Places in the Heart

Today I collaborated on a poem with my mom. How is that possible, you ask, since she died several years ago? No, I didn’t hold a seance. As I was putting together the content for this posting, I came across a manuscript of hers she’d written in 1998, a poem she’d intended to submit to Cricket. It was in a rough, unfinished state, and somehow I just felt like working on it. I used most of her poem, revising many of the lines, and built a new poem around it. It tripled in length, but I maintained the spirit of what she was doing — now it sounds like both of us. I’m sure she’d approve; we did this sort of thing all the time while she was alive, so why stop now, huh? I believe I will try submitting it to Cricket. I’ve never had any luck selling a poem to them, but if they’d accept this one, it would mean Mom would have a by-line in Cricket at last.

Since I’m submitting it, I can’t publish it here — but I will if they reject it. (Don’t be disappointed — something of Mom’s is coming up here as soon as I’m done with my rambling report!)

As far as I can tell, the RSS feeds I tried to set up are working. One more time, to be sure you know what I’m talking about: when you first arrive for the day at this page, there’s a calendar and a lot of stuff in blue letters over at the right, right? Scroll down, and under all those Tag words in various sizes, there are two big buttons that say “RSS-Posts” and “RSS-Comments.” I tried clicking on the one for posts, and it took me right to a way to set up an RSS feed for this blog. (I didn’t go to the final step, because I don’t want notification when I post a new post: I’d rather not know. . . .) So I believe anyone who wants to be automatically notified when a new post is up can be.

Next: Nicholas Ozment, who appeared in an interview here a few weeks ago, has expanded on part of what he said about flash fiction, and you can read more from him on the topic at

Okay, here’s a true story: The following caption appeared under a photo in my hometown’s newspaper recently:

“Part of a tree was broken off on the courthouse lawn by the Abe Lincoln statue.”

[Shudder!] I knew there was something sinister about that statue! Apparently it comes alive in the dead of night and breaks municipal trees. There’s no horror like small-town horror.

The Christian County Courthouse in Taylorville, Illinois

The Christian County Courthouse in Taylorville, Illinois

There it is, the courthouse lawn, where the sinister statue lurks. (Ooh, didn’t Vachel Lindsay have a poem called “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight”? [!!!] Strangely prophetic!) This was taken from the opposite corner to where the statue is. What you don’t see is usually scarier (in movies) than what you do see. . . .

Sure, we still have plenty of trees, but I’m certain you’d agree this can’t go on. I hope the Taylorville police are being issued bronze-piercing bullets.

All right, getting serious now (grroink!):

I want to be absolutely sure no one missed the last few comments on the post before this one. Please go back there and read them. You all who read the blog — thank you so much for being here. Just reading it is fine — you’re very welcome to do that. But when you take the time to comment, everyone benefits. What we have here is a fully-interactive salon for those who love stories, for those who love friends, and for those who love life. And like a college dormitory or a World Fantasy Convention, it goes on 24/7. We live in different time zones, different hemispheres, so you never know when something will pop up, when someone will have pulled a chair up to the fire and be ready for some merry company.

Anyway, in those last couple comments, Shieldmaiden and Marquee Movies were talking about the end of The Hobbit, how it’s one of the best endings in any book out there. And they were discussing those wonderful places we gather, the places we spend time doing things we love, perhaps with the people we love. (I won’t repeat them here, but I mean it — go back and read those comments!)

What places in stories would you add to the list? Places of comfort and peace, good cheer, replenishment, and comradery. . . . I think that’s where we want to go in our communal reminiscing this week. Tell us the places you love in books, stories, and/or movies where the characters gather — those best, unforgettable, infinitely inviting places that you wish you could go and live in.

And — you’re also encouraged to tell us about actual places that you love to spend time — either now, or at some previous stage of your life.

Who can forget Doc Graham in Field of Dreams, sitting Ray Kinsella down in his office on that magical night and saying, “This is my special place. When you find your own special place, the wind never blows so cold again”? And in the same film, Ray answering Shoeless Joe’s question “Is this Heaven?” with “No; it’s Iowa.” And then later glancing from the miraculous baseball field he’s carved out of a cornfield — gazing up to where his wife and daughter are sitting on the porch swing, and realizing that it really is a part of Heaven, after all — the place where dreams come true.

By the way, I’ve actually been to the Field of Dreams, the one where the movie was filmed. The baseball field, the farmhouse, and the cornfield are still maintained, just as they appear in the movie, in Dyersville, Iowa. You can still see, carved into one seat on the bleachers, “Ray Loves Annie” inside a heart. Marquee Movies and I went there together and spent an afternoon I will never forget, playing catch with a baseball, lounging on the bleachers, and venturing into the cornfield, where you can almost hear the whispers of Shoeless Joe and his teammates. Also, I ran the bases. And Marquee Movies walloped a ball way out into center field. You can go there, too, if you’re ever in Iowa. I totally recommend it.

The serendipitousness of this topic is that it segues perfectly into what I was already planning for this post’s main event. I’m going to take you back to 1991, to a pair of essays written by my mom and dad about their special places.

Here we go, then. Ladies first: these are the words of my mother, Mary Anne Durbin.

Mary Anne Durbin as a senior in high school

Mary Anne Durbin as a senior in high school

When Joe and I first married, our kitchen table was small because the kitchen was small.

After our son Fred was born, we added first a bassinet, then a low “play table” and finally a high-chair off to the side, so our son could learn what to do about food and books.

Then we doubled the size of the kitchen, so that meant a larger table.

We went shopping, which consisted of attending auctions until we found a wooden table to our liking. Somehow chrome and Formica can’t make a proper kitchen table. This one was perfect — a long harvester’s table that can sit four on each side and two on each end.

As I sit at the kitchen table, the stove and refrigerator are behind me. When a meal is ready, I tell Joe and Fred (if he’s home), and they come with books in hand to enjoy a good repast.

