Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Gene Stratton Porter State Historic Site

Last week I made the trip north to Rome City, Indiana to visit the home of Gene Stratton Porter (1863-1924), a famous Indiana writer from the last century whose life work of nature study, writing, conservation, and business ownership has inspired me for some time. 

I wanted to move right in to Gene's "Cabin at Wildflower Woods". Set on the banks of Sylvan Lake, Gene designed this house to provide spaces for hospitality, her own writing and photography work, and relaxation.

Look at that beautiful cherry woodwork! It was harvested from trees right on the property! I also loved the blue and white china in use on the table and filling a corner cupboard. 

Like Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, Gene was born into a minister's family, the twelfth child in the family! She was steeped in nature from her birth, being constantly taught to see beauty around her.

Here is a large fireplace in the front room at the Cabin where Gene used stones collected from all 48 states and given by friends to form the fireplace decoration. She had the stones inserted to include pictures (see a Revolutionary soldier on the right side of the fireplace).

Gene began her writing as an outlet for her love of nature and desire to be creative. She also wanted to earn her own money. She wrote for women's magazines and then began to publish nature books and novels. Get this, at the height of Gene's career her books were more popular than the Harry Potter books are now (taking into account population growth, etc.)! That's serious numbers!

The fireplace in the writing room is made from Pudding Stone, a type of stone found only in a very small area of the country, including parts of Indiana.

Birds were at the heart of Gene's love for nature. As a child she roamed her family's fields caring for every nest and bird she came across. She was, in fact, a "bird whisperer." She created this beautiful, light-filled porch room for growing plants and included a low table with a faucet for growing seedlings.

Photography was cutting edge technology during Gene's time and she built herself a proper darkroom in this house so she wouldn't have to operate in a darkened bathroom. Many of her nature writings were illustrated with her own photographs.

I loved the kitchen: the floors, the tall ceilings and large windows, the blue on the walls, the cupboard for the state of the art icebox, the well-designed island with its spice rack, and an entire wall of cupboards. Gene hired cooks and housekeepers to help her, so she didn't really use the kitchen herself, but I sure wouldn't mind having this kitchen!

The Cabin at Wildflower Woods sits on the bank of Sylvan Lake and it makes for such a tranquil place to be.

We couldn't see upstairs in the house, but there are seven bedrooms as well as that huge sleeping porch! I just wanted to move right in!

Gene loved this place but found that as she grew in popularity the area became overrun with fans coming to visit/disturb her.

On the day I visited there were no hordes of tourists or meddlesome media. All was quiet with a gentle wind and the soft light of autumn sifting through the trees.

Behind the house were the gardens -- 35 "tidy" beds and then many "untidy" areas beyond that. Gene was devoted to plants and hired gardeners to make sure she could keep all these areas maintained.

Perhaps some of you are familiar with Gene's most famous novels: Girl of the Limberlost, or Laddie, or Freckles. Gene wrote 12 novels and 8 nature study books. When she felt her life at the Cabin becoming too overrun with people she moved out to California where she became a film producer and saw many of her books turned into movies!

After touring the house, a friend and I wandered the little trails meandering through the small amount of acreage left from Gene's original property.

This part of the property is being returned to prairie land, similar to the state park at Prophetstown.

Gene was killed in a traffic accident in California in 1924 but was eventually buried back here in Indiana at the Cabin of Wildflower Woods, as she had stipulated.

Gene was a woman who celebrated the wonder of nature and did her best to share that with others. She was a woman ahead of her time with her conservation work and efforts to save the Limberlost Swamp from being eradicated. If you haven't ever read a book by Porter, I highly recommend you try one! I've just picked up The Song of the Cardinal myself.

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Saturday, October 5, 2019

London: A Bibliography

I finally have a young adult bibliography compiled for the sketching tour I am leading to London in January. I am making that bibliography available below. For those interested in my more complete adult list, please be sure to sign up for my newsletter if you haven't already (form in sidebar) as that booklist will be made available shortly to newsletter subscribers. 

London: A Bibliography for Young Adults

Disclaimer: Please note that some of these books/videos may contain offensive language in parts. I have attempted to limit the list to books I feel are wholesome enough to be used for high schoolers. I have not previewed every single video and I do know the Crown, and perhaps other series, contain some material that would be best to skip over. Discretion advised!

Day One:
Walking Tour of Westminster and Palace Areas

— The Crown
     TV Series depicting the life of Queen Elizabeth II
— BBC TV Westminster Abbey
     Documentary about Westminster Abbey
— The Queen’s Palaces (BBC)
     Documentary about Buckingham Palace
— Downton Abbey
     TV Series depicting life in the early 20th century in Northern England
— Sherlock Holmes
— Paddington Bear
— Darkest Hour (Winston Churchill movie)
— The Royal Wedding: William & Catherine
     The royal wedding inside Westminster Abbey
— Queen and Country (PBS)
      Documentary about the British monarchy
— The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
      Documentary about the Queen’s coronation

Day Two:
Tower of London

— Secrets of the Tower of London (PBS)
     Documentary about the Tower of London

     London by Christopher Skaife

Day Three:
Kensington Palace, V&A Museum, Afternoon Tea

— Victoria 
     TV Drama Series about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
— The Queen
     Movie based on the days immediately following the death of Diana, 
      Princess of Wales
— Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy
      Documentary about Diana to commemorate 20 years since her death

     by Lucy Worsley
     by Helen Rappaport 
-- Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
    Kensington Park was used as inspiration for the story of Peter Pan

Day Four:

— 84 Charing Cross
     Movie depicting the correspondence and subsequent friendship of 
      an author in NYC and a bookseller in London

84 Charing Cross by Anne Bancroft
     The story of a friendship between an author in NYC and a bookseller 
      in London
Pretty City London by Siobhan Ferguson
     A compilation of beautiful photos from London by an instagram artist

Day Five:
Church, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery

Day Six:
Day trip to Bath

— Persuasion
     Jane Austen’s famous novel partially set in Bath

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Day Seven:
Day trip to Windsor Castle

— The Queen’s Palaces
     Documentary covering Windsor Castle
— Elizabeth at 90 (BBC)
     Documentary of the Queen’s 90 years
— Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work (BBC)
     Documentary about the Royal Family
— Bertie & Elizabeth: The Story of King George VI & Queen    
     Tells the story of the present Queen’s parents

Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia NacNeal (fiction) 

Day Eight:
Day trip to Oxford

— *Tolkien
     Movie about Tolkien’s early years including WWI and the TCBS
— Harry Potter Movie 1
     Scenes inspired by the dining hall at Christ Church College
— Inspector Lewis/Endeavor
      Murder mystery TV series set in Oxford

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan
     Historical fiction telling the story of C.S. Lewis’ relationship 
     with the woman who became his wife
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
     Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) was a teacher at Oxford and wrote 
     Alice in Wonderland for his little friends at Christ Church College
    The first in Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series
-- The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
-- Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber
    Tells of the real-life experience of an American studying at Oxford

Day Nine:
Dickens’ London

— *The Man Who Invented Christmas
     Movie telling about Dickens’ life and the story of A Christmas Carol
— Oliver Twist
     Orphan boy lured into a life of crime on London’s streets
— Bleak House
     An orphan raised by her aunt and later taken in by a philanthropist
— Little Dorrit
     Movie about a little girl raised in a London debtors’ prison
— A Christmas Carol

     Movie about Dickens’ best-loved Christmas story

— A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
     Dickens' most famous Christmas story, set in London

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