New adventure when you need it most.
Figure out this riddle and you'll have the first clue for what's coming in the May Playbook: a look at one of the most popular hobbies in the world. A real tweet!
If you haven't joined the email list, get your ticket to ride today and come aboard!
Today is World Book Day.
I thought of the library yesterday and realized, I miss the library.
Going to the library is my hobby, my passion, my pastime. It's where I go when I need information or am looking for a particular book. It's where I go when I'm restless.
Where I go to check out of this world and into another.
It doesn't cost anything, nobody expects anything from me while I'm at the library, I get to pick and choose what I like, and I leave with stacks of books that make me feel as though I'm holding all I'll ever need.
I'm hopeful the library will do curb-side pickup or find some way we can get books again.
I miss the library.
New work brings new perspective
I was struggling with how to write and present an idea about maps for the April Playbook. Nothing was working and I was beginning to feel lost and frustrated.
So I decided to go in a different direction. To combine my collage work and hand lettering and present it in a long scroll.
When I finished, it occurred to me that we're all navigating new territory. Trying to find our way.
There's no map to tell us which way is the shortest, best solution to get us from here to there.
But maps can still guide us:
Cartography and the coronavirus
Map terminology as it applies to the challenges of staying home:
It's your internal guidance. If you pay attention to how you feel, you'll find your way. Getting tired? Maybe it's time to take a break. Frustrated? Take a left. Or right. Abandon course and do something different.
This is where you map your survival strategy. Maybe it's creating a routine: getting up at a reasonable hour, getting dressed, and saving your comfy clothes for later in the day.
Exercise. Because it helps. But does it fit better in the morning or afternoon?
Work. Begin and end when you normally would, if you can.
Meals. Keep it simple most days. But once in a while, make something different or special. Plan a three-course meal. Or a special dessert.
You've got a lifetime of experience, knowledge, and know-how. Make a list and run through things you've done, things you want to try, and things you miss.
You may not be able to go hiking, but you could plan hikes for the future. Explore documentaries about hiking. Journal or tell stories about the hikes you've completed. What do you remember? Waterfalls, wild animals, blisters ... the heat?
Not a hiker? Replace the word hiker with whatever suits you.
I resisted the urge to try something different. It took three attempts at failed experiments before I convinced myself to go with hand lettering for the illustrated article. It took more effort than I initially wanted to commit to, and I stumbled more than once along the way. But I'm glad I did it.
The project kept me occupied for quite some time and while I was doing it, that's all I thought about. (What a relief.) It's done, I've accomplished something, and that feels good.
I hope you're able to find things that bring a sense of calm and comfort. To stretch yourself when you don't want to. And I hope this helps.
p.s. The map article is part of the April Playbook: This State of Mine. It's an experiment. I'm not sure how well it's working, but I figure the only way I'll know is to try.
p.p.s. When it comes to maps, one thing is clear. Maine has maps:
At Garmin's Yarmouth, Maine, location, Eartha, the world's largest revolving and rotating globe gives visitors an up-close, topographical look at the earth.
Garmin also publishes the Delorme Atlas & Gazetteers that cover highways and byways in cities and back-country destinations all across the country. In all 50 states.
And the Osher Map Library in Portland, Maine, has a stunning collection of maps swimming with sea creatures and serpents, a rare collection of globes, and 3D views of the collection available online.
The ideas weren't flowing. I was struggling with what to offer in the map entry for the April playbook. I considered making a map of lighthouses in the state, places I had visited, or things I notice in the neighborhood on my morning walks. But none of it clicked.
Setting it all aside for a while gave me the distance and insight I needed.
I don't remember what I was doing, but the idea came to me when I was working on something else: Maine has a surprising number of map resources. Start there.
Rather than a map of a place, I'd make an information map ... of map resources in Maine.
Working small: thumbnail sketches and an eraser
And as I do with most ideas, I started with a thumbnail sketch.
In one of my first graphic design classes, I was taught to make thumbnail sketches. Small-scale drawings of an idea. It's a handy tool for visualizing posters and book covers. It works for professional projects and your hobbies, too. You can sketch and list what you need to get started. You could map out what you've done and where you want to go.
And it prompts new ideas.
My vision for the map is a hand-drawn poster. There's more information to add and I'm still working through the layout and how to connect it all. Dotted lines? Arrows?
I'll post the final version and you can compare the thumbnail with the finished piece.
Do use thumbnail sketches or some other tool to organize your thoughts and ideas?
More entries in This State of Mine. Have you seen them?
The first time I saw her, she was tucked in a corner behind bars in the entryway to the Portland Public Library. I might not have noticed her that day, or any other, if it wasn’t for the whirlwind of dried leaves and rubbish swirling at the base of the statue.
It was the Little Water Girl, a charming bronze statue of a young girl, and I wondered who she was.
I did some research and found an amazing story, and it made me wonder about other statues in the city.
There’s the The Hiker in Deering Oaks park, the Lobsterman in Canal Plaza, filmmaker John Ford in Gorham’s Corner, and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Congress Square. Each one revealing more history and intrigue than I could have imagined. I uncovered information about a poet and a filmmaker, yellow journalism, a horse named Madge, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, air pollution, prohibition, and the World’s Fair.
