and toward Norway’s western coast. Once farther away from the influence of the guilds, these artists tried new ideas and motifs.
Soon strong regional styles developed. The Telemark and Hallingdal valleys became especially known for their fine rosemaling.Upon their exposure to rosemaling, rural folk would often imitate this folk art. Not having been taught in an urban guild, the amateur became spontaneous and expressive in his work on smaller objects such as drinking vessels and boxes.
Rosemaling went out of style in about 1860-1870. Rosemaling experienced it’s revival in America in the 20th century when Norwegian-Americans gave attention to the painted trunks and other objects brought to America by their ancestors.
Conventional wisdom holds that to survive in Minnesota, you must embrace winter. Perhaps that explains the view from my kitchen:
In case you are wondering: that is a hockey rink. That’s right – a backyard rink. This winter, we decided to build a hockey rink in our backyard.
You might ask why anyone in their right mind would turn their entire backyard into a hockey rink? Well, we’ve got a couple of reasons:
The rationale for the backyard rink is that the kids will be able to just go right out the back door and skate anytime. Fresh air is better than screentime and all that. Ten minutes of skating is better than fighting with your brother, yada yada yada. We thought it might be nice to have a project that the family could work on together over winter break. Kind of like Swiss Family Robinson but with fewer pirates and more cocoa.
But what about the grass, you ask? Well, we aren’t fancy here. We’ve never really bonded with our “Freedom Lawn” of broadleaf and dandelions. We don’t, frankly, have a very good record on lawncare. This was the view from our front porch last summer:
By now, you are probably on pins and needles, waiting to hear about the logistics of building a backyard rink. You can buy a rink-in-a-box or you can google “how to build your own rink”, which is what we did. Here is how we (and by “we”, I mean my husband) built ours.
First, you build the boards. (Allow extra time for extra trips to Home Depot.)
Next you cover your backyard with a giant sheet of plastic. This one was custom-made to fit our backyard from the patio to the apple tree. Yes, there are companies that specialize in this sort of thing. AND they survived the recession!
Then you add water. Freeze.
Add more water. Freeze.
Then you wait.
And wait some more.
Are we crazy? No, definitely not. If we were crazy, we would also be building one of these suckers:
Instead, we’ve got one of these:
It is customary in Minnesota to greet people in the winter with a cheerful: “Cold enough for ya?” But it has been unseasonably warm this year and all the people who claim to “just LOVE the change of seasons!” are freaking out. The record-breaking warmth has also thrown a meteorological monkeywrench into our backyard rink plans. The whole “water freezing” part has not been working so well in 40 degree weather.
Now that we’ve got our backyard rink built, we believe that Old Man Winter will come. The low tonight is predicted to be in the single digits. Promising signs this morning that he is on his way:
I’m hopeful that very soon – maybe even by the time you read this – the view from my kitchen window will be my kids and their friends, skating around in our own backyard rink. I’ll be inside, making the cocoa.
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.”
She knew what she was talking about. Eleanor Roosevelt was the chair of the UN Human Rights Commission and even wrote part of the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948). Eleanor Roosevelt was also the mother of six children.
Mothers have an important role to play in making the world a better place for all children. This is not to minimize the roles of fathers or grandparents or guardians or anyone charged with the responsibility of raising children. But I do believe wholeheartedly that mothers have a special role. It is our job to change the world, one kid at a time.
Often mothers are the most vocal advocates for the rights of their children. This is true whether you are a mom trying to get your special needs child the services she deserves or trying to get your child out of arbitrary detention in Iran (like Shane Bauer’s mom). There are many examples of mom/human rights advocates- Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina, Mothers of Soldiers in Russia .
I personally have had the chance to meet and interview mothers involved with the organization ANFASEP in Ayacucho, Peru. These are mothers whose sons were disappeared during the long, violent conflict in Peru. For nearly 30 years, these women have been trying to find out what happened to their family members and where their remains are. One of the women we talked to had four family members who were disappeared. She wants to know where they are and who killed them. “We’re looking for justice,” she said, “and we want to know the truth.” As Mama Angelica Mendoza, President of ANFASEP, told us, “We’ll never forget about all the killings. We’ll fight to the end.”
Mothers of the disappeared (ANFASEP) in Peru.
As Eleanor Roosevelt implied more than 50 years ago, the most important place for human rights to begin is at home.
Human rights are the standards that allow all people – each and every one of the 7 billion of us on this planet- to live with dignity, freedom, equality, justice and peace.
Aren’t these the principles that govern the way we want our children to be treated? And, in a nutshell, aren’t these also the core values that every parent wants to instill in their children?
The secret to a better world is not only protecting our children from human rights abuses inflicted on them by others, but also by making them better citizens of the world. Caring about others, judging right from wrong, standing up against bullying or racist comments or sexist jokes. These are the human rights that are essential to the full development of each child as an individual, as well as to the community in which they live. This is the human rights work that changes the world.
Here are my three reasons to work for human rights. I’d love to see and hear about yours!