"The real voyage of Discovery lies not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes"
Marcel Proust

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hidden Logos

Posted by Ted:
I recently attended a session by Shea Lewis from Arkansas State Parks about graphic design. It changed my life… and not for the better. I am cursed with seeing the arrow in the FedEX logo. Have you seen it? Now I am obsessed with seeing the arrow when a FedEx truck drives past. And, to make things worse, I am spreading the disease.  All the way to Chicago on our recent I-55 trip I kept asking LuAnn, “Look! Do you see the arrow?” Other strains of the disease include seeing the 31 in Baskin Robbins signs and noticing nothing but O and U’s (for University of Oklahoma) in the Conoco signs. LuAnn and I will use the websites below to spread the “do you see it?” disease to our readers.    Actually we think it will be a fun diversion for road readers to spot and discern the deeper meanings of these amazingly creative symbols. You might want to check out the websites yourself to see how clever graphic designers make their logos contagious.   

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

From Wind Farms to the Windy City

Posted by Ted:
If there was one constant on our trip through Illinois it was wind.  As the prairie zephyr buffeted our vehicle mile after mile, I was struck by how this invisible force has influenced people both past and present. Pioneers sailed across the sea of grass on prairie schooners – the wind filling the sails attached to their wagons. This same force turned windmills that pumped life giving water from the ground for people and livestock. Without these windmills, settlers would never have been able to settle away from lakes and rivers.  The same breezes that cooled, carried, and quenched prairie dwellers, also brought destruction in the form of tornados and wind-swept wildfires. Today wind is still both friend and foe.  Sometimes we want it to blow and other times we go to great effort and expense to stop it from blowing.  The most obvious interaction with wind along I-55 is the wind farms that harvest energy from the atmosphere and convert it to electrical energy.   These modern day windmills come with controversy LuAnn is working on that story for the book.  I recently did a story on how farmers block the wind with rows of trees called shelterbelts or windbreaks. These are planted to hold soil in place and to keep homes and farmsteads warmer in winter and cooler in summer, as well as to reduce the wear and tear of the wind on farm buildings.  Much of life in this part of Illinois is still devoted to capturing or blocking something many of us take for granted - the wind.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What's in a Name?

Today is my daughter’s 12th birthday. Her name is Rose. The choice of her name didn’t originate from the delicate, yet thorny shrub in the garden; although it was sealed after a rose banner was unfurled in our church a few weeks before her birth. The choice of her name sprang from her mother’s literary desires. I named her after Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who became a successful journalist in San Francisco and then helped her mother write the memoirs of her childhood. Was it my hope that if I didn’t become a writer my daughter would become one, or would even help me find my way there?

Ted and I drove I-55, from Springfield to Chicago, this week. We rolled through towns named Shirley, Joliet, Elkhart, Bloomington, Coal City, Lincoln, Odell, Funk’s Grove, Towanda…each of them with their own story of how they were named. Many towns were born along the lines of the railroad, the steel Caesarean section that sliced across the belly of the prairie and opened up communications from town to town. Some towns were simply named for the person who ground his boots into the soil first: like the railroad engineer, William H. Odell, or the settler Isaac Funk. Funk’s Grove may be my favorite town along this stretch—a beautiful area of sugar maple trees still tapped for their sirup (not “syrup”), an oak savanna dotted with prairie wildflowers, an old family cemetery, and a peaceful chapel under the cathedral-like canopy of the woods. Lincoln—well, that one is obvious in this state with the slogan of “Land of Lincoln.” 

Other towns were named for their landscapes; surveyed with a nostalgic eye that searched for a comforting piece of their former home in the strange new land they were settling. Jesse Fell brought the name Towanda from his birthplace in Pennsylvania. Atlanta was named for Atlanta, Georgia.

My literary side delighted that Mrs. Corydon Weed named the town of Shirley after the heroine of a novel. The same was for Divernon (south of Springfield), the heroine, Di Vernon, of Sir Walter Scott’s Rob Roy. While Joliet would naturally be named for the French colleague of Marquette, there is another story that it was once Juliet, to complement the town of Romeo (now Romeoville) nearby. Aw, the romance! Elkhart was also recorded in the name of love. According to one story, the daughter of an Indian chief had to choose between two suitors. When an elk wandered by, she said she would choose the one who shot the arrow closest to the elk’s heart—and she did.

The fact that my alma mater, Illinois State University, sits near an area once called Keg Grove, seems too ironic. Like any name, we see the connections of that name to its place even hundreds of years later. It seems we always name well—we find the right connection to see its significance.

Rose is twelve today and her tenderly mature heart balances with the thorns she wields when she must. And speaking of Romeo(ville) and Juliet (Joliet), “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”