Something from the garden is at almost every meal throughout the year. In season, and especially in the springtime, flowers from the yard also have a place on the table.

I fill the plates from the stove, and pass them to Joe and Fred, along with the proper utensils for the meal.

In the center of the table is my German grandmother’s “spoon jar,” in case they need a teaspoon.

I have never mastered the art of reading and eating at the same time, but it is fun to hear the comments and views of what is current with Joe and Fred, or to hear an occasional passage read aloud.

When a meal is not in progress, the table is mine!

Upon arising, the little Bible and daily devotions at the table set a proper direction for the day.

At my left elbow is the “slush pile” of incoming mail. We subscribe to a few good magazines and contribute to a few good charities, so there is plenty of mail each day.

The Smithsonian goes directly into the bathroom for serious reading; others go onto the slush pile to be read as time permits. When I have finished with something, I pass it across the table where Joe has a similar pile at his right elbow.

Also on my slush pile are blank backs of junk mail for creative composition. The telephone is at my right elbow. In front of it are letters to answer and small pieces of blank-backed paper for taking notes.

A chair to my right holds my purse — the filing case for letters to mail, coupons to use, papers to take to town, and bills to pay.

Beyond the phone, on the far corner of the table, are the phonebook, writing tablets, papers to file in other locations throughout the house, and papers to recycle.

My dining room table is reserved for more exacting work — treasurer’s reports, income tax preparation, and newsletter mailings.

A final professional polish is put on all our creative work at the word processor on my desk in my office.

But it is the kitchen table, with all its mess of creativity, that is my favorite spot. Life is a prayer to be lived, and at my table are nourishment for the body, mind, and soul. Here is the stuff of true freedom — to worship God, to serve a husband, to nurture a child, to welcome friends, and to truly fulfill oneself.

There you have it. All my deepest conversations with Mom took place, usually late at night, at that table. That’s where we’d sit when relatives came to visit: Dad’s side of the family are living-room sitters; Mom’s side are kitchen-table sitters. And I always had better luck writing at the kitchen table than at any desk I ever set up.  There’s something homey and approachable and forgiving about a kitchen table. You’re under no pressure there.

Moving along, then, here’s Dad. The following essay is by Joseph Durbin, summer 1991:

Joseph Durbin at about age 20

Joseph Durbin at about age 20

My little pond, located on the southeast corner of our 10-acre plot, is the place dearest to my heart at my home.

My wife, Mary Anne, and I had the pond dug when our son Fred was 11 years old. That was in June 1977. He and his friends spent many happy hours there growing from children into young men and women.

In addition to being the site of much swimming, fishing, boating, and camping, it also was the premier locale for my son’s many home movies, and later, video films.

He had a passion for writing his own scripts and then enlisting his friends to act them out for the camera. Many times I was drafted to perform at the video camera when the script called for my son to appear in the production.

I was part of the gang, accepted by the group. I can remember the day when the boys had me film them as they rode their bicycles, one by one, down the hill and into the pond, reciting poetry all the way. It was hilarious! The short, bumpy ride, the brief airborne phase, and later, the huge splash!

The pond is an enchanted place because in most people’s eyes it would appear to be no more than a mere mud hole. That is because they see only with their visual senses. If they could see with their hearts, they would view an ever-changing panorama of life. The pond itself changes in size and content of life depending on rainfall or the lack thereof.

In the drought of 1988, Fred and I grasped the opportunity of low water to build a concrete retaining wall across the base of the earthen dam. Fred had never worked with concrete, but as a child had seen me pour sidewalks around our home. After I explained the process to him of the proper proportion of sand, gravel, cement, and water, he was great.

I was able to work on building the forms and putting them into place. And he kept the concrete coming to me. It seemed as if we could read each other’s thoughts.

Later Fred journeyed to Japan to teach English as a second language. In addition to his classes of school children, he also had a group of about a dozen housewives as students. Fred must have told them many wondrous tales about the “enchanted pond,” because one of his students, Michiko, and her two small sons, came to the United States in August 1990 for a visit with us. They just had to see all the places that Furedo-san had talked about in his classes. Needless to say, they also became enchanted with our pond.

As to the future of the pond? If I were younger, I would build a “yellow brick road” around the perimeter. At various places along the path, I would have figures of fairy-tale characters hidden in the grass or beneath the trees. I would have a footbridge across the shallow end, and also several little waterfalls to slow the water down as it entered the pond from the fields.

On the pond itself, I would float replicas of Viking dragon ships for the boys to ride on, and for the girls, perhaps swan boats.

But, alas, I’m getting too old, and the task is beyond me. But I can dream, and that is what the “enchanted pond” is all about.

And that’s Dad. You can see why I love that little piece of land so much. I have the best memories of summer twilights, the fireflies winking all around, sometimes a startled deer fleeing before us from the water’s edge as we approached. Dad would sit beside the water, smoking a cigarette, basking in the serenity. The purple woods marched away to the south and east. I would sit and read Stephen R. Donaldson, or Stephen King, or Clark Ashton Smith, or Lord Dunsany (those are some specific “pond books” I remember). Down there, I’ve encountered a wild fox red as fire. And once, I was stalked by a bobcat while camping with the reader of this blog whose icon is a brown snowflake! Wonderful place. Wonderful time.

Wonderful parents!

So, tell us your stories! Places? From your own experience, from stories . . . places in the heart.

Oh, yes — I stole that title from a beautiful movie starring Sally Field, Danny Glover, and John Malkovich. You should definitely see it!

Okay, we’ll close with a few pictures from the actual movie-location Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa.

Fred on the bleachers at the Field of Dreams

Fred on the bleachers at the Field of Dreams

The place where dreams come true.

The place where dreams come true.

"If you build it, he will come." (I'm in this picture -- see me?)

"If you build it, he will come." (I'm in this picture -- see me?)

