Amy says . . .
A beautiful morning drive from Grinnell starts the day off right. We take the back roads, Old Rte. 6 with its rolling hills and the lovely Amana Colonies. These colonies were established in the late 1800s when a group of German Pietists left Buffalo, NY and settled here in Iowa, calling themselves The Community of True Inspiration. For over 80 years they maintained an almost completely self-sufficient local economy, importing as little as possible from the industrializing American economy. They were able to maintain their independence through specializing in the crafting and farming techniques they had brought from Europe. They passed these skills down from generation to generation, using hand, horse, water and wind power and making their own clothes, furniture and other goods. It was a fascinating community and I think we all wished we could have spent a little more time exploring.
But we landed softly and sweetly at Waterstreet Coffee Bar, owned by Jenny Henningson. Jenny was an accountant for 13 years until number crunching lost its appeal and she wanted something to call her own. She had spent so much time over the years relying on caffeine to get her through the long days and nights, and she believed she could provide Iowa locals and weary travelers with the perfect cup of coffee. As she says, she used to be a bean counter, but her passion is a different kind of bean now. And it shows. The vibe in her shop is cool and fun, the baristos are entertaining, and the coffee and home made pop tarts were fabulous. Oh, and did I mention we inaugurated a new Little Free Library in Coralville, IA? The Hazen Ellsworth Moore Memorial Library is open for business!
Our last stop of the day was a delightful visit to The Obermann Center at The University of Iowa. The center provides a neutral space where graduate scholars can take risks and wrestle with the challenges that genuinely collaborative and interdisciplinary work demands. The center also provides funding and staffing for an annual humanities conference, small group collaborations, and an intensive seminar for graduate students. Our hosts, Jennifer New and Teresa Magnum, created an epic afternoon - an environment of poetry and exploration. There were 4 other vintage typewriters for people to type their own words, Scrabble boards set up for play, poetry prompts, a calligrapher on hand to paint words onto bodies, a group of spoken words poets performing original work, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Obermann Center Little Free Library. It was a wonderful afternoon filled up with words and community.
The icing on the cake of the day, after a delicious dinner at Jennifer’s house with her family, was a neighborhood reading of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. A hilarious round robin of reading, complete with silly voices and botched accents and laughter. What better way to end our Saturday than with the words of England’s national poet, the “bard” himself. I played Olivia to Maya’s Viola.
I shall leave you all with our favorite lines from Scene V.
Alas, I took great pains to study it, and 'tis poetical.
It is the more like to be feigned: I pray you,
keep it in. I heard you were saucy at my gates,
and allowed your approach rather to wonder at you
than to hear you. If you be not mad, be gone; if
you have reason, be brief: 'tis not that time of
moon with me to make one in so skipping a dialogue.
Another cool morning. Americanos and chai lattes and blog entries at Saints Rest. The first stirrings of RAGBRAI. Route 6 heading east. The startling preservation of Amana Colonies. The museum of miniatures and the documents lost in the barnyard. Henry Moore and his meticulousness. His son, carrying the torch, proud and tender and a little regretful. How, if we'd had the time, he would have talked to us all day. Stopping in Tiffin to take a photo for Jerry. Wanting him to know that we were there, where his father grew up.
The descent into metropolitan Iowa City. Something of me still pulled, somehow, to Nebraska. The startle of that. Jenny's welcome at Waterstreet. The baristos and their young pride. Jen arriving with her dad. The word "Schadenfreude." The word "cancer." A young woman, tearing up with memories. The strange and poignant intimacy of reading out loud. A homemade PopTart. Espresso designs in milk foam. The little library, peering out the window as if to say "come in."
A kitten warbling in a parked car. The search inside the engine. The busy ride out of Coralville. Parks, damaged by flooding. The Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and Jennifer and how easy it was. Something called a Herkey. Poetry on the porch. Four more typewriters. A calligraphist. Spoken word. The newspaper reporter with "sunflower" inked on her arm. Gnats under the trees. Telling the story. Red ribbon and an unveiling. Red velvet cake with a tandem bike topper. Feeling so thirsty in the sudden heat. The small pinch of a headache. The slow unfolding of an afternoon. Wrapping up with "Randy" and how Amy's poem was a gift.
Strolling downtown. Painted benches. More bicyces in storefront windows. Writerly quotes in the sidewalk. Another piano, this one needing a tuneup. Playing the only things I can remember, the slim catalog of lessons.
Dinner at Jennifer & Chris's. His apologies with the grill. The steak, delicious. A bowl of ripe cherries. Our first steamed Iowa corn. The ease and sweetness of a summer meal. And then, just down the street, read-aloud Shakespeare, and how odd and funny and somehow just the right cap to the day. French cheese and chilled white wine and cubes of cantaloupe. Playing Viola. Tingle and her accent and the way she bit into the role and how happy I was on the porch, listening. Like we'd been doing this forever. Like we could.