Travel Tuesday: Sculpture parks


St. Louis 003

“The Way” by Alexander Liberman at Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis, Mo.

Summer is the season to visit a sculpture park wherever you may find it.

Sculpture parks, sometimes referred to as sculpture gardens, offer art fans the opportunity to interact with art and nature. For me, sculpture — found object or otherwise — is more interesting than any two-dimensional art like drawing or painting and if I can enjoy it while enjoying a stroll in the sunshine, all the better. Sculpture parks are a great destination for families because they appeal to all generations.

After writing about Nyberg Park sculpture garden in central Minnesota recently, I was reminded of a visit to the Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis a decade ago.

It is an intellectually stimulating and beautiful place that you should visit if you ever get a chance. It’s an outdoor sculpture garden with all sorts of interesting sculptures made of wood, iron, steel girders and even dirt (I would have thought a sculpture made of dirt would be landscaping but apparently not).

Lots of different kinds of people were there when I was, not just art aficionados: Kids flying kites, women walking dogs, lovers enjoying the art (or each other, I’m not sure), siblings arguing about which direction to take at the fork in the road in the woods.

Like many sculpture parks, Laumeier’s was free. Can’t beat free!

If you’re interested in working a visit to a sculpture garden into your next vacation or family weekend, check out the worldwide list of sculpture parks on Wikipedia. The list is segmented by country and state. Many of the listings are hot-linked to the park’s own website so you can get all the details.

Enjoy some art and fresh air this summer.


Thanks for being my unbiological brother

My Beloved and I called our brother-in-law at 7 o’clock this morning to sing him happy birthday.

He didn’t answer. He might have been sleeping or working or fishing or just ignoring us (but I don’t think so–we’re excellent singers).

He’s the type of guy who makes May 30 worth celebrating. I love him almost as much as my sister does. He likes catsup by the gallon, a good deal, Apple stock, the Minnesota Twins, the Minnesota Vikings (for which we forgive him) and a good boat ride (which might mean a relaxing putt-putt around the lake or a raucous one dragging water skiers behind).

He’s an excellent pilot, a great dad, a capable remodeler and the voice of reason in most conversations.

Here’s to deserving brothers-in-law!


Travel Tuesday: Crater Lake National Park

Just when you might think you’ve had enough of winter (or an interminably wet spring), you’re reminded of a place that is still measuring the snow on the ground in feet.

And it’s beautiful just the same.


The snowbanks at the visitor center towered over the cars.

Two years ago in May, we visited Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. The caldera in which the lake is cupped is at an elevation of 7,000 to 8,000 feet and therefore chilly, even in May; we had to climb a 20-foot snowbank in order to catch a glimpse of the lake. And that was after a 90-minute drive through winding roadsit’s as remote as it is stunning. Forty-six feet of snow—feet, not inches—fell at Crater Lake that year; in February of this year, the park experienced the second biggest monthly snowfall in nearly 70 years at 154 inches. Road crews use rotary plows equipped with fans that can shoot snow 75 to 80 feet in the air, but Rim Drive (the road circling the lake) remains blocked at this time of year.



But forget about the snow; the real show is the lake. At 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake is the world’s deepest volcanic lake. Replenished only by rain and snow, Crater Lake is widely considered to be the cleanest, clearest large body of water in the world.

When my Beloved and I were there two years ago on a calm, sunny day, it was the bluest reflecting pool I’ve ever seen. It was so calm, it was like a mirror of the shore and the sky. Those white streaks in the water? Those are the reverse images of the wispy contrails in the sky.

Crater Lake, resting inside a caldera formed 7,700 years ago when a volcano collapsed, was established as a national park in 1902 and has been protected from lakefront developers who might sully its rugged shores. As I mentioned, it’s a remote National Park but it’s worth the trip if you find yourself in southern Oregon. As a destination, I would recommend visiting it later in the summer (when there’s less snow and easier travel).