Fred on the pitcher's mound at the Field of Dreams (I'm in this one, too! See me?)

Fred on the pitcher's mound at the Field of Dreams (I'm in this one, too! See me?)




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41 Responses to “Places in the Heart”

  1. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    Ahh the Bobcat Incident! I remember it well, and how terrified we both were!
    Seeing the photos of Joe and Mary Anne (Joe was always “Joe” as he instructed all of Fred’s friends to call him; Mary Anne was always “Mrs. Durbin”). I can hear their voices in their essays. I can see the kitchen table, the same one where Fred and I sat and visited from 8 pm. to 4 a.m. one winter night a few years ago. I can see the pond, remember the movies, recall swimming there and catching Genghis Khan as Hooper snarled.
    I am Mr. Brown Snowflake, but I am also (this is just for you, Fred) The Keeper of THE Tradition.
    Though it is painful to admit, I never really had any magical-mystical place. Perhaps my bedroom, but it was huge and open and hardly the kind of smallish, cozy place to curl up and hide from the world.
    The back room of the Book Center was always a magical place for me, a place where ideas and thoughts could be shared and bounced back and forth.
    The little upstairs sitting room at my high school girlfriend’s house was also a magical place, and not entirely for the carnal reasons you may be thinking.
    As for books or movies (and I have been to Dyersville numerous times, having lived for many years only 90 minutes west of the site) my number one destination would be, without hesitation, Rivendell, where “the food is very good and there are elves when you want them.”
    Lothlorien would be a close second. “I thought elves were all for moon and stars, but this is more elvish than anything I ever heard tell of. I feel like I was inside a story, if you take my meaning.” Ah! Lorien, “upon which there was no stain.”
    And, yes, I would love to stroll along Watership Down.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      This reply is LOADED with fond memories! The back room of The Book Center is probably a blog post unto itself!
      For readers who don’t know, the “Genghis Khan” referred to here was a giant catfish who lived for many years in the cold, muddy depths of our pond. Every now and then we’d hook him when we were fishing–usually in the dead of night. He always obliged us with an epic battle, threatening to snap the pole, capsize the boat, or yank one of us off the bank and gore us with his bony spines. When we’d get him out of the water at last, he’d roar at us. We always threw him back, because a pond needs its legend.
      As for your mystical places . . . how about The Dairy Queen? It was within long-walking or short-biking distance from your house, and I have very happy memories of us going there. And I have wonderful recollections of playing your War of the Ring board game for hours (days?) on end in your room.

  2. Shieldmaiden Says:

    Great post! How beautifully your parents both captured those special places.

    I was unable to subscribe right. I got no notice. I just tried to subscribe again and I do not think I did anything differently this time than last (which did not work). It said I was successful, but I wasn’t after all. It never asked me for an e-mail address or anything. If you know how to sign me up Fred, by all means, please do. Otherwise I will continue to stalk your blog for new posts or comments. This time I did not check the little box, so I will know if it works.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      I hope it’s a little clearer now. Apparently where the feed feeds into isn’t an e-mail account: it’s to a page from which you check all your feeds. Such pages, as I understand it, can be found in the depths of your browser, or a blog/journal, or a place like iGoogle.

    • Shieldmaiden Says:

      Yes, my new plan is to leave a comment on EVERY post and to check the little box under the comment submit box that will notify me of follow-up comments via email. Me and the RSS feeds are not getting along. How is checking your feeds different than checking the blog? Now, if I could only get my comments in earlier so I would know when there is a new comment!

  3. Elizabeth Says:

    There is something warm and homey about the kitchen table. Ours alway has to be cleared of books and papers and any number of items before it can be used to eat at. At large family gatherings, the leaves need to be brought out and inserted so there is more room. My siblings and I did our homework at that table; my father and I have written at the table; my mother uses it as her work table when she laminates books for her library. Like Fred’s parents, my own picked up the table at an auction, now over thirty years ago. The chairs were replaced once, but the table never has been.

    But the place of my heart is my grandparents’ former home, in the old part of our village/suburb. An ordinary ranch house, made of red brick, with a carport at the end of a long, straight drive. It wasn’t the country. My grandfather had sold lots on either side of his house, so by my day neighbors were planted nearby. But there was a huge yard, and a garden beyond that, and a hill we’d climb for the best sledding around. If you walked past my grandfather’s garden, the wild grass was as high as your hips and if you walked long enough you’d reach the Boal Barn, where all the local theater productions took place from early summer to late fall.

    My cousins and sister and I played endless games there. We crawled on our hands and knees and played “wolf family.” The carpet was so rough, it didn’t matter what I wore, my knees were always rug burned. In later years, we played “Star Trek” and “Time Machine” in the basement, always under strict orders never to enter the work room (a section of basement just as large, that housed the laundry, the freezer, my grandfather’s wood shop and at the very back a narrow, scary room where the canned goods were housed).

    My grandparents’ house was where the family gathered for all major holidays, and where we went most Sundays for dinner (at noon, which my farmer grandfather would lecture us was the time of the “big meal” and not 6, which was supper.) I remember late, late nights during family gatherings when the living room was dark and the picture window curtains were wide open to let in the night. I would read a book on the floor or a couch, while my grandfather and father and uncle and cousin would play pinochle (always pinochle, my grandfather’s favorite game.)

    In the winter months, we would sit around the round table in the kitchen, our faces pink from the cold, and eat hot, homemade tomato soup with oyster crackers while Paul Harvey played on the radio.

    The house is different now. My grandparents sold it many years ago when it became too difficult for them to upkeep. The new owners have added on an addition that extends the front of the house, replaced the vegetable garden with a flower garden, and vast changes inside. There may be more I don’t know of: I can’t bear to drive past it any more, and while the new owners attend our church, I can’t bear to visit either.

    My heart, my home, exists in my memories now and no where else. I hope one day, though, I can find it again.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      This is a beautiful and fantastic comment! Thank you! I really like the last two lines.

