Sunday, March 22, 2009

In Which the Weather Improves

I refuse to say winter is over. The minute I do, the Frost Giants' gnarly icy heads will spin around, fixing us with their blank gaze, and (because it IS March) we'll be in for that Worst of All Weathers: "Wintry Mix". Oh no, I won't say it. I may do a lot of goofy things, but tempt the Frost Giants? I'm not your girl for that.

Last week our friends D & J came to our program at a senior center (it was on Wisconsin Authors and I forgot my Elizabeth Zimmerman books, but I mentioned her anyway). Afterward, as it was quite a mild day, we went out with them for coffee (tea -- I had tea, "the Silent Partner of Cats, Sticks and Books") and then went for a stroll around Monona Terrace. That's a convention center sort of affair designed (for the most part) by Frank Lloyd Wright. There was a lot of controversy about it over the years - it's right on Lake Monona and gobbling up a length of shoreline was dicey. Lots of folks enjoyed fishing along the shore there. I was pretty much prepared to hate it, but I don't. I love it - there, I've said it.

Honestly? I didn't see that guy when I took the picture. He is not dead; if he were, they would've called CSI, and I'd have noticed Jim Brass or Nick Stokes if they'd been there. (Oh for petessakes it's good they weren't there; I'm sure I'd have behaved in a most unbecoming way...think the girls in the audience when the Beetles appeared with Ed Sullivan. Unbecoming.)

However, you can see the stylized lamps. The lower levels, might I add, have walking and bike paths, and there's even a special elevator so you can go up or down the levels with your bike. And it's really a beautiful view of Lake Monona from there.

This is "Wisconsin", the golden lady atop the capital, seen "full front" - she's facing Lake Monona. "Is that a badger on your head - or are you just happy to see me?" You can't really tell from here, of course, but that pointy bit on the center of her head IS a badger. I just love that. Now, the discerning among us point out that it's a rather long, skinny badger who appears to be doing his best otter impersonation, but facts is facts. Is it wrong to feel smug about living in a city with the Only Live-Badger-Wearing Golden Lady on top of the capitol? 'Cause I do, and I'm sticking to it.

There are some other Historical Points of Interest at this site. It's next door to a massive State Office Building, completed in 1932. It's very dense and office-y and official.....and they tore down the beautiful Fairchild home to build it. Just a couple of years ago they finally put up a brass plaque; I'd like to say I was responsible, but all I did was mutter into my oatmeal that there should be a plaque there. Still, I'm glad they finally did:

Mr Dearling gets a lot of mileage asking the kids at the Museum if they've ever gone down there to see the human arm buried there. BIG reaction. I'll put a quick version of the story in my own "Comments" rather than here - the arm isn't there anymore.

How's this for a witness to history? The "men and women" sure the heck wouldn't recognize the place today. This is really understated - and yet, I imagine that those people stopped, and if the weather was nice, enjoyed resting on the hill and watering their teams in the lake, enjoying the forests and game in the area. There were Ho-Chungk people living around the lakes, but they pretty much kept to themselves. I imagine it was a pretty idyllic spot - James Doty certainly admired it when he arrived to map out his "paper city".

I needed my shawl, but NOT a parka, muffler, cap, mittens and boots. The "boots" is a big deal, I'm much happier just wearing my dear old shoes.

Look, Ma, no parkabootsmittensscarfcap, just a good ol' Homespun shawl! Might I add, this is the newest of my Many Identical Dresses, and I really like the color and the cut of its jib. One of my oldest ones, a woven check, is nigh on to disintegrating...I'm going to see if someone can trim off the bad bits and maybe make it into a jumper or pinafore or even a skirt.

There's one other event memorialized on the deck at Monona Terrace, an event with which everyone's familiar but some of you may not realize that it was RIGHT HERE, in good old Madison, Wisconsin! Get this:

Yep! It was Lake Monona, right there, right in the Dock of the Bay. Sad day...and Wisconsin, atop the Capitol, badger on her head, witnessed the whole thing....

And lastly, on the Knitting Front - I'm nearly half-done with the current toque and I'm taking a respite from counting preemie caps. But the addiction is no less - last Friday was our Late Night Knit and in honor of St. Paddy all yarns of green or containing green were 20% off. So I bought four skeins of lovely, soft Debbie Bliss cotton for more little caps. HEY! TWO of them were even green! I'll count and photograph the lot for the next post, how's that?


dale-harriet said...

As promised, the Arm story: You've heard mention of Lucius Fairchild; he led his men at Gettysburg where, in spite of the loss of most of their troops, the men held the line, resulting in their being known forever more as "The Iron Brigade". During that battle, however, Lucius caught a musket ball in the left elbow, shattering it completely. He refused to leave the field (!) but his men and seconds-in-command insisted and he was borne back to the city to the home of a minister who was a friend of the family. Adhering to the wishes of his men (who had made themselves clear on this point) he was given laudanum for the amputation. The arm was buried hastily in the back garden of the house. As the story goes, next morning Fairchild was out on the porch cheering along his men as they marched past.)

Well - he could fight no more, and (synopsis here) returned to Madison where, in time, he became the 10th Governor of Wisconsin. HOWEVER - when first home he was deeply troubled by "ghost pain" in his left arm. Thinking it must be because the arm was buried in a cramped position, he wrote to the minister and requested that it be disinterred and sent to him here in Madison for re-burial. It was sent, and straightened out, and reburied in his own back yard....and he was troubled no more by ghost pain.

Now - Mr Dearling loves to say "If you go to the State Office Building after a rain sometimes you can see the fingertips sticking up in the soft grass of the meridian...." Then admits he's making it up. (I sniff and flap my handkerchief in his direction, muttering "Disrespectful, that's what it is.")

The truth, though, is endearing: when Fairchild died, on May 23, 1896, the arm was exhumed again, and he was, as he wished, "buried a whole man."

Spring IS coming and it's time for me to decide what flowers to plant at the Fairchild family plot this year for Memorial Day....

Alwen said...

Ours has improved enough that farmers are manuring the fields all around us. It seems very unfair, when we get a day of weather when I could hang my laundry out on the line, to have to dry it indoors to keep it from smelling of Eau de Dairy Air!

Yarnhog said...

Thanks for the tour!

When I was in college in Boston, I got off at a downtown T station and found a dead man on the stairs. There was no one else around, so I was relieved when I saw two police officers coming down the stairs. "Oh, good," I said. "Are you here for the dead guy?" "The WHAT?!" they exclaimed. "There's a dead guy on the stairs," I answered. And I LEFT! It was only later that I realized how very freaky and odd that must have seemed, and that I probably shouldn't have left! I was kind of weirded out, I think.

CTJen said...

The Arm Story is so very funny. I can't stop giggling!!

Hyacinth said...

Thanks for the pictures of Madison...I love your posts about Madison...brings back happy memories of my college years in that town...I left before the Monona Terrace was completed but I've heard it's beautiful.

Cathy-Cate said...

I do love this post.
What a great picture of Golden Wisconsin!

BTW, I heard a rumor from a certain Kat that you were coming to La Crosse to see Franklin! I will be there too. I would love to meet up with you if the rumor proves true. What's your schedule? I have to work, nominally till 5, but could leave a little early in a good cause like this. Speak to me! :-) (You should have my email somewhere, or leave a comment on my blog.....)