Saturday, February 25, 2012

Finding Flowers in the Winter

Today we headed for the Como Park Conservatory. It opened at 10 AM, so we waited at home until about 9:40, for I thought it wouldn't be any fun waiting in a cold parking lot. Much to my surprise when we got there, I found the parking lot full.
Conservatory Building -- some parts dating to 1914
We headed first for the area known as the North Garden. This has trees and plants we in Minnesota find in different ways. For example, there is the small tree from which we get allspice, but clearly in this state one buys allspice at the grocery store. This garden also has many beautiful orchids.

At one end there were a collection of red and pink flowers that caught my eye.
The above scene is so peaceful.

In a side room we found a wonderful collection of photos about bears, the work of Lyn Rogers the researcher responsible for the bear cam.  I learned a great deal about bears through these photos. Black bears are much more frightened of us than we are of them. With the movement into the bear habitat and the increase actually in the number of bears, more of us are living with bears around than we know. They are simply very good at hiding from us. And bears survived for thousands and thousands of years because they have the ability to climb trees. Anything that wanted to prey on them couldn't climb trees. And a bear cub is highly dependent upon food in the environment -- well duh! you may say, but their weight at the end of the first year of life may vary from 15- 160 pounds! And I always thought bears hibernated because of the cold, but they do this to avoid starvation. If there is food in the environment they will stay in the forest all winter.

We walked next to the Sunken Garden. This is always a beautiful place and often the place for wedding pictures.
Here's a closer view of some of the flowers.

At the end of the reflection pool I found some interesting views.

The one below shows the reflection of the roof.

The shop in the visitor center also provided something I'll use for English lessons this summer in Poland.  We had a lovely morning!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Blog Words

Another blog friend wrote about Tagxedo. It looked like fun, so I tried it out. Here's what shows up from my blog words.

Unusual Usual Views

Yesterday I went for a walk along the river. When I came out of the door of my building and crossed the street, the icicle took my eye because I realized it was the first time this whole winter that I've seen any icicles.

Today the wind was very cold, but the sun kept coming out of the clouds. I picked up my older daughter to stay with me for the weekend. About 4:30 she pointed out the window and here's what we saw.

We've had so little snow this winter that this usual view is quite unusual.

Just before it really got dark I noticed how pretty were the rooftops on the bluff.

The quick snow made the roofs look gingerbread houses with white icing on top.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Books for Africa

Yesterday, while at a the Science Museum, we wandered down a hallway and discovered a display about Books for Africa. Currently the emphasis is on sending books to Gambia. Why? The exhibit explains that the literacy rate in Gambia is only 40%. One reason for such a low literacy rate is that the country is part of the book famine. It is difficult to learn to read and then develop more advanced reading skills when there are no books! 

This organization has its offices in Saint Paul and on its web site one can see the place books can be delivered locally. Books for other locations in the United States may be sent to a Georgia address. See the web site for more information.

The present exhibit at the Science Museum explains that students from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design are working on how to make book shelves economically to safely store and display books in hot and humid environments.

In the past couple years I have had the privilege of touring some libraries in Europe that hold books beginning at the time when books began to be printed. That experience, as well as this, reminds me how much we take books for granted. Yet for others their lack remains a huge problem. Hope you will explore this web site and see if there is any way you may be helpful.

Under the Sea Adventure

This weekend the nearby Science Museum of Minnesota opened an amazing exhibit about pirates. This will be a topic at some point in the future. Since this is a somewhat holiday weekend I thought the museum would be crowded. My older daughter and I decided just to go see the see film in the Omnitheater, and we purposefully got there at 10:30 this morning. It takes about 12 minutes to walk from the door of my flat to the ticket line at the museum. Even at 10:30 we waited in line for 25 minutes for the film tickets.

Under the Sea was filmed at the Coral Triangle off the shore of Papua New Guinea. I think it is one of the best film I've ever seen at the Omnitheater. The Coral Triangle is gloriously beautiful and there are some many fish and other sea creatures in this area that are very unique.

During my career at the Minnesota Department of Health I had a colleague who had served in the Peace Corps in southeast Asia. He told a story about wading ashore among the sea snakes. Until today I had only heard about them.  We learned sea snakes breathe oxygen, but have the capability of diving down 100 feet and can remain underwater for several hours.

This is just a sample of the beautiful and highly informative scenes in the film. I tried to insert more videos into this blog, but blogger software is just behaving for doing that. If you are around Minnesota, I urge you to see this film. And watch for it to eventually get to other OmniMax screens across the U.S.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Night View

I teach a Global Health Issues class that meets on certain Monday evenings. Late this afternoon, we started to get a bit of snow. When I walked out of the building at 9 PM tonight I saw we had received just a dusting of snow, but that was enough to create special stillness that seems to come with new snowfalls.

In the evening light, I saw how beautiful was the New Main Building on campus.

This view particularly took my eye because in my class of 18 students, I think they come from about 10 different countries ranging from the Philippines to Nepal to Kenya. Just what university life is like in the early 21st century.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Just Ducks!

I took a walk along the river this morning around 9 AM. The world was very quiet except for some very noisy ducks.

Oh were they talking! I don't think it was a complaint about the weather. Rather I think they were discussing their fool comrade who was remaining behind by about 100 feet, wondering why he or she couldn't keep up with the rest of them!

February brings wonderful events, such as eating my evening meal with sunshine coming in the window! We've made it that far towards spring. Now as I write at 5:50 PM it is not totally dark!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Winona's Polish Museum

This past weekend I visited friends in Winona, MN, and they made an opportunity for me to visit the Polish museum there. This museum's collection is largely objects, books, and photographs people brought with them when they immigrated from Poland.

The people who came here are largely Kashubian, and Winona has a sister city relationship with Bytow which is one of the unofficial capitals of Kashubia. In the mid-19th century workers were recruited to come to this area to work in the lumber industry. Areas of the Minnesota territory were covered with forest. As the trees were cut, the logs were floated down the Mississippi to the lumber mills in Winona.

The museum is housed in a re-purposed warehouse building.

The artisan work for the remodeling of the warehouse includes this fine work in the floor.

 The connection to the lumber industry is maintained with this fine fireplace.

 This fireplace comes from the President's office from one of the large lumber companies.

Here's a nice view of one of the rooms in the museum.

Here are some objects that caught my eye.

Someone's lovely old books. (Sorry for the light reflection in the display cases. Did the best I could.)

Above is a sample of Kashubian embroidery.

This is a chest made by an immigrant family to bring their medicines to the United States. Seeing it alone doesn't give you a perspective about size. Think large lunch box for the size.

The above photo is far from good, but the best I could do of a painting such as I've not seen before. The flag has dates written on each of its panels that tells one this is about the Partition of Poland. The caption on the painting best translates to Poland in Leg Irons (Chains). Certainly this was a treasured object of some immigrant to the United States, and I'm glad it now is in a safe place.

The museum holds many small banners and medals for Polish cities. I picked this for a photo because one day, much to my surprise, I found myself in Nowy Targ.
And of course one thing that would have been packed for the trip to America is a special vest and blouse. The sign on this exhibit said the vest is of the style from Poznan and the blouse is Kashubian.

The museum also has some old maps. Our visiting party included another woman from Winona who was born in Poland. We found a Polish map displaying post-World War I Poland. She was able to show me the area in which she lived as a child. This area now is in Belarus. Over lunch she shared her memories of the start of World War II when she was six years old and her memories of living in Warsaw during Uprising when she as 10 years old. I'm very blessed to be trusted with these memories and insights.

Hope you enjoy this little bit of Polish immigrant history.