      My dad’s side of the family were the same way about “dinner” vs. “supper.” Dad used to tell about the time he was arranging a time when he and some guy he knew were going to do some work. Dad said, “We’ll do it after dinner.” The other guy, taken aback, said, “We’re going to do it at night?” (Musta been one o’them fellas from the city.)

      Our kitchen table was the same: just a year or two before my parents passed away, they replaced the kitchen chairs, which had gotten quite rickety — but the table never changed. Mom had found the perfect kitchen table, and she stuck with it!

  4. Chris Says:

    Fred, you are clearly a master of horror. You have given me reason to fear the dark nights of Taylorville, yet again!

    I, like most central Illinoisans (recovering) have a love-hate relationship with Lincoln. I love Lincoln of the history books and the fact he is “ours” and somehow greater than any human known. But a “hate” because it is impossible to live in small town Central Illinois without the city fathers (and mothers) trying desperately to link our little burgh somehow to the greatness of this man. In T-ville’s case they latched on the the “Writ of Quietus” incident…or “Lincoln and the Pigs”. Hence the scary statue has pigs at its base.

    It’s pitiful and sad that our city has debased itself in such a way. I often wonder if Lincoln ever remembered Taylorville later in life or if it was like my occasional trips through Blue Mound. I have no connection to Blue Mound except I used to drive through it to get to work.

    To make matters worse Taylorville has also added some of the most horrible “artwork” on one of the buildings nearby that depict Lincoln’s life and times.

    It makes me shudder to think about.

    But further to the point, one last Lincoln-is-Stalking-Me story:

    When I first moved to New York after college I thought I was going to be free of LIncolnalia for a while. I took a job at Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory on the banks of the Hudson River. Walking to the library at this wholly east-coast facility I noted with amazement that in the grass outside of the library was a lifesized statue of LINCOLN IN HIS CIRCUIT COURT DAYS RIDING A HORSE.

    I knew then I could never escape him. He is chasing me. Probably responsible for breaking off the limb on the little bottlebrush tree in my front yard…

    Wait! What’s that noise??? Ulp…

  5. Chris Says:

    Magical Places?
    Hmmm, that would probably be Cape Ann, Massachusetts. The only cape worth mentioning in Massachusetts (you’ve probably heard of that other one, but who cares about it?)

    That was one of those places where you could see the famous Dry Salvages of T.S. Elliot fame (I never read the poem, my general dis-ease with poetry well established by now), but the Dry Salvages as well as Straitsmouth Island with its abandoned lone building on it and further out the twin lighthouses of Thatcher Island. It was the place I did most of my sea kayaking and felt the ocean (and its power and danger).

    If I could live out the rest of my days in a small town I’d choose Rockport, MA on Cape Ann.

    Running a close second; The Borg Hotel in Reykjavik Iceland.

  6. Jhagman Says:

    No comment on magical places (though my life has been blessed by a few of them). A comment about the movie “Field of Dreams”. I remember being irritated that the Joe Jackson character uses a white bat! Shoeless Joe used a black bat he named “Betsy”, he would talk to it while he rode on trains. Also,, was the character who played Shoeless Joe batting right-handed? Joe Jackson was a left hander. maybe I’m wrong, but in the meta-physics of baseball there are worlds of difference between left and right handers! I know I am in the minority of “Field of Dreams” viewers, but it seemed like slipshod adaptation to me. Sometimes I don’t see straight, hence my short baseball career!

  7. Eunice Says:

    We just went to the Western Washington State Fair. There’s one small barn dedicated to showing old fair artifacts. Beside an old kewpie doll this year there was this inscription: “Doll won throwing baseballs at fair in 1935.”

    Why was the doll throwing baseballs at the fair? Who else was throwing baseballs at the fair with her? The cows? The chickens? Abraham Lincoln’s statue? What did she win?

    Or. . . did humans compete in a contest of throwing baseballs at the fair, one winning the doll for a prize? Why would anyone sponsor such a dangerous contest? Did anyone get hurt? I guess there’s a pretty high wall around the fairgrounds, though.

  8. Catherine Says:

    Mother, the doll went to the fair and there won several of a strange prize called “Throwing Baseballs”. My wonderment is what game she played to obtain them.

    As for a special place . . . I often thought I should have one, to be a typical child, but nothing lasts with me for long. The Invisible World, maybe? Well, actually — when we moved, I tried to make our final month last forever by heading down to the river every day. Its constantly-flowing waters lulled me to a bit of a stupor, and I wrote poetry every day. I managed to worry myself sick about a friend, lose a favorite scarf, and get the hem of my skirt muddy, but I never tried to recite any poetry while catapulting into the brown waves. It was a river that cut through a landfill, with a hulking concrete bridge over it. I hid under the bridge with a pair of farmers one day when rain came suddenly. The farmers talked to each other and I prayed I wouldn’t get flooded in, because only a few days ago the river had been double in strength and in width due to the summer storms. I had my camera with me, so I couldn’t exactly run home and get soaked. Despite all my apprehensions, I looked back at that time with longing even before I left.

    I could write a host about my river, which was actually only a tributary with its own name, but I don’t have time or space now. Sadly enough, I know that the landfill was only the intermediate stage in a large construction project; if I were to return I’d find landscaped areas and buildings where I used to walk. They might even have worked some more “magic” with sandbags to make it quieter or to keep it from flooding up in a summer storm. I’ve been away for two years and I probably wouldn’t know it from the four rivers of Eden any more.

    However, enough lamenting. Where I live now I have many places I like to visit, if not incredibly “special”, then special in the everyday sense. I love where I am now and I wouldn’t want to change it except to add my river in there, somehow.