Summer begins tomorrow: I declare

Astronomers might start counting summer’s days at the summer solstice (usually June 21) but I don’t. Summer for a native Minnesotan begins with Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day.

Most years, this one included, there are 101 days between the Saturday before Memorial Day and the Monday of Labor Day.

One hundred and one glorious days of summer. And next week feels like a bonus week in May. How often is it that we get four more May days after Memorial Day? In our family, in additional to the regular holidays of Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, we celebrate a half dozen birthdays and our anniversary during summer. This year, we have two family reunions to attend. So much to savor.

Speaking of savoring, I think everyone around here is salivating for some real summer days. It seems like it’s been overcast since September. I tire of dodging raindrops. Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say, it’s all right.

ice cream

You scream, I scream, we call scream for ice cream.

I struggle with assigning a sense to summer. Spring’s fresh air and lilacs win with the sense of smell. Autumn probably gets the color award, what with its fantastic changing leaves and orange pumpkins and golden waves of grain. Does summer best minister to our sense of taste when we enjoy sweet and creamy ice cream cones and juicy fresh tomatoes and buttery sweet corn? Or is it our sense of hearing that summer amplifies? Is it a coo of a mourning dove, the wind rustling the leaves or the laughter of children wafting through the neighborhood that say “summer” to you?

So tomorrow is the first day of summer as declared by Minnesota Transplant, and the perfect opportunity to ponder how you will best experience it. As any good Minnesotan knows, summer is fleeting and we must appreciate every moment. What will you savor?

Aaah, summer—that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It’s a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends.

~ Darell Hammond, the philanthropist, not the comedian


Half-time pep talk

I’m not an avid football fan, but even I know Joe Namath was one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Out on the PR trail for his memoir All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters, Namath was interviewed on National Public Radio this morning. Among other subjects, he talked about aging.

“I decided to make a plan at 50,” he said. “Fifty was halftime, man. And you’ve seen — I’ve seen a lot of games won and lost in the third and fourth quarter. I don’t want to go out on a bad note. I want to keep growing, being productive, keep learning and keep loving, man. I want to be a positive dude the rest of the way.”

Keep growing, keep learning and keep loving. What a great mantra for one’s third and fourth quarters.

With a grandmother who lived to 104 and me in the midst of my 52nd year, I could argue I’m just beginning my third quarter. I feel like Namath’s interview was like a coach’s half-time pep talk: Keep growing, keep learning and keep loving, man (woman!). Be a positive lady the rest of the way.



An affirmative practice


This is not me. But she looks pretty flexible, right?

Yoga … yes.

Lots of people say “I should do yoga.”

Yes, you should.

After a friend on Facebook wrote about accomplishing 90 yoga workouts in 90 days, I said, “I should do yoga.” I wasn’t up for the equivalent of a workout a day, but I hadn’t been doing much of anything physical since we’d moved into our renovated home and I was feeling the effects: Weak, inflexible, prone to hurting myself just by putting my heavy purse in the back seat of the car.

So in December, I signed up for a hot yoga class and committed to doing three yoga workouts a week.

In the past six months, I reaped all the rewards you read about consistent yoga practice: I’m stronger, I’m more flexible, I sleep better and I’m less cranky. Last week, I visited my local yoga studio five times in one week, and I’m patting myself on the back for it (because I’m so much more flexible, see, I can pat my own back). The key word in yoga practice is practice. I can’t do every pose and I still lose my balance frequently, and I lose track of my breath, and roll my eyes when my yogi asks me to do something challenging. But I keep practicing. And some days, my body cooperates.

I had done a yoga workout here and there in the past but never hot yoga. Hot yoga is tougher but it pushes me in the way any good sweaty workout does.

The next time you drive by a yoga studio or your friend mentions her yoga workout or you read a piece about the benefits of yoga (like this one), say yes. Give it a try. Your body will thank you.

Sign your kid up for swimming lessons now

Throwback Thursday: I shared this post a few years ago, but it’s worth repeating because the pool season is upon us. 