After doing my research, I wanted a record of what I found, so I wrote essays and created posters for some of the statues. Here are three of them.
Little Water Girl
Barefoot with outstretched arms, the Little Water Girl is a fitting tribute to the legacy of Lillian Stevens, a dedicated advocate for women and children, and the third president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).
Founded in 1874, to “combat the destructive powers of alcohol and the problems it was causing their families and society,” the WCTU banded together in prayer, protest, and pledge—a pledge of total abstinence from alcohol.
Prohibition and Water Fountains
In an effort to curb the temptation of saloons the WCTU fought for Prohibition, encouraging members to install public drinking fountains in their communities where “men could get a drink of water without entering saloons and staying for stronger drinks.”
The Little Water Girl is one of those fountains.
In support of the WCTU, Lillian Stevens a committed and independent woman, traveled by carriage with her horse Madge some 50,000 miles lobbying for Prohibition.
Ratified five years after Stevens’s death, Prohibition didn't last, but more than 70 fountains inspired by the WCTU initiative remain standing across the United States, in Canada, England, and Australia.
The Little Water Girl by British sculptor George E. Wade was commissioned by the WCTU for display at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. Copies of statue can be found in Chicago, Detroit, and London.
Note: Why was the Little Water Girl behind bars? She was moved to the secure, gated entrance to the Portland Public Library after she was vandalized in Deering Oaks park. When the library was renovated, the Little Water Girl was restored as a working fountain and moved inside. Today she greets patrons as they enter the library.
Although the Hiker is larger than life and perched on a six-foot pedestal, the Spanish War Veterans memorial on the north lawn of Deering Oaks Park is easy to overlook.
But do look—it’s a beautiful statue.
From the soldier’s wadded and rolled sleeves to the leather satchel reminiscent of today’s messenger bag, the details are captivating. The Hiker is sculptor Theo A.R. Kitson’s most well-known work—more than 50 copies of the statue are installed across the country.
Under the rallying cry “Remember the Maine,” the Spanish-American War secured Cuba’s independence and remains one of the shortest wars on record. But that’s only the beginning.
Dig a little deeper and fascinating tales of science, circumstance, and cowboys emerge. For it was during the Spanish-American War that army medical scientist Dr. Walter Reed isolated the cause and stemmed the transmission of yellow fever plaguing the troops; eager journalists and competing publishing magnates gave rise to the dirty business of yellow journalism; and Teddy Roosevelt’s volunteer militia, The Rough Riders, found glory.
It was a short war, but a war with a decidedly jaundice pallor.
Note: There were at least 50 copies of The Hiker cast and placed in cities across the United States from Texas to Minnesota, and Georgia to Maine. Here’s a list of cities where The Hiker was installed. See if there’s one where you live.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
He broke bread and corresponded with the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Oscar Wilde, and Charles Dickens.
Born in Portland, Maine, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a linguist, professor, and poet.
A graduate of Bowdoin College, Longfellow yearned for a life in literature. And so it was.
Under agreement with his alma mater, he set out across the Atlantic to study European language and literature. He would return to teach at Bowdoin and then at Harvard College, but writing would prove to be his vocation.
Longfellow's well-known works include Evangeline, “The Wreck of the Hesperus,” and “Paul Revere’s Ride. He was a best-selling author and enjoyed considerable success with his work but he suffered tremendous loss in his personal life.
His first wife and childhood friend, Mary Storer Potter, died following a miscarriage. And his second wife, Fanny Appleton, with whom he had six children, died after setting her dressing gown afire with candle wax. Forever saddened, Longfellow did little writing after Fanny’s death.
Sculptor Franklin Simmons’s bearded Longfellow sits with a stack of books at his feet and scroll in hand.
Like Longfellow, Simmons was born in Maine and became a well-known artist in his day. A second sculpture by Simmons, Our Lady of Victories stands just blocks away in Monument Square in downtown Portland.
How could you interpret statues and landmarks where you live?
When I pulled out my sewing supplies last Saturday, they were a jumbled mess of fabric, thread, tools, scissors, and pins randomly packed in boxes and bins. Embarrassing, really.
So with a button-load of patience, I focused and was able to stack and separate the good from the bad. Toss things that were broken, and put like items together in proper order. But I couldn't part with the buttons.
They're colorful. Cheerful even. Like little gems.
And with some of them, I remember the piece of clothing they were once stitched to. Like that yellow button in the middle. It was from a wrap-around skirt I had in high school. A floral Madras print. It was comfortable, and I thought, very stylish. When I wore it down to its last fiber, I cut off the buttons and saved them.
The button jar is a small jar. I keep it and most of the buttons because I think I might use them again. Maybe, maybe not.
Is there something you collect or save that you can't part with? What is it?
This State of Mine: Animals
The dinner party ended at about 9:30. When we headed out, it was in mist-laden darkness down a steep, winding, and all together unfamiliar road. With steady pressure on the brake pedal, we headed for the main road. But as I rounded the last curve, I saw movement just ahead on the right and slammed brake pedal to the floor.