  9. Jedibabe Says:

    I read this new post this morning and pondered it as I hiked around campus today. Fred, I love your Dad’s imagination and your Mom’s ability to describe the kitchen table so well I could sit down there myself! I love everyone’s comments, especially Elizabeth’s closing paragraph: “My heart, my home, exists in my memories now and no where else. I hope one day, though, I can find it again.” That’s exactly my feeling, but I couldn’t have put it half so well!

    I have moved so much that there never was a physical magical place of any permanence, though my grandparent’s house was very special to my heart. What I learned along the way though was that those magical places, like Hogwart’s Room of Requirement, showed up when I most needed them. Just about every place I have ever lived has offered some special magical space. Almost always those places have been some hidden forest glen, a special nook in a big tree, or a big boulder atop a secluded hillock I turn to when I have need. Now I find these places when I am out backpacking or even just hiking, if I remember to seek them. It seems that for me, it wasn’t always the place that was magical, but my intent in going.

    My favorite “place” in the world was sitting on or riding my pony. One of the most magical moments in my life happened out at the far end of our big horse pasture. My family was in the midst of a serious personal tragedy and I had gone out to be alone and have a good cry. My dear little black Shetland came to me and hung his head in my lap and stood that way until I was cried out. By the time I finished his forelock was soaked. While the setting was mundane enough, the magic came in receiving that which I most needed, a true friend. As much as that property holds sad memories, it is also a sacred place.

    I’ve also come to see magic in relationships with dear friends who I’ve learned I can trust. Anywhere can be magical with such a friend.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      That’s a wonderful story about your pony. I had a very similar experience with a faithful dog. I remember sitting at the edge of my road being terribly sad, and my dog sat right beside me and was sad along with me.

  10. Preacher Says:

    Since you brought up special places, and you have spoken often of how important reading was for you growing up, and because I know that a certain author was such a huge influence on you, Fred, I wanted you to see this

    Or perhaps you already own some of the scents? 😉

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thank you! That’s great! 🙂 I had a lot of fun reading through that list.
      I’ve been wondering how your writing is going! (You don’t have to answer me here!)

  11. Salsify Says:

    …it is a smell, a warmth, it is like receiving a giant hug. As we have been discussing “places of comfort and peace, good cheer, replenishment, and comradery…” I have found myself thinking about my grandmother’s home, my home. I have struggled trying to find a way to adequately describe it. In general it has been and continues to be a place where my family gathers. Where we eat, play, talk, and just love each other. However, as her health has slowly deteriorated we have often times had to find unconventional ways to celebrate holidays, birthdays, etc. Sometimes in hospitals, friends houses, and I am learning that a place of comfort and peace is anywhere my family is gathered.

    I remember feeling similar the first time I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It seems that as soon as Gandalf departs a feeling of doom and gloom befalls his fellowship. I like to think that Bilbo and Frodo felt the same way as I have. That they felt comfort and peace, good cheer, replenishment, and comradery as family, in this case Gandalf, returned.

  12. Marquee Movies Says:

    Fred, a lovely post as usual. That trip to Dyersville was special, wasn’t it? I still have the ball we used, scuffed with dirt from the Field of Dreams. Can I ask you to tell your readers the thrill of wonder you felt the first time you saw Field of Dreams, at the end, when you saw a certain character revealed? (With this picture of your father on the site, I think readers will be amazed at how close they are!)
    This is just a quick note to story lovers all over America to let you know that The Wizard of Oz will be in theatres around the country only this Wednesday night, September 23. Parents, no better way to officially wrap up the summer than to take the family out to this movie masterpiece! (Sorry, Fred, I don’t know if it’s showing in Japan!) Don’t deny yourself the thill of seeing Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” on the big screen, with great sound, and that gorgeous sepia-tone photography. Glinda, the Wicked Witch of the West, Toto, the Tinman, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow (who we’ll miss most of all) are waiting for you! Trust me – it’s a whole different experience on the big screen! (I’ll stop using exclamation points now.)

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Cool about The Wizard of Oz! In Japan, the 23rd is Vernal Equinox Day. So yes, now we can let summer sleep for another year, and we can start enjoying tales of the fall. Dust off those Hallowe’en books!

      About the movie Field of Dreams–okay, what Marquee Movies is referring to there is this: when I first saw the film, I was jolted. Ray Kinsella finally realizes what “If you build it, he will come” means. It doesn’t ultimately refer to Shoeless Joe’s coming, as we’ve supposed it did. The unfinished business is with Ray’s father. He’s the one who needs to find peace. As things on the mystical baseball field are winding down for the night, the players disappearing back into the corn, Ray turns to the last one, the catcher, who’s standing up from his crouch, taking off his mask.
      Ray stops still as he sees his own father–the one for whom, in the end, Ray has built the field. It’s his own father as a young man, younger than Ray is now . . . a father unbowed by the years, bright-eyed, unafraid, with his whole life before him.
      As strange coincidence would have it, the actor who plays John Kinsella, Ray’s father, looks a heck of a lot like my own dad, especially when he’s at a distance, when you can’t see his hair. The same face shape, the same general expression, the same mouth. . . . In the theater as a kid in my twenties, I had the eerie, overwhelming sense for a few seconds that I was looking at my own dad. It certainly added to the movie’s impact for me.
      (When I told my dad about it and he watched it, he didn’t think the actor looked anything like him. But he and I later watched the movie together on the last night of May one year–June Eve. It’s a great film for fathers and sons to watch together.)
      M.M., thanks for bringing that up!

      • I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

        You are so correct! John Kinsella does indeed favor your father from his younger days! Wow!
        Some great Terrence Mann lines:
        “You see, that is just the kind of crap they are always pinning on me! It is not my fault you didn’t play catch with your father!”
        “You are from the 60’s?!? Get out! Go back while you still have time! There is no room for you here in the future!”
        “How ’bout this? Peace! Dope! Love! Now get the hell out of here!”