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I saved a kid’s life once.

The Municipality of Sebeka paid me $4.25 a hour to work 40 hours a week at the Sebeka Pool for three months during two summers in the late ’80s, and I remember saving only one kid.

She was about 6, and her siblings were swimming in the part of the pool that was 5-feet deep. She kept skirting her way down the side of the pool with a death grip on the edge, apparently thinking she wanted to be swimming with her sisters even though it was obvious she was in over her head — literally.

More than once, I told her she shouldn’t be going that deep and she should go back to the shallow end of the pool.

But in a crowd of at least a hundred bobbing around in the water in 90-degree heat, she persisted in inching her way back to the deep end.

Maybe I sensed her fear or maybe I was just lucky, but when she slipped and started gulping in water with a look of wide-eyed panic on her face, I zeroed in on her and was there to grab her and pull her to safety. And like a good Scandinavian who can’t let a “I told you so” moment slip by even in the face of tears, I shook a trembling finger at her and scolded her for  going where I told her not to.

To be honest, I hope the community of Sebeka got its money worth because I think I saved a lot more kids from the brink of death by teaching swimming lessons even on cold, cloudy days in early June when being in the pool was a different kind of goose-bumply water torture.

Every kid in America should learn to swim.

In church today during the children’s sermon, the pastor asked the assembled group of people shorter than 4 feet if they were taking swimming lessons this summer. Only half the hands went up.

OK, maybe the other half weren’t listening. Or they didn’t understand the question. Or they had taken swimming lessons during another season.

But while the pastor was teaching a life-or-death lesson for their eternal souls, I was worrying about those kids who didn’t take swimming lessons this summer. Because it’s a life-or-death lesson for their mortal bodies.

I’m not a parent (not a biological parent anyway), so I generally try to keep my opinions about parenting to myself, fully aware that every task looks easier from an outsider’s perspective (“Sure, honey, your kids would eat their vegetables and wouldn’t throw tantrums in Target. But you don’t know until your toddler spits beets all over the kitchen and holds up the 10-item-or-less line because you won’t buy her gum.”)

Still, I spent two summers of my life teaching 5-year-olds how to swim so I feel like I can safely tread in this territory.

If you don’t give your kids a chance to learn to swim, you’re a bad parent.

Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States among children younger than 14 and the leading cause of accidental death for children 5 and under, according to the American Institute for Preventive Medicine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 people die every day from drowning. While some parents go into hysterics about “stranger danger,” only about two kids a week are involved in stereotypical non-family abductions, according to CNN.

A child abduction is a terrible thing, but my point is if you’re teaching your child not to talk to strangers but you’re not taking them to swimming lessons, you’re worrying about the wrong thing.

People drown for a lot of reasons besides a lack of ability to swim — like lack of parental supervision, undertow and consuming alcohol — but the CDC states, “Taking part in formal swimming lessons reduces the risk of drowning among children aged 1 to 4 years.”

To be clear, I didn’t teach 5-year-olds how to swim in the two weeks they bobbed and blew bubbles for a half and hour a day in my classes, but it was a start with the goal being how to breathe in water and float, maybe dog paddle. Nowadays, parents can find swimming lessons for kids a lot younger than 5. A kid really ought to go to swimming lessons for a couple of weeks a year for years in order to learn to swim.

In fact, a kid really ought to wear a swimsuit so much every summer, it fades to white and loses all elasticity because they spend four hours a day at the pool (under the supervision of a parent or at least a lifeguard). That’s how I learned to swim (and eventually teach others to swim) while living in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Enroll your kids in swimming lessons and they may learn skills to save their lives. If you’re an adult who doesn’t know how to swim, you can get lessons, too. Splashing around in water is great exercise no matter what your physical condition. The life you save may be your own.

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Though through no influence of mine, I’m proud to report my 15-month-old granddaughter is splashing around right now learning to swim in weekly lessons with her momma. Go, Momma!