It was a moose.
The car jolted to a stop, and we watched the moose cross the road in a slow-motion stroll, passing just inches from the car’s bumper. The moose had our attention; it was as if it had cast a spell. Our heads swiveled from right to left in unison, following the moose cross the road until it vanished into the brush. Gone as mysteriously as it had appeared.
The moose never glanced our way. I can’t imagine it was unaware of us, it just didn’t seem to care. And with good reason. Moose can weigh upwards of 1,400 pounds and stand over six feet tall. It was big ... we were in its way.
What is the Maine state animal? The moose. Visitors from all over the world come to Maine for moose sightings.
My collage work started as a hobby and the moose was one of my early pieces. Did you notice the eye? After I added the Nike swirl of white to the eye, it seemed the moose was looking back at something, so I added the butterfly.
This infographic came together shortly after the moose crossing. I was fascinated by its size and beauty and wanted to know more. Two things surprised me:
1) How many moose there are wandering about in the woods, and
2) The flap of skin hanging from the neck is called the bell. Easy to see why.
What about you? Have you had an encounter with a wild animal in your state? Which one? If not, is there an animal that captures your attention?
Think about different ways you could share what you’ve experienced or learned about the animal. Create a sketch, do a collage, do some research, or write a story (real or fiction). Maybe there's a book you could read.
Learning is a rewarding distraction. It leaves you with information and knowledge you can use in so many ways. Something you learn may one day a question on Jeopardy!
When I created the moose collage I never would have imagined I’d include it in a feature like This State of Mine.
Next up? Landmarks and history with a focus on statues: more than a pigeon perch.
p.s. If you're new to Waystation Whistle or the April playbook, it's not too late to join.
We're all poets, even you(!) ...
I think it was in middle school. The assignment was to memorize and recite a poem. I chose Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.
I think I liked it because it sounded poetic, but it also made sense to me.
The poem isn't terribly long, and I practiced well enough to remember now that I felt pretty good when I sat down after my presentation.
I can't say the exercise inspired me to write poetry, but I have churned out a few poems using the blackout poetry method.
It's easy enough, and I've created a worksheet (2 pages) that makes it even easier if you want to give it a try.
Chances are you've got some extra time on your hands, it's Poetry Month afterall, and given the circumstances we're all in, a little distraction goes a long way.
Share the worksheet and invite someone to try it with you.
Here’s what you do. Find a short story or article (a printed page from a newspaper, magazine, an old book, or something you've written). Read through the text and select an anchor word. Something that catches your attention. String together a few others words to form a thought or sentence. Be sure they read as traditional writing does. Left to right, top to bottom.
Blackout the words outside of the words you circled and you’ve got a poem.
Here’s one I did. It's remarkable how simple yet thoughtful is it ... don't you think?
Now it’s your turn.
Click on the poetry sample above to get your worksheet download. It’s two pages (instructions and a short poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) that will get you started.
I selected Longfellow because he was from Maine and he is my choice for a writer/poet.
Longfellow is a prominent figure here in Portland. There’s a fabulous statue of a seated Longfellow at the intersection of Congress and State in downtown Portland. He's positioned so that he's looking down Congress Street, toward the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, his boyhood home and home of the Maine Historical Society.
p.s. Did you pick a writer or author for the April Playbook? Haven’t picked anyone yet? It's not too late, grab the state fact sheet and get started.
Great adventure lies ahead ... no foolin’
If you’ve read my post about The Recipe That Changed My Life, you know what a difference the act of doing can have on our feelings, mood, and outlook.
After lots of thought about how I might help in these strange times, I had an idea. The April Playbook: This State of Mine. A series of creative exercises and prompts to rediscover the state you live in.
It's a month-long look at what makes your state what it is ... full of culture and intrigue. From Maine to New Mexico, Alaska, California, and everywhere in between, each state holds a wealth of interest.
Are you interested in history? Geography? Literature or landmarks? Maybe you’re more interested in music or mammals. Whatever it is, I know you’ll find something.
To help you along, I’ve created a sheet for fact and figures you can download. Do a little research and pick something that piques your interest.
Great adventure lies ahead. Let’s find it!
Not sure how this will work? Here are some ideas.
Exploration by skill set:
Exporation by topic:
As we go along, I'll post lots of ideas and inspiration for new projects and ways you can interpret the information you're drawn to.
And I’ll be sharing pieces I’ve done that relate to my state of Maine.
Pieces that were created independent of one other, but come together here to serve as models. The topics you choose and how you interpret them is up to you.
I hope you’ll join me in rediscovering the state you live in. And that you’ll share what you do.
Why does this matter?
We're curious beings. We need challenges and activity. Binge watching your favorite show is a fun (and often necessary) way to break up the day. But being actively engaged in a project brings a different sort of distraction and calm.
My hope is that you'll find something that captures your attention. Something that takes you out of this world, into another. A waystation of calm and distraction. Even for a little while.
Visit the page dedicated to this series: April Playbook: This State of Mine to stay up to date and learn more.