  13. Shieldmaiden Says:

    There are many places in stories I would love to go and live in, but I also feel like it is those truly great stories that when I read them, live inside of me and stay with me all my life. Some stories seem to somehow become a part of us, reminding us of what is truly important. Many favorite stories have a journey filled with trial and hardship where the characters are tested and endure many trials, and just like in our own lives make it though those darkest times only with the support of true friends and help from above. My favorite places in stories are very much like the real places I love in life. As I have been pondering just what it is that makes a place special or magical to me, I keep getting the same answer. A true friend and family. Those people who really know and have shared in part of the journey. Like Salsafy and Jedibabe so beautifully said, it can be “anywhere” family or friends are gathered.

    Instances of such gatherings, and oddly enough many involve sitting around a table, are: The one from The Hobbit mentioned by Marquee Movies in the last post where old friends meet together again and over tea share in great conversation and companionship. Or the winter passed in Beorn’s hall, where the Yule-tide is warm and merry, and a meal is something to experience. Another, is the one night from The Fellowship of the Ring spent in the little house in the country at Crickhollow, as the journey that will lead to Mount Doom begins. There they are also gathered at a table after hot baths and good food, and friends share a moment so real that I do wish I were there. One of my favorite scenes from The Lord of the Rings movies is near the end, when the four friends are together in a tavern that they have been in many times before, but they have changed, and things that were once familiar now don’t quite seem to fit. No one could begin to understand what they have experienced together, and they are bound by a friendship that comes from sharing what they have. Sitting at the table, they look at one another and smile and clink their mugs of ale together. There is no going back, but they do continue on, with more courage and true comradey.

    And just like Mr. Brown Snowflake, if I could live anywhere it would be Rivendell, hands down. The Last Homely House East of the Sea, where many of the Fair Folk still dwelt in peace. Surely a place of comfort, peace, and replenishment — where plans are improved and bruises are mended. There is always a warm fire and as many books and maps as you could ever want. Although the stay there is always too short, the house of Elrond Halfelven is perfect whether you like gardens, food, sleep, singing, storytelling, or just sitting and thinking.

    The last place I wanted to mention as a favorite place to gather (at the risk of sounding corny) is this blog. Fred has described it as a “Table Round; a library with room for an infinite number of characters to care about, who teach us to care for one another.” and it is true, “You never know when someone will have pulled a chair up to the fire and be ready for some merry company.” The spirit or theme of this blog seems to be one of stories and those who love them, but it is also about the things that really matter. I appreciate how different all the people are who write comments and share ideas here. And I appreciate how respectful everyone is, there aren’t very many places like this in the world anymore, and they are only getting fewer. So thank you Fred for putting this together and thank you everyone for such wonderful comments. Wherever we are going, and however long this road is, I am grateful to be on it with all of you.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thank you, Shieldmaiden, for a wonderful comment!

      A couple asides here: one, a year or so ago, I had the phrase “Good night!” stuck in my head. I was hearing it in a character voice, and I knew it had come from some movie. But I couldn’t place it for the life of me. I could hear exactly how the character said it, but. . . . Then one day it hit me: it was Rosie Cotton in the LOTR movies, saying “Good night” to the customers as they leave the inn.

      And two, that is a wonderful scene with the four hobbits back at the inn in the Shire after their adventure. The way it starts out, you can’t help feeling terribly sad. They look around at the Shire-folk laughing, cavorting, exclaiming over big pumpkins, talking about all the things which were once the whole world to the four friends. But now the four know that the world is so much vaster than all this. They know that no one in the room can begin to understand them any more. They’ve been places and seen things that the folk around them don’t even dream of. Can they possibly fit in here any longer? Have they grown too far beyond it all?

      As a friend of mine puts it, they’re “saved” by Rosie. Sam puts the moves on her, which he’s always wanted to do. As the others nudge one another and enjoy his audacity, we feel the ice breaking up. We know that time will round off the sharp edges and help them settle back into the quieter way of life, where food and drink and cheer are valued above power and thrones. A little while in the sun, among the green growing things, with their toes in the good, tilled Earth, and they’ll learn to be hobbits again.

      All, that is, except Frodo. And this is an excellent point Tolkien makes. As you pointed out, Shieldmaiden, there is no going back. Some wounds run too deep to be healed in this life. It’s only Frodo, fated to be a ring-bearer, wounded by a Morgul-blade, permanently seared by the ring’s evil, who can never completely settle into being a hobbit again.

      But there is a place for Frodo, too, where he can be at peace. I simply love the line in the book, when the company passes westward on the way to the Grey Havens, that they felt sorrow, but it was “a sorrow without bitterness.”

      • Shieldmaiden Says:

        I thought I would squeeze in a comment reply just before the next post goes up.

        I am so glad you talked about that scene in the movie Fred, I never know how much to say so that there are no spoilers for those who have yet to see or read the story. I try to tell enough so that everyone who has will know what I am talking about, but I won’t ruin it for anyone. You did an amazing job of telling everything I love about that scene. I think it is possibly one of the saddest scenes in the movies, but in a way like you said, “a sorrow without bitterness.” The thing that has always struck me about it is how much emotion the audience experiences and there is not one word of dialogue. In that minute you feel everything that these Hobbits have been through and see a glimpse of how they will find their way onward from here. Truly amazing!

        I went back an forth between inn and tavern. I knew The Prancing Pony in Bree was an inn, but wasn’t sure if this one was. Any of you out there who possess a wealth of obscure LOTR knowledge, do you know if this inn was The Green Dragon, or was that something else? It must be time to read them again, I can’t keep my inns straight.

        Marquee Movies: thank you so much for posting the information about The Wizard of Oz showing. My whole family tried like crazy to go. I am still not over it. There were only two theaters anywhere near us playing it, and one of them was a long drive, but we were up for it. We couldn’t get anything online and we went early afternoon to the theater and everything was sold out. If you ever hear of it coming back to the movies please let me know.

