Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Girl of the Limberlost

Hurt finger aside, the real reason I haven't been blogging is because I have been swamped.

Swamped, I tell you.

You would be completely bored if I started to list all the swampy things that are bogging me down (!), so let me tell you a swampy story, instead.

For my work, I attended a retreat in Shipshewana last week.  (For those of you unfamiliar with Hoosier geography, that's about as far away from home as I can get and still be in the state.)  The retreat was very nice, I learned a lot and enjoyed the town.

Until I started considering the ethics of touristy gawking at the Amish.  Then I felt uncomfortable, (but that's another blog post all together) and decided to head for home.  

Since I cut my planned shopping day short (and since I'm really not much of a shopper, anyway), I went looking for someplace interesting to stop on my way home.  Luckily, in the pamphlet rack at the hotel I found a flyer for the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historical Site, which was about 1/2 hour south in Rome City.

I knew a little about GSP, and remember reading A Girl of the Limberlost for the summer reading program when I was little (but don't remember too much about the story), so I thought this would be a great little excursion.

It was easy to find, thanks to Google Maps and the iPhone, and the drive there was through beautiful farm country -- I stopped to take pictures of farm houses and barns on the way, as I am working on a story about a farm house, and need a little inspiration.

Gene Stratton-Porter just might be my new obsession.  A writer, nature lover, photographer, "always look on the bright side" sort of person, she is considered one of the first great female conservationists.  She was an expert on Indiana birds and wildflowers, transplanting  over 1700 wildflower species onto this property on the shores of Sylvan Lake when the state decided to drain the swampy, marshy areas near her childhood homes -- the Limberlost.  Several of her novels were made into movies, but when GSP didn't care for the way they were portrayed, she moved to California and started her own film company so she could do it right.  Don't you just love that?

Besides two interpreters, the gardener and a volunteer, I was the only person at the GSP State Historical Site this morning.  So, as you can imagine, my tour was very personal.  Carol, the interpreter who took me through the house, was so knowledgeable about GSP, the home and the area, and the tour became more like a friendly conversation -- we shared favorite books and authors, and you know how I love that!

I forgot to take any pictures until right before I left -- here is the back of the "cabin", which is a fantastic home with cherry paneling, pocket doors, a writing room with lots of sunshine, a breakfast room with extra wide window ledges for feeding the birds, a dark room, 7 small bedrooms and sleeping porches.

The gardens are beautiful, and I would like to make another trip up just to see them in full bloom this summer.  (There was a wedding scheduled for this afternoon -- what a beautiful place to be married!)

Here is GSP's grave.  Her daughter, Jeanette, is buried here, as well.

These signs at the entrance of the site list all her published works:

And I made a few purchases at the Gift Shop:

Clay and I have been having an ongoing discussion lately about books that don't seem to have any uplifting elements.  (A Light Between Oceans and Little Bee, to be exact.)  I think reading books with difficult themes -- books that leave you emotionally tossed -- is important in terms of historical significance, cultural awareness and personal growth.  They make you deal with hot-button issues.  They drive you to research.  They make you consider your own moral compass and answer the "what would I do in that situation" questions.  (So says the former English teacher!)

But sometimes the world is just too much.  Sometimes our own burdens become heavy, and it's good to turn to something uplifting -- no matter how sentimental or didactic (as Gene Stratton-Porter's novels are frequently criticized).  As a fan of both Jan Karon and Philip Gulley, though, I think I'm going to enjoy these two novels, which have gone to the top of my reading pile.


1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I've visited both GSP sites with the girls in recent years. Yes, they're charming, and I think GSP is an undiscovered Hoosier jewel -- at least most people I talk with don't know about her. I read Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost to the girls when they were little, and they loved "acting out" the stories with their little toys. Such sweet memories. I would love to hear what you think about the Keeper of Bees -- have not read that one yet.