        Mileposter: I hope you are enjoying your trip thought Narnia. Just knowing you are reading it makes me want to join in. I am actually warming up for October with “Dracula” and I am loooving it! I am almost half-way and I must slow down so I still have some to read when all the signs of Halloween begin to appear.

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Eeek! I have to confess that I don’t even think about “spoilers” when talking about LOTR! You’re right — I shouldn’t assume everyone on Earth has read/seen it.

        I need to read Dracula! At the last World Fantasy Convention, I think it was David Morrell who made that comment that it remains one of the very best novels out there!

      • Shieldmaiden Says:

        I meant Dracula and don’t know why I said “Dracula”. It _is_ a one of the best novels I have read (so far) and happily I am still 50/60 pages from half way, so I have LOTS of book left!

      • Elizabeth Says:

        I love [i]Dracula[/i]! I hadn’t thought of it as an October book, but of course as one approaches the “end of the year” and the beginning of the winter season, it would be an excellent book to reread. I might just do the same, if I have the time.

        Shieldmaiden — I think the Green Dragon is a tavern/inn located in the Shire. Frodo & Co. were supposed to stop there on their way to Frodo’s “new home,” but because of their encounter with the Black Rider and speaking with Glorfindel, they end up going across country and into Maggot’s fields, and thus never make it. I believe it is Pippin who regrets missing the ale from the Green Dragon the most.

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Do you mean Glorfindel, or Gildor Inglorion? I shouldn’t even venture to ask this, since I don’t have the books here, and it’s been a long age of the world since I’ve read them! I was thinking Glorfindel didn’t come along until Frodo was crossing the river into Rivendell.

        I think I have at least three copies of Dracula back in storage in Taylorville. Every few years I’d forget I had it and buy a new copy. Now if I want to read it, I’ll probably end up buying a copy here in Japan. . . . Oh, well. Dracula and the estate of Bram Stoker are good causes to support, right? 🙂

      • Elizabeth Says:

        Gildor Inglorian! I didn’t have the books in front of me either. So, yes, I mean Gildor. 🙂

        Dracula is one of my favorite books, and honestly you can’t have too many copies available! And maybe they’ll each have their own introduction, which are always fun and insightful to read.

  14. fsdthreshold Says:

    You know, this is an interesting thread! This gathering around a table . . . it’s something so fundamental that kids pick up on it at an early age. When we were kids, Chris and I would often write adventure stories about setting off into the unknown and usually wandering into lost lands of dinosaurs or forgotten peoples or vast treasures, etc. (heaviest on the dinosaurs). But by instinct, whether we were writing them as stories or “playing” them, we would almost always start our grand adventures with a scene taking place the night before setting out. This was generally set in a cafe, and the main characters would be sitting around a table, talking. There was something cozy, secure, and infinitely appealing about that to us. Before you set off for remote lands on the steamship, the submarine, the zeppelin, or the mole-machine that drills into the Earth’s crust, you have to have a night-before chat in the cafe.

  15. mileposter Says:

    There are a lot of special places for me, which is a comfort. Yes, sometimes they disappear, or become inaccessible, like a farm north of here where I enjoyed some very lovely moments. But the memories live on in my heart. As Peter Sellers said, “Life is a state of mind.”

    Those who have read earlier replies of mine know of my love for Narnia. Early on, when I started taking other people with me on the bike trails, the start of the Mileposters program, I said that it felt like we were in Narnia. One of those first rides we even divided our last marshmallow three ways, as the children did with their food at the beginning of Prince Caspian. Over the years, the feeling of visiting Narnia on Mileposters trips has intensified. Since I’ve ridden from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC five times, as well as doing probably a couple of hundred shorter trips on parts of the same trail, I’ve become very familiar with it, and there are special places along it, in that world, among them the Buena Vista trailhead, the campground at Adelaide, and the low crossing of the Youghiogheny River at Ohiopyle. I could name more–it’s a route of over 300 miles. And I’m looking forward to being there four days in a row, very soon.

    I also enjoy retracing ways I’ve traveled by car, and there are special places along those, too: the Dairy Queens in Johnson City, Tennessee and Summersville, West Virginia, the Hardee’s in Mount Vernon, Ohio, the entire Tappan Lake region, and many more. It’s quite fair to say that I love to travel, and when I applied for one of my bus-driving jobs, at Suburban Lines, I wrote that I should have been born with wheels on my feet (yes, I’ve done a lot of roller skating!).

    • I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

      Mileposter please elaborate: I have eaten at the Hardee’s in Mt. Vernon Ohio. What makes it a special memory for you? Friends, love, the perfect moment? Share with us if you will…

      • mileposter Says:

        Gladly! Only too delighted to find someone else who has eaten at the Hardee’s in Mt. Vernon, Ohio!

        You must understand, first of all, that I love the “blue roads,” as explicated in Blue Highways, by William Least Heat Moon. I use Interstates if I have to, but if I possibly can, I avoid them.

        So it was when I began to travel back and forth between Pittsburgh and my second alma mater, Concordia River Forest (that was long before it became Concordia University Chicago–back in the days when I met Fred). I carefully mapped out a route which was as short as possible, using only U. S. numbered and state highways. It passed through Mt. Vernon. I stopped to eat at Hardee’s, liked the menu, the location, and the friendly service, and began to stop there every time–to college, back at Christmas vacation, from college, etc. I loved the area so well that I started finding other reasons to go back, like Tappan Lake and the Ohio Central Railroad with their fleet of steam engines (threatened with extinction, alas). I always parked in the very last space heading out of the lot, next to Super 8 (and before Super 8 was built). I started taking pictures of my cars in that spot, and have a whole string of them. The opening of the Kokosing Gap Trail (bike riding) greatly increased trips in that direction. In all, I’ve been eating there for 25 years, and a rough estimate is that I’ve been there about 50 times.

        So… how did you happen to eat there, and how often? 🙂

  16. mileposter Says:

    And best wishes on getting your mom into Cricket! It was marvelous to see her picture here, and the one of your dad!

  17. Marquee Movies Says:

    Mr. Brown Snowflake, I have one question for you: What do you want?
    “I want people to leave me alone. I want them to stop coming to me for answers.”
    No – I mean….what do you want?
    “Oh. A dog and a beer.”
    My friend Richard and I LOVE doing that routine whenever we go to a ballpark together. But what we do is, NO MATTER WHAT THE RESPONSE IS, always reply, “No, what do you WANT?” I want nachos and cheese. “No, what do you want?” I want the Tin Caps to win the game. “No, what do you want?” I want you to stop asking me that! “No, what do you WANT?” (ad infinitum)
    And Mileposter, I absolutely cannot fathom HOW you split a marshmallow three ways. I mean, literally, how did you split it? Did you do it before or after cooking it over the flame? What did you use to divide it? What a cool problem for people to solve – splitting a marshmallow in three so that all parties are satisfied!
    (The Wizard of Oz at theatres all over the country this Wednesday night! Summer is dead. Long live summer!)

    • I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

      “Hey! That’s Mel Ott. And Gil Hodges. And Smokin’ Joe Wood!”
      “You wouldn’t believe how many guys wanted to play here — we had to beat ’em off with sticks. Ty Cobb wanted to come, but none of us could stand the (expletive deleted) while we were alive, so we told him to stick it! Ha ha ha!”

      “Hey ump, how about a warning?”
      “OK. Watch out you don’t get killed!”

      ohhh man, that movie is FULL of quotables. You can be assured that whenever a few sportswriters are gathered the lines from Field of Dreams pour out. But, then again, so do lines from Caddyshack, the Blues Brothers, Animal House and anything Monty Python. Bull Durham is way up there, too …

    • mileposter Says:

      Let’s see… splitting the marshmallow… it was in the early days of Mileposters, BT (Before Tandems). Back then, marshmallows were a frequent staple on longer rides (hmm… we haven’t used marshmallows in a long time, and we’re about to do a four-day ride–yes, I think I’ll lay in a bag), and it was also BG (Before Gatorade). Nowadays, our triplet (bike for three riders) has nine bottle cages, and the Divine Fluid fills almost all our needs for sustenance. But back then, on that particular day, marshmallows were all we had, it was a very difficult ride–one of the first, if not the first for us, across Salisbury Viaduct, and we had eaten all of the marshmallows except for one. I dug a pocket knife out of a saddlebag, anointed it with a little water, and wiped it clean with a paper towel. Using another paper towel as a cutting board, I carefully cut the pitiful white blob, and we devoured it. “Nobody had quite enough, but it was a great deal better than nothing.” Well, maybe a little deal…. There was no flame, any more than there was on the beach in Prince Caspian.

  18. Marquee Movies Says:

    “That’s not a gun, it’s your finger!”

    “Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too!”

    “Who wants an Orange Whip? Orange Whip? Orange Whip? Three Orange Whips.”

    “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

    “I am ordering you to be quiet!”
    “Order, eh? Who does he think he is?”
    “I am your king!”
    “Well, I didn’t vote for you.”

    “The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.”

    Great movies, all – it must be fun to hang out with other sportswriters, Brown Snowflake!

  19. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    ‘Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life son” is actually on my cell phone as a ringback to alert me when my mother calls! No Joking!

    “Jesus H. tap-dancing Christ, I see the light!”
    ‘How often does the train go by? So often you won’t notice it/”

    (and, as a native Illinoisan and arch-conservative, it is often said to me in jest: “I hate f’n Illinois Nazis!”)

    “Help, help, come and see the violence inherent in the system!”
    “Look, besotted winches handing out sabres is no foundation for a system of government.”

    OHHH, BY THE WAY: 20,000 hits on this blog! 20,000 hits on this blog! Congrats Fred!!!

  20. I am Mr. Brown Snowflake Says:

    For Mileposter: I was out there in 1990 for the wedding of old grade school friend of my then-wife. It was at a beautiful Methodist Church, if my recollection serves. I remember a beautiful courthouse and lovely park with a small river flowing through it.
    We made friends with a couple from Fredericksburg, just north of Mt. Vernon, and went up and spent a day with them and touring the Amish area roundabouts. Beautiful country, great people. Glad to hear that it hasn’t changed, though it has been 2001 since I was out there, and that, sadly, was just on a pass-through.

  21. drjanem Says:

    “But it is the kitchen table, with all its mess of creativity, that is my favorite spot. Life is a prayer to be lived, and at my table are nourishment for the body, mind, and soul.”


    This is such a powerful image. Reminds me of Susan Glaspell’s play, “Trifles,” which is set in the kitchen of a woman whose husband has been killed in their farmhouse. The crime is solved by the wives of local law enforment who come to comfort the widow (Mrs. Wright). When they arrive, they find her kitchen in disarray and, upon closer inspection, are able to determine that she, indeed, took her husband’s life. All the clues are contained in the kitchen–that political space of the home that seems to still (in most cases) be owned by women.

    I love your mother’s description. Jane

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Trifles sounds really interesting! I’m glad you liked Mom’s description of her table! As I re-read her essay after many years, it struck me that (I’m guessing) many women (and perhaps men) today might find her ideas about “freedom to serve a husband” objectionable. But that’s how she wrote the essay, and I wanted to deliver her words faithfully.

      There’s a line of Scripture (in the Psalms? Proverbs?) about “Your wife like a fruitful vine in the heart of your house.” Mom and her kitchen table were certainly the heart of our house! That was where we gathered, where we entertained company, where we had important family discussions. . . . That’s the place I think of when I think of “home.” Whenever I’d go home after a long time away, Mom and Dad would be in their chairs at the table, and I’d usually be walking around and around the table, or perched on a high stool nearby. Our plans and ideas all seemed to begin there.

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